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Collaboration case study: Robert Pralat, Sociology - Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Summary of the collaborative activity:

It started when I gave a presentation about my research on gay parenting and sperm donation to an audience of healthcare practitioners working in the area of sexual health. I met with some great response to the questions that my study was asking. Discussions about the implications of this work quickly translated to more concrete planning of a new research project, which took my original inquiry into a somewhat unexpected direction. I began to work closely with clinical researchers and together we developed a study that combined our interests and the research priorities in our respective fields.

What were the aims of the collaborative activity?

The aim was to design, and secure funding for, a new study to explore views about parenthood, fertility, ageing and reproductive health among HIV-positive gay and bisexual men. My personal goal was to identify questions emerging from my doctoral research that were worth pursuing further. I was keen to embark on a project that offered new challenges while enabling me to utilise and build on my skills, experience and recently acquired knowledge. I was also hoping to develop a network of people who could bring their expertise into a research activity that cut across disciplines and professions.

Did the activity meet these aims?

The support provided by the Cambridge ESRC DTC proved extremely helpful and ultimately made it possible to integrate my collaborative activity into finishing and writing up my doctoral research as well as securing funding for postdoctoral research. My collaborators were based in various parts of London, so regular travel to the capital was necessary to meet with them face-to-face and to visit their clinics. I was also able to attend events where I could meet people working in patient organisations and community networks – another kind of collaboration I am hoping to pursue further in the near future.

What ‘added value’ has this collaborative activity brought to you as a DTC student?

The ESRC's emphasis on the relevance of social research beyond academia certainly made me more alert to opportunities that offer ways to make sociology gain a wider appeal. It also contributed to my interest in communication – both as a subject of study and as a mechanism that makes studying meaningful in the first place. The collaborative activity was a useful exercise in communicating to different audiences and with different professionals. I'm sure this experience also indirectly shaped my commitment to use accessible language in my PhD thesis and other academic writing.