Friday, October 12, 2007

From Chaos to Movement: The Story of a Friday

Entry for 12 Oct 2007:

I freaked out this morning: At that moment, although I’d spent most of the past week learning the NRES process and filling out the very long and confusing form, it was still unclear to me how long the University’s research office and ethics committee would take to re-review the Social Anxiety Research Protocol before they would approve it for me to go ahead with the NHS ethics process. In addition, I still have the NRES application for the practice-based recall protocol, which I haven’t started yet. This is holding up three manuscripts that I am supposed to be working on for various people, which were either late or about to be. And the manuscripts are holding up my doing my part of the meta-analysis that Beth is working enthusiastically away at, and that we are supposed to present the results of at three different conferences next month (including the high profile Improving Access to Psychological Therapies conference in London).

Meanwhile, we don’t have any clients yet for either the Social Anxiety study or the Practice-Based Research Protocol study, and we are expecting 4 or 5 students to start seeing clients in the latter protocol within the next month. (And our major source of clients, GP practices, is blocked to us until we get NRES approval, which is probably going take us into January.) ….In addition, the pre-test data collection for part of the diploma course study got messed up and so far we’ve only got about a 30% return rate (vs. 85% for the part-time course). Although I woke up this morning with a feeling of dread, I’d kept this to myself since I got up. Then, as I was about to go out the door with my bike and was saying goodbye to Diane, my tale of woe came pouring out. Then, just as I was winding down (or rather up), I got a phone call from Lorna, who needed me to cover the study groups on the fulltime diploma course for her. I dashed off to work.

In the course of the morning, I visited the diploma course students in the study groups, first getting their finishing time wrong and then having to go back to them and tell them the correct time. I finally faced the fact that I had to do something about the low return rate for the diploma course study. I discovered that the Social Anxiety ethics re-approval process was in danger of going sideways and required immediate intervention to get it back on track. And I discovered that we still hadn’t sorted out the flyer and poster design for the practice-based research protocol.

The low point (and turning point) of the day came when I showed up for the afternoon fulltime large group with a pile of diploma course study forms, hoping to catch some of the nonresponders… only to discover that I had forgotten to photocopy the information and consent forms. I sat there panicking, looking at the students.

Finally, I took a deep breath and tried to explain the situation to them as best I could. It turned out that Julie Folkes-Skinner, the U of Leicester whose dissertation research it is, had confused things by giving the students envelopes with her address for them to return the forms to her directly; however, I had told them to return them to us, as we had done with the part-time course. This led to confusion; some students had put stamps on the envelopes & mailed the forms back to Julie; others had tried to turn them in to the office and been told to mail them themselves (presumably because of the missing stamps) but hadn't because of postal strike, while others just hadn't got around to it or weren’t sure if we are still interested in getting them back. I left them with a plea to do their best to get the forms back to us as soon as possible and to let me know if they were willing to take part in Level II of the study. This at least clarified where the problem was and boded well for salvaging a decent return rate.

I went back to my office, to meet with Isabel on her MSc thesis about the study she is planning on counselling with the dying. Louise at the research office phoned a couple of times and grilled me about aspects of the Social Anxiety study, which began to look like it might get unstuck. Brian and I finalized the Practice-Based Research Protocol, making it more appealing. Beth had given me three important studies that she had analyzed, and somewhere in my wanderings I realized that it might be possible for us to take the meta-analysis to next month’s conferences without us both analyzing all the studies, that we could present a relatively complete set of studies combining our separate analyses, and then later (in December & January) analyze each other’s studies in order to check reliability as we had planned. Then, Lorna announced that she had gotten the cooperation of the Tom Allen Centre to give information about our two protocols to the clients on their long waiting list. Before going home, we had a very productive research committee meerting in which we made significant progress planning how we are going run the student placement aspect of the research clinic. The day concluded with a very nice book launch party for the new Handbook of Person-Centred Therapy, where there were speeches and songs and interesting people to talk to.

I still have the other ethics proposal to do, and those three articles, and I haven’t had a chance to talk to Beth about my idea for expediting the meta-analysis, but it’s hard to be pessimistic in the face of all this forward progress. Tomorrow we’re planning to visit the Glasgow’s famous Burrell Collection (I’ve never been), and last night we went to a great concert by an Australian duo named Cloudstreet. Things are pretty intense right now, but it’s great to realize that things really are moving forward, and to be able to balance all the hard work we’re all doing with some fun now and then.

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