Powering up with a Student Advisory Group: People’s experiences of the BrainPower Student Advisory Group
Tony Su, Fiona Buckley & Samantha Dockray
In many types of research, when planning or reviewing a service, the perspective and knowledge of members of the public can be invaluable. Advisory Groups are made up of people with unique skills and knowledge, who are often brought together for the general purpose of providing advice, feedback and guidance to a project team Advisory groups might work with researchers or organisations to address things such as ‘what research questions do you think people with your condition would most want answered?’ or ‘how would we effectively share our findings with people in your age group?’.
Recently the Brainpower Team asked a group of UCC students to join an Advisory Group, and share their insights on student experience and advice to the BrainPower Team. The Brainpower Team are developing a digital badge course on the biopsychosocial changes of late adolescence/emerging adulthood for students. The aim is that students can know more about how their brain develops into their 20’s and why this might matter for their college experience - so of course, it seemed obvious to ask students themselves about what they would find interesting, useful and engaging!
Tony Su (BAP3) and Fiona Buckley ( BAP 1), who were members of the Advisory Group, share their experiences below.
"To me, the student advisory group (SAG) is as much a valuable experience for the students involved as for the researchers at the helm. Not only is it a fantastic way of finding out the projects happening around us, but by actively participating in those projects, we are making our voices heard. By participating, we are making sure the changes happening around us are meaningful to our peers and to us.
Getting involved in a SAG is also a wonderful opportunity to get to know people outside our own disciplines. It was an absolute pleasure to be introduced to so many vastly different perspectives on topics I’m interested in. And, if you are lucky like me, you might pick up some interesting new concepts!"
“Having spent my first year of university online, I tended to hide behind the safe anonymity of a switched-off camera and muted microphone. It was a surprise to me when I was offered the opportunity to participate in a student advisory group.
But right away, I was struck by the non-judgemental atmosphere of the group. Each participant was positive, intelligent, and extremely insightful. After months of impersonal lectures and nail-bitingly awkward breakout rooms, it was refreshing to hear other group members remark that the meetings were too short. I thought so too – the ninety-minute meetings seemed to fly by.
I’ve never been very comfortable with group participation but I pushed myself outside my comfort zone in this group. I did it to enhance the integrity of the research, but I could also see the benefits for my personal development. Now I’m definitely glad I did.”
University College Cork has recently joined the PPI Ignite Ireland Network and has a range of activities, resources and events planned over the next 5 years. PPI stands for Patient and Public Involvement and it is when public/patients work in partnership with researchers in setting priorities for research, in planning and managing research studies, as well as in interpreting, sharing and applying results into practice.
The Brainpower Project was funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, and the Brainpower team includes Dr Eithne Hunt, Profesor Yvonne Nolan, Dr Samantha Dockray, along with Advisory Group Facilitators, Eadaoin Whelan and Maurissa Moore.