‘Inspiring Stories’ with Naomi Leonard

Enterprise Fellow, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre

LifeLab’s Young Researcher Training Programme

This is part of the Engaged Medicine ‘Inspiring Stories’ blog series. The blogs explore the stories behind outreach and patient-public engagement activities of staff and students from the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine. 

As many people at the University of Southampton (and beyond) know, LifeLab is a research-based educational programme that empowers children and young people to understand the science behind health messages. The young people, aged between 14-17 are employed by the University of Southampton to research issues that matter to them.  

On Friday 1st March 2024, LifeLab hosted their first Young Researcher Training Programme (YRTP) red-carpet event at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium. They showcased short research-based videos which the young people had devised, scripted, acted in and directed. The evening also highlighted the launch of the Young Researcher Training Programme itself, which includes resources such as lesson plans, worksheets, independent tasks, and researcher profiles, also created by the young people. The programme includes the following 12 topics: what is research, reflective vs. reflexive research, methods, research methods, ethics, data collection, Epicollect, quantitative data analysis, qualitative data analysis, evaluation, dissemination and presentation. 

The young people received awards for their successes in the YRTP, and the audience even got the chance to vote for their ‘Star of the Night’. 

When Kath Woods-Townsend [LifeLab Programme Manager] and I first talked about running this event, we knew we wanted the young people to be at the heart and centre of it. I was so glad we were able to achieve this, as the young people really were the stars of the show. Young people often do not receive the recognition they deserve, whether that be at school or extra-curricular endeavours.  

At the red-carpet event, parents expressed to us their gratitude for the Young Researcher Training Programme, noting both the research and interpersonal skills their child learnt throughout the programme. Reactions from young people and staff were equally excellent: 

To be able to see the way that the invitees responded to our work was really affirming and I feel really encouraged that the project is going to be truly useful to others.” Esther, Young Researcher 

“It was an incredible experience that made me feel proud of what we have done and how it is going to impact our generation around us. It was amazing to see all of the young people that have all joined together to make these resources and to see just how much we have accomplished.” Jasmine, Young Researcher  

“It was an excellent evening, and great fun. Well done to everyone involved. The students should be particularly proud of how well the videos worked. Truly wonderful!” Mark Spearing, Vice-President (Research and Enterprise) 

“It was a wonderful event. Very powerful and awesome!” Sue Littlemore, Director of Civic & Arts 

I know the impact of this event on our young people was huge. They were able to witness firsthand people appreciating the hard work they put into the YRTP. I could see how proud they were of being the centre of the project, and how motivated they were by the positive reactions of the audience.  

I completed my MSc in Nutrition, Physical Activity and Public Health, and never thought I’d be doing this kind of work, but I’m really glad that I am. I understand that we need to provide these platforms so that young people’s voices can be heard and then acted upon. As we are always trying to maintain momentum in our important work, we are currently planning the content for our next project: “Democracy in Healthcare: The Young Researcher Training Programme” which will see young people learn how to conduct research whilst being trained in youth democracy, political and advocacy skills. They will research health priorities which are important to young people and put their questions to the Integrated Care Board at the Integrated Care Partnership assembly later on this year, which is a statutory joint committee, bringing together the NHS and local authorities as equal partners to focus more widely on health, public health and social care. This is something that we believe has not been done before, so I am delighted to be part of it. 

To see more photos of our red-carpet event: https://rcmagency.pixieset.com/lifelabredcarpet/.  

Watch this space – the Young Researcher Training Programme will soon be available for schools, youth groups and other organisations to download and use in practice. Find out more about LifeLab and how to get involved: https://lifelabonline.org/

The Young Researcher Training Programme was funded by LifeLab, the NIHR Research Support Service, the NIHR-funded EACH-B programme, Southampton Institute for Arts and Humanities, the UKRI-funded Pathways to Health project, the Regional Innovation Fund and the Policy Fund, both from the University of Southampton and the Widening Participation and Social Mobility Directorate, University of Southampton.   

Stay Connected! To find out more about the ‘Inspiring Stories’ series, Faculty of Medicine educational programmes and research, or to get involved use the links below or contact Dr Lucy Green. 

University staff or students click here for the Engaged Medicine SharePoint.

‘Inspiring Stories’ with Naomi Leonard

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