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Holly Smith is a PhD student at University College London, funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR). Here, she shares her experiences of getting creative with public engagement work for a small SPCR Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) grant.

Where did the idea for your project come from?

When the SPCR put out a call for projects which would ‘trial novel and creative approaches to public engagement in primary care research’ I knew I had to apply. My PhD is focused on women’s health after childbirth and although I didn’t have any children at the time (I do now) I knew from friends that many mums and dads receive lots of their parenting info and support through social media. In this project I wanted to reach these existing networks to share information to help new mums’ with their mental health. So, we created a short video animation to encourage mums who need help with their mental wellbeing to seek support.Still video image of person holding a baby


Who helped you along the way?

I was very fortunate that my brother-in-law works at a professional animation studio; and he and the Co-Founder/Creative Director had both recently had children so were very keen to work on the project with me. Together we developed a script outline and storyboard for the animation. Three recent parents (two mothers and one father) with an interest mental health research joined our project to guide us on the tone, style and content of the video.


What are you most proud of?

By being more creative and visual with research findings and healthcare messaging we were able to explore an avenue of public engagement which more traditional research outputs do not lend themselves to. This non-traditional format allowed us to engage a wide and varied audience who may not typically engage with research, as social media is accessible to most new or expecting parents. I hope this video will have an impact and encourage women to seek support where they need it, and that this project inspires others to be creative with their research and engagement work.


What are your tips for other PhD students looking to get creative with their research?

  1. Find funding: Look out for small grants to support your PPIE work. This funding has been a fantastic opportunity to try something new and work on an idea that is often difficult to fit within the scope of larger funding calls.
  2. Think about your audience: Leave papers and posters for your thesis and think about how you and your friends like to consume new information – is it podcasts, tweets, interpretive dance? Speak to your audience and let them guide your project.
  3. Don’t work alone: Use your networks and ask for help.


You can see our finished video here. Please share: