Involve conference 2014 – the highlights

The involve annual meeting was held over two days at the NEC in Birmingham.

Due to my own poor planning I only managed to attend a half day of this meeting but was impressed by what I saw/heard. My first impressions were that this was a big meeting – bear in mind the venue was also hosting the BBC Good Food Show and a Motorcycle 2014 event so there were lots of people there and about 1000 for the involve meeting. The posters were in areas with food which enabled you to view these easily without missing the crucial breaks and networking opportunities.

Many posters were presented by patients which made a change from the usual academic style of presenting and were much more engaging and readable. As with the whole conference there was an overwhelming choice of what to read and which sessions to attend – every single poster would have made an excellent presentation and there was simply not enough time to speak to everyone.

Many posters and sessions involved children and young people even though this hadn’t been explicit from the abstract and notes so I was really happy. However, there were very few young people and no children present at the event which I think needs to be addressed going forwards.

The James Lind Alliance Partnership hosted a session which was interesting to look at how patients in partnership with researchers and clinicians can prioritise research needs. This approach needs to be developed to make it accessible and affordable for all interested parties.

A keynote talk from Tracey Brown, managing director of Sense about Science was interesting. Tracey is an excellent presenter and I admire her enthusiasm as well as achievements to date – a truly inspiring individual. However, I felt that at points she was preaching to the converted and I still stick to my industry alignment and want to ensure that the Pharmaceutical Industry is fairly represented at such meetings. The industry is just that – an industry – they have to sell their products which in this case is healthcare which is more emotive than other bodies. They need to make money and will only research where they can generate income. It is not their responsibility to plug gaps – this is where public funding is required and we all need to recognise this. My analogy is that it would be useful for me if Marks and Spencers also sold hardware BUT it is not in their interests so I know I have to go elsewhere… It is important to ensure that the public receive scientific information, particularly about healthcare, in an understandable format – the same is true about business and the business of healthcare and we need to ensure that this happens in a balanced way.

The final session that I attended was about the launch of a new journal that aims to be the home for research on PPI – this was an exciting initiative that have a lay member and academic as co-editors in chief. This was a real highlight for me as the mainpurpose of attending this conference was to be inspired and to find out where I can publish in this area.

Overall a very successful half day!

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