Today is also the day when the SPR’s International Task Force organises its annual Networking Forum, preceded by the Task Force’s Advisory Board, of which I am a member.
The Networking Forum provides a way in which delegates from around the world can meet, and it also helps generate ideas and discussion about how SPR can promote international collaboration (at a research project level) and develop links between the society and other organisations with similar goals and interests. Personally, I think it’s a great initiative which really helps make the conference feels open and welcoming to international delegates, and allows you to meet people at the very start of the conference, with the following days providing opportunities to build on those new connections.
A key focus of this year’s Networking Forum was to discuss the development of a guide for developing and sustaining international collaboration. Group discussions covered three main areas which are likely to be included in the guidance: developing research questions and identifying stakeholders; the impact of cultural influences on working relationships; and strategies for analysis, writing and dissemination. A key theme for me was the issue of when researchers should be flexible (say in relation to intervention implementation, research designs and writing strategies), and when to insist on certain standards or ways of working to ensure rigour.
The forum also provided the opportunity to hear about the work of agencies and networks with links to SPR. This year, these included funding opportunities offered by NIDA and NIAAA, the work of UNODC in working with national governments, and updates from Mentor International on the Prevention Hub and Registry, and the new European Quality Standards for Prevention.
Following the pre-conference workshops and the networking forum, it was time for the NIDA International Poster session, at which I was presenting a poster, with fellow attendee Sarah-Morgan Trimmer, on behalf of the Project SFP Cymru research team. This poster session is done as part of a reception for all conference delegates, which seems to make it well attended. Although traditionally the oral presentation might be seen as ‘high status’ than a poster presentation, I think I’d share the view that poster sessions can be a really good way of sharing research. Whereas with traditional oral sessions the time for discussion and questions can be limited, the session tonight created lots of opportunities for people to ask us questions about the results we presented, and for us to ask delegates what they thought about the findings in our poster.
All in all I think the format of the day – with an inclusive forum in the afternoon (and other subject specific workshops) followed by a poster session and reception is a good way to welcome people, especially those attending for the first time, and to ’kick start’ some of the networking and new connections which make conferences an important part of academic life.
The full programme schedule can be found here.