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Considering doing research

I thought research was not for me

If you had asked me a year ago whether I would consider doing research, I would have said  that it had never even crossed my mind. Why? Well I had the preconception that research was only for the career academic, not the "normal" trainee like me. I hadn't even done an intercalated BSc. Whilst my chums intercalated, I took a year off medical school, headed off to the Belize jungle to live in a hammock and build stuff! So why would I choose to go into research? Yet here I am. This guide gives you a perspective from the perspective of a more clinically orientated trainee. I hope to give you an idea of why to think about doing research, what you will get out of it and what qualities you need. Hopefully, I will also challenge the myth that research is only for geeks!

Why I changed my mind

I got into research by being in the right place at the right time. I happened to hear about a funded clinical fellow post and impulsively, I applied and got it. Then I realised what I had done! I had liked the sound of the job when I applied, but it didn't really dawn on me until I had started that I'd signed up to be a researcher. Nevertheless, I'm glad to say I don't regret it. If I had realised how rewarding research could be, I would have given more consideration to it as an option, and would probably have actively looked for it. But nobody tells you what to expect to help you decide.

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Research - Finding a Project

Geriatric medicine involves all organ systems in the context of ageing and disease. Geriatricians also have a strong interest in improving the quality of healthcare of older people. Therefore, the research possibilities in our specialty are unusually diverse, from lab-based molecular biology projects to health services research. Because of this, collaborations with researchers from other medical specialties are common.

There are several routes to setting up a project. Often trainees are offered a research opportunity by a senior colleague who has a project in mind. Otherwise, with some ideas of the kind of research you might like to do, you need to find someone with research experience in your desired field to speak to about it. If there is no one available locally, perhaps a senior colleague has contacts elsewhere. You could also make contact with key researchers, perhaps at a BGS scientific meeting. A Medline survey can reveal researchers active in your field: virtually all would be delighted to hear from those who share their interest.

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Research - Why do it?

It benefits society
It would be stating the obvious that research benefits society in general, and the altruism underlying this reason may be the last one many of us embark on research, whether in medicine or pure science. Nevertheless, it is worth reiterating that research, whether basic or applied, is the most important means of adding to our knowledge of ageing, disease and the individual. Consequently, if you do good quality research you will have a real influence on clinical practice - even if this influence seems several steps down the line. Additionally, as a research-trained clinician, you have the opportunity to make sure that ongoing research is useful and relevant to the care of older people.

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