Shoba Poduval, Office for Health Improvement & Disparities, London region, 2023, 4 months
Researcher-in-Residence at the at OHID (London region) and focused on the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework for London’s structural racism strategy and actions.
3 January 2024
What was your Fellowship about?
I learnt about the rapid pace of the policy environment. I had six months to deliver on at least two outputs and so had to work much more quickly and pragmatically than I am used to as an academic. However, this did mean seeing tangible impact more rapidly as my research contributed towards a strategy on tackling ethnic health inequalities. This strategy was shared with healthcare leaders to guide local strategy across London. This was satisfying as impact for academics, particularly early-career researchers, is important but can be elusive.
How did the Fellowship contribute to your career development?
I developed my research skills by working on the first systematic review of reviews of anti-racist interventions in healthcare. The review recommended five areas of action for health and care organisations, signposting how they can make a start on the urgent issue of tackling ethnic health disparities. The review has been submitted to the medical journal, BMJ Open and is an important example of a publication resulting from academic-policy collaboration.
The fellowship has helped me establish a ‘research identity’ in ethnic health inequalities, and given me credible policy experience which is helpful for my CV. I have been invited to speak at policy and research events, enhancing my research profile both within and outside UCL. I have also been able to develop new research questions, informed by the research I conducted during the fellowship, and have been awarded a NIHR Development and Skills Enhancement award, where I will be learning about data science and developing a proposal for longer-term research to address ethnic health inequalities.
What surprised you the most?
I was pleasantly surprised by how warm everyone was in welcoming an academic researcher, and how responsive people were to requests for advice and consultation. There was a real sense of shared purpose. I was struck by how much quicker the pace of work is in policy, and the need to be able to make decisions quickly based on the evidence available.
I was able to collaborate with multiple organisations from regional government, NHS Integrated Care Boards and the voluntary and community sector. I was very quickly welcomed as ‘part of the team’ and was able to attend and contribute to a number of project management meetings. It was nice to feel useful and bring academic expertise. I also had tremendous support and line management from my supervisor Dr Jennifer Yip (Consultant Lead for Health Equity, Science and Strategy).
What would you say to other UCL researchers considering a policy placement?
I undertook the secondment at the end of a post-doctoral fellowship when I was starting to think about my next steps. From my experience, doing a policy placement can be really helpful to UCL researchers who are developing their research interests, establishing independence, learning about policy impact or wanting to build their networks with policy-makers. It can be difficult to take time out or away from your other research commitments, but a policy placement is also very beneficial to career development, and UCL and research funders are supportive of the concept. So, talk to your line-manager about how this could be negotiated.