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Establishing a National Research Network in a Virtual World

Submitted by:

Karen Strange

Email:

karen.strange@cancer.ca

Author(s)

Karen Strange, Emily Wong, Annemarie Edwards

Institution of primary author:

Canadian Cancer Society

Background: 

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) established the Cancer Survivorship Research Network in 2020 just as the world was transforming to working virtually and cancelling in-person meetings. The network was designed to optimize the impact of research funded to improve cancer survivorship outcomes.  The network brings together key stakeholders who play a role in implementing interventions including funded researchers, clinicians, patients and policy makers.  

Initially, a two-day symposium bringing together a small number of representatives from each of the funded teams was planned for the end of year 1. With the declaration of the global pandemic and subsequent adoption of virtual platforms, a major pivot was required that included a series of different types of touchpoints.   

Methods:

The pivot to virtual engagement included a series of 8 webinars with each of the funded teams presenting on their project and KT plan and a culminating workshop. Results from evaluation surveys helped us to adapt format each time (less didactic, more interactive) and initiated unforeseen collaborations across the network.  

A needs assessment survey was conducted with members of the network including questions related to identifying topics of interest for network activities, what value the network members were looking for, and input into the format and structure of a virtual interactive workshop. 

A post event survey was conducted after each webinar and each day of the workshop. Metrics for the webinars included satisfaction, increased awareness of projects and potential for collaboration. Metrics for the workshop included satisfaction with content and format, increase in knowledge and intent to use knowledge.  

Results: 

 Overall, there was a high degree of satisfaction with the webinar series and increased awareness of the featured project’s intervention.  Depending on the presenting project, 30-70% of respondents identified potential for collaboration and synergy. 

The needs assessment survey identified stakeholder engagement and sustainability as themes for the two-day virtual workshop. Members identified they preferred a workshop presented over two half-days, 1 week apart, with plenaries and interactive breakout sessions. This input informed the agenda for our two-day workshop that focused on these themes with a plenary and series of breakout sessions across two days.   

There was a high response rate for the workshop survey. Participants reported a high satisfaction with the content and format of the two-day virtual workshop (94% and 99%, respectively). 94% of workshop participants strongly agreed/agreed their knowledge of the presented topic increased and 97% indicated they intend to use the knowledge in their work.  

Conclusions: 

The onset of the pandemic and the inability to travel and gather in-person required the development of novel approaches to knowledge exchange network activities. We demonstrated this could be done effectively in a virtual platform. There were several lessons learned including: 1) Interactive formats delivered virtually can be conducive to increased collaboration; 2) Engaging influencers and end users before making content and format decisions is still critical when using virtual formats; 3) Needs assessments are critical to driving relevance, engagement and value of virtual workshops.    

Karen Strange poster

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