Our latest interviewee is Dr Tamika Heiden of Knowledge Translation Australia, who recently ran the innovative, international Research Impact Summit at which Fiona Colligan and I were among the 20+ speakers. The summit ran over 3 days and was free for those who attended it within 72 hours. I was impressed by the summit and I’m very pleased to have been able to ask Tamika more about how it came about, and indeed how we can take inspiration from her work.
– It seems like it was a very unique event. Have you ever run something like this before? Or been part of someone else’s event with a similar format?
The Research Impact Summit event was a unique format for the research and academic world, but this style of event is commonplace within the business training world. I have attended several summits on different topics around entrepreneurship and business. In fact, it was while watching one of these events that I had the idea to try this in the academic realm. The truth is that I innovated, aka stole, an existing and successful format from another industry.
– Do you think that researchers could use this format to run conferences and events in areas of their research interest?
Absolutely, but this format must be more about learning the “how to” of something. Conferences are usually about hearing the results of a research study or program of work but not the detail of what the researchers learned and the learnings that you can take from it.
Key things to consider with this style of event are the personalities of the people being interviewed. If you want people to watch online it has to be fun and informative. I was very strict on meeting people first to make sure that they were going to be dynamic enough on camera to keep people watching. Having someone stand behind a podium and do a PowerPoint presentation on an online video is not very engaging!
– What did you think would be most difficult aspect, before you held the event?
There were a few things that I thought would be hard. As I said before, I borrowed the format from the business world, and they say that if you want to run an online summit you need to start building relationships and asking people to participate well ahead of time. They also say that if you want twenty people you need to ask a hundred! Luckily for me, I only had two people that said no.
I thought the hardest part would be the logistics of running the event over the three days, and because of that I put a lot of thought into the format and tools to use. Believe me, there was plenty of stress: I am a perfectionist, but it all came together without any problems.
– Now that you can reflect, what was in fact your biggest challenge?
On reflection, the biggest challenge for the event was being brave enough to do it. I didn’t know how to run an online event, I didn’t know if people would sign up, I didn’t know if it would all come together, and I certainly didn’t know if people would show up and watch it. It took a lot of courage to take the plunge and give it a try, and in the end, I figured I would just have to find out.
There was a heck of a lot of preparation that went into setting this up, and once I decided to do it I had to not only work out the logistics of speakers and timing, but how to set up an online event to run in an automated way. This took the most time and was possibly the most challenging thing to figure out.
– Did you learn anything from either your experience or participant/speaker feedback, such that you would do something differently next time?
Having done this event, I believe that future events will be a little easier. I now know the tasks that I would outsource, and I have all the automation sorted out.
The feedback has been great. Some people naturally wanted longer access for free, but I think the 72-hour limit for free access was fair. In the business model of summits they mostly offer the videos free for 24 hours.
I think I would aim for shorter interviews next time around. I had assumed it would be hard to talk with the speakers and to fill the full time, but it went so quick during the interview and I loved being able to give more value with the longer interviews. There is a trade-off between short enough that everyone will watch to the end, versus long enough to learn something new.
– Any words of advice for a researcher who might like to use a similar format for an event?
There are so many pieces of advice to anyone wanting to run this type of event. The most important is to consider why you want to run this style of event and will it meet your goals. The reason I say that is because it is an awful lot of work to bring this together. The event planning began in late June, and the event ran at the end of November: that is a lot of time to stress!
If you decide that this event format is something that you want to try, then I would ensure you have:
- Plenty of time to devote to it;
- Money to set up automation systems, website, and video subscription services, video editing services, and to purchase video recording equipment such as cameras and lights;
- Technical skills or access to someone that does to build and run a site that can be automated;
- Great speakers that support the reason that you are running the event and that are 100% keen to be involved; and
- Great internet connection speed.
– In terms of the topic, research impact, did you notice different interpretations of the phrase, for example across the nationalities?
This is a very good but tricky question. The goal of the summit was to try and get everyone on the same page in understanding not just measurement but creation of impact or opportunities for impact. There are many different interpretations and lots of terminology around research impact and of course it is hard to capture everyone with one term. What I did notice was the numbers of people attending that were located in different countries. The highest number was from the UK as would be expected since research impact is very high on their agenda. Second on the list of attendee numbers was Australia and again they have an impact agenda happening right now. I was surprised at the lower numbers from Canada given we had a number of speakers from there, but what surprised me more was the lack of attendees from the United States. It turns out that the terminology there is very different and what you call something will make a difference.
– What is your favourite definition of “research impact”?
This is a difficult question to answer, there are many definitions. My favourite saying comes from my colleague, Dr Melanie Barwick who once said:
impact shows that people knew what to do with the knowledge you shared.
I think that sums it up perfectly.
– Where does your work go next – are you planning future events and activities?
I will continue to do my work training and supporting researchers and universities to create impact through translation training. There has been an increased interest since the summit which is great.
A lot of people asking if I will be doing another one: yes, there will be a 2017 Research Impact Summit, stay tuned for the announcement later this year!
– Thanks very much for your time and sharing so many tips and useful perspectives.
About Tamika Heiden
Tamika currently serves as Principal with Knowledge Translation Australia, a consulting service to train researchers and research users in Knowledge Translation methods and tools; to support them to implement knowledge translation practices within new and existing research projects and grants; and to link researchers and research users to ensure research is relevant for everyone. Find out more about Dr Tamika Heiden.
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