Associate Professor and Director, Single Cell Genomics Facility, School of Biomedical Engineering, University of Technology, Sydney.
Your area of cancer research?
I am an Associate Professor at UTS, and my main area of research is in breast cancer.
How long have you had consumer representatives involved with your cancer research?
More than 10 years.
What is the most positive outcome for you of having a consumer representative work with you on your research?
There are many reasons why having a diverse mindset in the team is an asset. For example, having a consumer representative in the team helps us understand how the public perceives the research we conduct. That way we can better communicate the advances and progress of our research and unpack what that means for society. It gives another layer of context to our research.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced working with a consumer representative?
Generally, it is finding the right channel of communication and what works for both. It could be regular meetings; phone calls or in-person chats over coffee or tea. In my case, Jane makes this very easy, she is super flexible and makes herself available for a visit, which is greatly appreciated.
How has the consumer representative been able to help you with your project?
In many ways! Perhaps the most important one is the extra set of eyes that gives a different perspective. After several years working together, Jane understands our projects very well. She often asks interesting questions that help us to refine our research questions, but also identify the best way to articulate the impact of our research so it is easier to communicate to the public. It is really enriching.
What do you know now that you would like to have known at the beginning of your involvement with consumers?
How much help it is to bounce ideas back with engaged people that are not scientists by training. Consumer representatives are eager to understand and contribute to our research, this makes us feel connected and reminds us of our role in society. This is something I did not anticipated from this relationship with Jane, and I am absolutely thrilled about it!
If you could say one thing to a new researcher about working with consumers, what would it be?
Develop a relationship of trust, there is a lot to gain from this partnership beyond the grant writing and design.
If you could say one thing to a new consumer representative, what would it be?
Feel involved with the research and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Most of the times scientist use lots of jargon but we don’t realise it. The key of this relationship is to bring a different perspective.
Please add anything else you think relevant.
Thanks for the work Cancer Voices does matching researchers with consumers. I really appreciate your support over the years.