Final day of British Council sponsored ‘Researcher Links’ workshop in Montevideo, Uruguay

The final day’s first session had various speakers covering career development, applying for grants, publications and work with the media.

Career development advice included the advantages of:

– Mentorship
– Being part of a strong research team or network
– Having a key area of expertise
– Having the opportunity to teach as well as conduct research.
– Recognise the importance of publications
– Having a clear vision of one’s progress in 5-10 years time International collaborations are seen as increasingly important and are one measure of the World University rankings.

UK funding opportunities for collaborative work include the following from Cancer Research UK:

– Cancer Research UK/BUPA initiative
– CRUK Tobacco Advisory Group
– CRUK Population Research Committee
– CRUK innovation workshops for pilot work – held on regular basis (next opportunity in April 2016).

These are all regarded important in academic career development. Other funders were highlighted by the British Council (below) and in discussions.

Fernando Althabe then spoke about the Trial Funding Tool, developed by an EC support collaboration, the tool is a web-based ‘help’ application to guide researcher from initial idea to funding. The tool contains advice from many experts in the field.

Michael Ussher gave advice on preparing grant applications:

– Be aware of funder remits and priority areas
– Emphasise the impact for public health (e.g. how will be findings be applied; highlight cost saving; how straightforward is the intervention to implement etc)
– Focus on one application at a time
– Collaborate effectively
– Don’t assume whoever reads the proposal that they will know about the topic
– Have publications and even titles of papers in mind when you write the proposal
– Participate in funding panels and/or as a reviewer of proposals
– Interpret referee comments carefully
– Have a back-up plan if the application is rejected Public involvement can improve proposals considerably and funders like this approach.

User panels are common and UKCTAS has a smokers panel and alcohol discussion group.

Alicia and I
Linda Bauld and Alicia Aleman at the farwell lunch.

More details at

Laura Lambi then offered comprehensive advice on writing for publication, mentioning several websites that can assist the process. Researchers in the fields of tobacco and alcohol research are likely at one point to come into contact with the media. For ‘breaking’ research stories, telephone and face-to-face interviews on live or recorded broadcast are common.

Sally Marlow offered advice on dealing with this, and emphasised the importance of preparation. For example, preparing for the likely/actual questions, and speaking conviction were two of the recommendations. Others includes being honest, using lay words (not jargon), considering the audience, and thinking about getting 3 key messages to get across.

Topics for future collaborations

Group A – consisting of presentation groups 1 and 3, and Group B – consisting of presentation groups 2 and 4, met to discuss future collaborative work.

The following lines of enquiry were suggested, among others:

1. Secondary analyses of existing datasets. The UK has ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) and there are two datasets available in Uruguay. The ESRC’s secondary data analysis scheme was signalled as appropriate.

2. Carbon monoxide screening in Uruguay in antenatal care – Laura and colleagues are interested in this. Similarly, there is a professional training course in the UK from the NSCST that could be translated.

3. Attitudes to smoking and smoking cessation. Both country colleagues are interested in this and the intention is to share tools developed for previous UK studies.

4.Alcohol use in students and young people. Several UK researchers have an interest in this area, particularly in relation to later school and university students. Alcohol Research UK may be an appropriate call. An suggestion is to roll out the FREE PASS intervention (mentioned by Gabriel Rossi on Day 2) in other parts of Uruguay, and consider pilot workin the UK.

5. Preventing relapse back to smoking following pregnancy. Consider using the ASSIST model in the UK, involving use of ‘mentors’ to assist women to stop smoking or drinking. The use of ‘mother-baby’ groups was mentioned as a recruitment channel.

6. Alcohol brief interventions in young people. Several colleagues were interested in the topic of drinking in young people/students, and this could be collaboratively developed in both countries – existing UK research and links were highlighted

7. Validation of existing measures of smoking cessation and behaviour.

8. Smoking and alcohol use among health professional and social care workers. To assess level of prevalence of smoking/drinking in groups delivering interventions.

9. Biomarkers of alcohol use in pregnancy

10. Visits to emergency departments due to intoxication. Has this been examined in Uruguay? UK HES data is available.

11. Predictors of return to smoking and tobacco dependence in pregnancy. CRUK or other funders may be interested in funding this line of enquiry.

12. Risks associated with low consumption of alcohol in pregnancy

13. Text messaging for smoking cessation. It was however mentioned that resources limitations may be an issue particularly in Uruguay.

Valentina Gomez-Fletcher from the British Council rounded off the workshop by a resume of the funding opportunities available for international collaborations which may well be suitable for this group. There is a potential Uruguay-Brazil-UK British Council programme which will be launched in the summer, which the group would be eligible to apply for.

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