Research abroad · Research skills

Transdisciplinary research: How a trip to Canada will change my approach to research

Grace Moran, ECRAG co-chair, tells of her experience of transdisciplinary research training which just so happened to involve a compulsory trip to Canada…


TUTOR PHC (Transdisciplinary Understanding and Training on Research – Primary Health Care) is a one-year training programme funded the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF). Each year the NIHR SPCR (School for Primary Care Research), who fund my PhD, are allocated a place for the programme. I was fortunate to be chosen as the candidate for 2014-2015. The experience has been fascinating and I’m only one month in!

Overall, the TUTOR PHC programme consists of a 3 day symposium, 2 online workshops and 2 online discussion groups. The programme lasts for a year but is designed to complement the trainees’ current research and fit alongside our workload.


In May I attended the symposium which was held at the beautiful Kingsbridge conference centre in King City, Canada. Here I met the other 15 trainees, their respective supervisors and some of the TUTOR PHC mentors. The schedule for the symposium was jam-packed, it was one of those experiences where you quickly bond with people and end up knowing more about them than people you have known for years. It was a great networking opportunity and really interesting to hear about research from a mix of disciplines (GPs, epidemiologists, psychologists, nurses and social workers) and also the fascinating personal backgrounds of the trainees: ex-professional figure skating, goat rearing, marathon running to name a few! It was no wonder we were all exhausted at the end of the symposium as we managed to cover many topics over a few days including: interdisciplinary research teams; mixed methods; knowledge translation; policy making; preparing grants and ethics. Over the next year I will work with the trainees completing research skills workshops, developing a mock grant proposal and giving feedback on each other’s current research projects.

The overall aim of the training is to increase the transdisciplinary focus in primary care research. So why should we do transdisciplinary research? Here are a few key points:

  • Multiple perspectives and different bodies of knowledge are important as research questions are complex
  •  Results of research will be applicable to a broad range of people/ disciplines
  • Increase depth of understanding
  • Share resources and facilities
  • Prevent duplication of efforts
  • Opportunity for individual growth and learning
  • Growing expectations of funding bodies

Only a month into the TUTOR PHC programme and already I have gained knowledge which will improve how I approach research in the future and facilitate my development as a primary care researcher. One of the highlights of the symposium was presenting my research question and getting feedback from trainees on how they would have approached my research given their different disciplines and the different methods they would have used. This was such a valuable experience and I think all researchers should go through this process when designing a study. Overall, the programme has been a rewarding experience and I have met a wonderful group of people who I look forward to working with for the next year.

Grace Moran


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