Working with researchers

The next lesson focuses on skills and knowledge you need to participate in evaluation, which often involves working with researchers. So this topic focuses on working with researchers to participate in HIV social and clinical research.

The first principle is that anyone involved in the HIV response can ask researchers questions about their work. Researchers are part of the Australian Partnership response to HIV, a partnership which includes governments, communities (and community organisations), researchers, and clinicians. The principle of access to research helps ensure that everything we do is informed by the latest and most reliable research findings. In return, we do everything we can to help researchers to recruit a diverse sample of people living with HIV for ethical research projects.

Recruitment

Research recruitment is a surprisingly large part of the job for people working in HIV community organisations. This can mean sending out (or posting up) advertisements for research projects. It can sometimes mean contacting your clients directly to encourage them to take part in interviews or complete surveys. You may even offer to sit with the client (in person or over Zoom) to assist them to share their experiences and perspectives with researchers.

Helping with research recruitment is important because research findings help us identify the unmet needs of people living with HIV in Australia. Identifying these needs enables us to apply for funding and adapt our services to meet them.

Asking for research findings

Access to research findings is part of the ‘bargain’ for assistance with research recruitment.

You can usually find PDF copies of reports by looking on research centres’ websites:

New and exciting findings are almost always published in journal articles — which are not always open access. You should feel confident e-mailing the corresponding author (listed on the article page) for a free copy of the article PDF!

When you are contacting a researcher with an open enquiry — ‘What is the evidence on XYZ?’ — ask a clear and concrete question and be specific about your reasons for asking. Make sure you are directing your question to a researcher who has done work on the topic you are asking about.

If you need assistance finding out who to ask (or how), the federal peak bodies, AFAO and NAPWHA, have staff who specialise in helping practitioners access research findings.

  • Jeanne Ellard (AFAO)
  • John Rule (NAPWHA)

You are also welcome to contact the NAPWHA Learning Project Officer (learning@napwha.org.au) with questions!

Participating in conferences

The first module in this training program includes a scenario where you are attending your first conference.

Practitioners in HIV community organisations are welcome and encouraged to stand up and ask questions or make comments on research projects and their findings at conferences.

The golden rule is to keep it brief and focused on a clear issue or question. You can start by introducing yourself (name, role, organisation). Then state your question and reason for asking, or make a short comment.

If you are making a critical comment, it is always a good idea to acknowledge the good intentions that motivate the research and find some reason to praise the research.

A critical comment might raise an issue that has not been addressed in the design and execution of the study. For instance, you might note that most of the participants were white, gay, and educated, and use that as a springboard for (briefly!) sharing the different experiences of the clients you see as an HIV peer educator.

Remember that researchers only have a brief amount of time to speak at conferences. Just because an issue wasn’t raised in their presentation, doesn’t mean they haven’t thought about it at all! Asking a question (‘Have you had an opportunity to think about…’) can be a constructive way of letting researchers know an issue matters to practitioners.