Capacity Building in a Virtual World

A key element of the CanTest Collaborative is capacity building – with our International School for Cancer Detection Research in Primary Care and Travelling Fellowship scheme. The impact of coronavirus has meant that we have had to move online to enable virtual capacity building.

Throughout lockdown we have continued capacity building of our Faculty around the world via our virtual CanTest Monday events. These began with a series of seminars with our four CanTest Methodologists – Dr Gary Abel, Dr Suzanne Scott, Prof Anne Spencer and Dr Michael Messenger. Each spoke about the impact of coronavirus on their area of research and answered questions from the Faculty attendees.

In October, we held a larger Networking Event and brought together almost 40 of our researchers and PPI representatives from around the globe on Zoom. The event, chaired by Prof Greg Rubin and Dr Suzanne Scott, provided an opportunity for Faculty to hear updates on the direction of the programme and research reports from our institutions. Also, importantly, it provided an opportunity to see each other as well as discussing and sharing ideas.

Prof Willie Hamilton and Dr Fiona Walter, CanTest Directors, started the morning off by sharing progress on strategy with the group. Following this, an extensive discussion explored ways in which CanTest’s collaboration and capacity building approaches could be strengthened while coronavirus continues to restrict our lives. Our Faculty, like many, have faced challenges during the pandemic, including working from home and missing opportunities to meet face-to-face, catch-up at conferences and visit other teams.

The attendees shared tips and brain-stormed ideas for working more effectively and improving communication. Proposals included forming smaller groups, around specific research areas for example, and being able to interact informally with the wider group to ask for and offer help.

Finally, research updates from our International and UK institutions brought everyone up to speed on the ongoing research within CanTest. This was well received by all, with one attendee commenting afterwards,

‘Great to see everyone again, very useful to see other projects, prompted me to reflect on my own projects and get in touch with potential collaborators to discuss ideas’

In addition, the event provided those new to the CanTest family an immediate snapshot of the ongoing research and enabled them to put faces (and voices) to names.

‘The institutional update presented a good coverage and update on what work everyone was up to – great to see old and new faces given the circumstances!’

Our most recent CanTest Monday event was a Faculty-led session hosted by three of the Leeds team. In the first half of this session, the team gave updates on their research on Cancer in the Young & Old, then the second half was an informal discussion on the impact of Covid-19 on career development. In the coming weeks and months, further Faculty-led sessions are planned led by teams at the other UK institutions as well as informal, themed Drop-in sessions with Senior Faculty members.

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