Thursday, November 6, 2014

First Rule of Research Club, Don't Talk About Research Club

            What makes an excellent research project? Is it the idea? The people? The proposal? These are all questions that I never thought I would ask myself in a million years. But here I am thinking up survey questions for a migrant indigenous tribe. Honestly, if you had told me I'd be doing this six months ago I would've said that you're crazy! Now I'm on the other side of an IRB proposal, 5 research tools, and 3 separate informed consent sheets. Sounds insane right, well yes you're right, but getting here was almost more insane.
            I'll start off by saying that the microbiology route was not for me in this case. I mean look at this face:
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This is not the face of people enjoying themselves. Although it was an interesting ride to get through this toothbrush experiment, it didn't yield super cool results, so I decided in that moment that I want do something with the community.
            Now let me take you back to Saturday night, I spent all morning studying for the two quizzes I had that afternoon, and we have a fate-changing lecture after dinner; is it an appropriate combo for great decision-making? Well just read on and see. This lecture would help us to decide our project topic for our very important and prestigious IP project for the OTS course. As the slides kept flicking by, one in particular catches my eye "Study respiratory infections in migrant Ngöbe children". Seriously how cool! After the presentation is over there is a mad dash to stake claim on your research topic. Luckily for us there weren't too many butting heads over any topic in particular. Therein the jumble of students I found my group. But little did I know that the impending stress would wane the initial excitement.
            My group, all giddy with anticipation, decided to begin right away on Monday morning with an initial meeting with the staff. Nothing like starting off a Monday morning with a breakfast meeting, right?? Well it would soon come to our attention that one of our group members did not show up. That's okay though 3 out of 4 isn't too bad in my book. But later on we realized that it was actually a HUGE stressor. Later that day we met again to start putting together our research into a 6-page survey. We knew it was excessive but hey, better to cover everything than forget something right? Putting that together was possibly one of the most stressful times in my life. It's mostly because a group member missed the initial meeting and had all these questions, but hope springs eternal as we are all very passionate about our research topic.
            Our next step was hearing the critiques about our survey. This is the point where we find out that we're going to use 5 different research tools made up of two observation sheets and 3 separate surveys. Which meant that we needed to immediately get ourselves together because this was going to be a grand voyage. Along with these new surveys we also wrote up 2 new informed consent documents, which sounds easy but it's not. Trying to explain your research and explaining they can voluntarily start or stop the survey at any point is difficult to write in a fluid and natural way. So basically it just sounds really unnatural.
            So is it all worth it? Yes, absolutely. My group has so much passion for this research and we want to provide the Caja with useful and impactful information to improve the health of the migrant Ngöbe community. Although we're not done yet, I have a gut feeling that the stress and arguments made us write better surveys and really push each other to think of new and innovative ideas.

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