The do’s and don’ts of using focus groups in prevention research

Nikki Gambles is a third year PhD student studying at the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University. In this article, she reflects on some of her experiences of using focus groups in her PhD research.

For this month’s blog, I take time to reflect on my recent experiences conducting focus group (FG) interviews with young adults and share the challenges that I faced along the way. Beginning my first qualitative research project was a daunting experience. When it came to planning the FG study, I was met by a plethora of conflicting research outlining the dos and don’ts of FG practice. I found it difficult at times to understand which of the practices would do my research justice and which recommendations I should adhere to. Here, I share my own experiences of the challenges I was faced with and reflect on what did and did not work.

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How to promote effective evidence-based prevention when no one is listening?

Good intentions but ineffective or even harmful prevention measures? In this blog post, Sanela Talič from the Institute for Research and Development UTRIP, Slovenia, shares her critical insights to current and past developments in the field of prevention research. She makes a strong point to implement existing prevention programs that have proven effective and calls for an increased collaboration between the different stakeholders and experts in the field.

The topic of my second blog was encouraged by recent events and conferences in Europe and some insider information from our allies – Slovenian NGO’s active in the field of prevention. Overall, 10 years of intensive prevention work have resulted in only few sympathizers who actually understand the basic principles of prevention. Often, we receive very valuable information about prevention in schools from them. So, let me start from the beginning…

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A European perspective: Traineeship at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction

In today’s blog post, Stefanie Helmer, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics at the Charité University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany, shares with us what it’s like to complete a traineeship at the European Union’s central agency on drug-related issues: the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in Lisbon, Portugal.

When you work in an interdisciplinary team and you are the one responsible for drug prevention, this goes along with a lot of comments. You are tired on a Monday morning? You can be sure that everybody will ask you about your “field research” at the weekend. If there is a dinner with colleagues, you are the one that is responsible for selecting the wine because you certainly know all about it. So, I thought: let’s go the whole hog – apply for a traineeship in Lisbon at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the people working there are never going to ask you that kind of questions1.

Even though this was not the real reason behind my application, I was convinced to apply for a traineeship in November 2015 and luckily got it. And now I would like to convince you to do so, too.

The EMCDDA building in Lisbon (Picture: © Stefanie Helmer)

Being a trainee at the EMCDDA

I applied for a position in the prevention unit. Continue reading

  1. As most of you may know, the EMCDDA is an agency of the European Commission that was set up to provide information about drug use and the responses to it in the European Union’s member states, Norway and Turkey. If you are interested in their work, you can find more details here: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/. []

Prevention science in its struggle for a better reputation

In this month’s blog post, Sanela Talič will share her experience in her work as a prevention scientist. Sanela is the Head of Prevention at Institute for Research and Development UTRIP in Slovenia and currently also a PhD student of prevention science at University of Zagreb. In this blog, she will address the importance of acknowledging prevention research as a distinct science.

The year 2006, the time when I first entered the field of prevention. When I look back, it was like a love at first sight. But beginnings are often not easy. Imagine a baby taking his first steps. Awkward steps, lots of downs and ups but determined to continue mainly due to the richness of this field. People I met at this “first stage” of my prevention career were talking in specific jargon and I admit… back then a special “prevention dictionary” would have saved me from unenviable situations. Often I was giving the impression that I totally understand them and agree with them but at the same time there was only one question in my head: “For God’s sake, what are these people talking about?” But that didn’t stop me from “digging deeper” as I wanted to broaden my horizons. Because very soon I realised that prevention is one of those fields where learning never ends. Continue reading

The non-existent bridge between research and practice

In today’s contribution, Miriam Blikmans, research master student at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, shares some thoughts on how she has experienced the gap between the worlds of research and practice during her first year in the academic world.

How it all began

My first serious encounter with research took place while I was conducting my bachelor thesis abroad. During a period of three months, the University of Örebro in Sweden gave me the opportunity to take a look into the world of research. I learned a lot: how to come to an innovative research topic, how to conduct more advanced statistical techniques, but most of all it taught me the power of research. During my study on the effectiveness of parenting programs for children with externalizing behaviour, I found that the reduction in children’s problem behaviour was partly due to a decrease in parenting stress. Although being overall effective, not all families benefit from these programs. I thought this insight into parenting stress as a working mechanism might help increase the effectiveness of these parenting programmes and therefore it could make a difference in the lives of certain families. Of course, I was a little naive Continue reading