Last Wednesday our Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) celebrated its official start. I met with the other PhD students before the event, and we talked a little about the details of our presentations. The weather didn’t take part in our celebratory mood – the sky was grey and it wouldn’t stop raining! But we were glad to see that the weather didn’t stop any of the guests from coming along.
Many different people attended the event – professionals, people living with dementia, carers, academics and other members of the public who were interested to hear about the DTC. While the guests were still chatting and enjoying their coffee, we finalised preparations for our presentations. When everything was ready, the guests joined us in the auditorium, where they were seated around a number of nicely decorated round tables. This arrangement encouraged people to interact with each other, and each table ended up being a little representation of the whole event, with a mixed group of people who talked to each other and exchanged comments and ideas. We as PhD students assimilated easily in these mixed groups.
The presentations described the DTC in general, its mission to have real world impact, an introduction to the PhD projects, and information on the various groups that provide the DTC with real world connections and involvement during the research process (e.g. carer reference panel, experts by experience and other stakeholders). After the presentations there was a Q & A session. Different questions from different perspectives encouraged an interesting dialogue between the audience and the members of the DTC centre.
This dialogue continued for the rest of the event, first at lunch and later on during the poster session. This part of the program created an informal atmosphere in which people felt free to talk to each other and network. Several people came to my poster and showed their interest in my research. We had a nice dialogue in which they shared their real world experiences and asked me how I could influence those experiences with my research.
This event in itself lived up to the aim of the DTC to have real world impact and involve the real world in the DTC. The open and informal atmosphere helped to erase the boundaries of authority and hierarchy that are sometimes felt when researchers try to communicate with the real world. I felt part of an interesting dialogue between research and the real world in which everyone’s input was equally valued. This event set an example of how we should carry out our research in a constant dialogue with the real world.
We would like to note our thanks to Professor Richard Fortinsky and his family for sponsoring the beautiful flowers for our launch, in honour of his mother Davida Fortinsky.
Denise de Waal
DTC PhD student