About a year ago, SDHI adopted its current strategy, entitled ‘Building Bridges’. It was not a radical departure from the work that the institute has so successfully engaged in since its inception nine years ago. Rather, the strategy was a document that positions SDHI as a modern, innovative, creative interdisciplinary, inter-sectorial, and inter-university platform for research, learning and knowledge mobilisation. Key elements of the refreshed strategy are internationalisation, diversified funding, and public engagement. Over the past 12 months, we have made considerable progress towards reaching our operational objectives. We have had successful international conferences, seminars, symposia and webinars, exchange visits with participation from academics from the United States, Brazil, Australia, and Belgium. Moreover, our website – which was completely redesigned in the summer of 2011 – has received visitors from 103 countries, over 17,000 hits. We see increasing interest in our working model from academics and universities in the United States and Australia. This has been very encouraging.
In terms of funding, we have still a reasobably high hit rate with government fundings agencies, and pursue new avenues, including international partnerships. Clearly, this is an ongoing challenge, which we are addressing with a lot of creative energy.
When SDHI was founded nine years ago it was one of very few interdisciplinary research networks in Scotland. Today, we see many new collaborations with different foci emerging nearly on a weekly basis. This is a positive development and we have been proactive in engaging with many of these professional networks. Our strategy outlines our wish to ‘network the networks’ – an acknowledgement of a more and more globally interconnected world. We have also embraced new social media technologies, such as Twitter and Webinars to link the local to the global and the global to the local. It allows us to broadcast announcements and news in nearly real time. And we can link overseas speakers to local audiences as we have done in a recent mini-symposium on ‘Understanding and promoting physical activity for people with physical disabilities’ where we connected participants from Atlanta in the US and Brussels, Belgium with a mixed local audience consisting of academics and healthcare professionals.
Another area where we have focused our efforts is public engagement. After last years success, we will host another Day of Public Engagement this year in the Wellgate Public Library in Dundee. This event on the 3 November will be an opportunity to showcase our research at the intersection of health and social science, invite our professional collaborators, and most importantly enter discussions with the general public. The event is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. It is an outlet for creative thought and development.
Clearly, there is a lot more work ahead of us to achieve the milestones laid out in our ‘Building Bridges’ strategy, especially in the area of support for postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and in maintaining our funding record in an increasingly challenging economic environment.
The strategy that positions health, wellbeing and social participation at the centre of four key dynamic areas of influence (economy, demographics, environment, technology) provides us with a flexible, yet stimulating roadmap to tackle these challenges.
If you have not been engaged with SDHI and read about us for the first time or you just want to get in touch to discuss some research ideas, please drop us an email at sdhi @dundee.ac.uk