My esteemed colleague Professor Jane Hopkinson facilitates a Wednesday lunchtime research drop-in, to which people in the School of Healthcare Sciences at Cardiff University are invited. Affectionately known as doughnut meetings (see photo of today’s goodies attached), these provide a loosely-structured, supportive, space for the sharing of ideas and experiences. The gatherings are really very good: informal, but always informed. I make a point of getting along when I can.
Typically those who meet up get to propose themes for future meetings. This afternoon’s topic was ‘research and evaluation’, and more particularly the distinctions between the two. People involved in health services research (or indeed, health services evaluation) will know how important this differentiation is for NHS governance and approval purposes. Projects classified as ‘research’ require independent NHS research ethics committee (REC) approval. Projects classified as ‘evaluation’ do not. The NHS Health Research Authority provides guidance to help people work out what type of project it is that they are proposing, but in my experience making these determinations remains a wholly inexact science.
I have also learned that a project can be ‘evaluation’ in one context (e.g., for NHS research governance and ethics review) and ‘research’ in another (e.g., for academic progression and award purposes). My own PhD was designed, part-funded through open competition, completed and examined as ‘research’: what else could it possibly have been, as a research degree? But it was also categorised as something else when I offered it up for NHS REC approval, as I’ve written about here and (at length) in this paper.
So there we have it. Potentially all rather confusing, and certainly enough to make me want to eat a doughnut.