The Ocular Research by Integrated Training and Learning (ORBITAL) Project, a WIT led, €4 million award funded under the Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Action, hosted their first all-consortium meeting virtually on April 6, 7, and 8, 2020.
With sixty participants from nine countries across Europe, the US, and Canada, the virtual meeting was the first chance for the large consortium to meet to discuss the fifteen research projects, meet the Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), and create a stronger network within the field of Ocular Drug Delivery Research.
“It’s a strange and worrying time right now, certainly,” Dr. Laurence Fitzhenry, the Project Coordinator, stated, “but we know we need to come together and maintain the strong network for the ESRs and for ORBITAL. Meeting virtually isn’t perfect, but it allows us to see each other, and to continue to push this project to the next level.”
Building a stronger network
The meeting included a full-day of professional development training for the ESRs by Professional Development IE, who quickly turned their curriculum from in-person training to an online approach, which allowed for additional participants from the Ocular Therapeutics Research Group (OTRG) at WIT to participate.
“We want to develop the ESRs and make sure they have a strong network throughout their research lifespan. Including additional researchers from other departments or research groups helps build those connections, right from the start,” says Tess Ames, the Project Manager.
The importance of the Patient and Public Involvement
The kick-off did not stop there. On day two, the entire consortium came together for three presentations on understanding the Patient Perspective and the Clinician Perspective in the research process. Dr. Laura Brady and Dr. Karen Lester from Fighting Blindness, Ireland’s only charity funding vision research, presented on the importance of patient and public involvement in research.
“By embedding the lived experiences into the research process, we ensure higher quality, better designed research, with far greater impact,” Dr. Brady highlighted.
Dr. Helena Prior Filipe, of Hospital SAMS in Lisboa, Portugal, also emphasized that point in her presentation, underlining that the goal is “to bridge young researchers’ work with patient and public expectations.”
Overall, the presentations encouraged continued curiosity, cooperation, and collaboration, while simultaneously challenging the early stage researchers to break free from the status-quo.
“Facts have a half-life. Question everything. We should not be doing the same thing we were when I started this work in 1992. We can push this forward,” urged ophthalmologist David Kent, from the Vision Clinic in Kilkenny.