“We need to get the best value we can from existing resources and we can do that by doing really good quality research. I think JPND is contributing by trying to meet the big economic challenge, as well as the clinical and biological challenges.”
What impact do you think JPND is having?
I think it is having a big impact as a focal point. I think it has managed to bring together discussions and thinking around this set of conditions, and the research that is needed to tackle them. I think it has helped to generate more funding for this endeavor, too. I think it has also helped to bring together researchers to communicate what they are doing. So lots and lots of ways: I’m very positive about it. I came in as a social scientist into what is an area dominated by biomedical science, but am very positive about what JPND is doing in my area of Health and Social Research.
Did you always want to work in the area of health and social care research?
I started off doing a Masters degree in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics, which I loved intellectually, but I got bored with doing something that felt too removed from the real world. I have always worked in Health and Social Care Research, and I absolutely love it. And I particularly like the dementia field, as I think it brings enormous intellectual challenges. I have a parent with dementia – indeed, almost everyone knows someone with dementia, so it’s a real-world problem today, and I like working in an area that is that challenging.
What is the best piece of advice you have received in your own career?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with people who are strong on the science of research and I hugely value that. I have also been very fortunate in my job to work with people whose main priorities are changing policy or putting policy into practice, and they constantly remind me that university-based researchers need to be aware that there is a real world out there, and we need to be serving that real world – so it is about balancing the scientific robustness with what we can do for today’s populations.
And what would your advice be to younger researchers?
My advice would be “come into this field and stay in it”. This is an interesting field partly because there are no simple solutions. There are huge challenges, so from that point of view, it is very good. It is important that researchers keep a broad profile and that they look to do good, solid scientific research. In my field, I would want them to do research that will have an impact on the real world and to do that quite quickly, so that’s again balancing the robustness of science with the relevance to today’s challenges.
How can we better involve patients in research?
As a research community, we have not involved patients enough, and I think we’ve just assumed that they are not able to participate – that’s clearly not the case. We need to understand what they see as important, both in the short- and long-term. They are not the only people whose views need to be taken into account, but we need to include them more in research, in terms of how we plan it and how we interpret it. Doing so will generate better value for our research.
Click here to read Martin Knapp’s biography.