Supporting lung researchers - our first conference
Ian visits our first annual conference for our lung researchers.
Since the British Lung Foundation was founded 30 years ago we've invested £24million into lung disease research. We’re aiming to make sure people with lung disease can be diagnosed earlier and treated better, and that fewer people develop lung problems in the first place.
We've supported scores of scientists across the UK in that time, many of whom have a world-class reputation, but for a long time our relationship with our researchers would end as soon as their project was finished. Once the final report dropped through the door, we had no way of staying in contact. That meant we couldn't keep track of what they did next, or let them know about what we were doing.
Keeping in touch
We didn't think this was right, so we've launched an alumni scheme – basically a club for people who have had any kind of research grant from us in the past. The idea is that we can keep in touch regularly, and get together at a special conference annually.
The ultimate goal is to support researchers throughout their career, and we hope that in turn they can help us. For example they might be able to offer advice on research topics, support some of our campaigns, or raise money which we can invest back into funding more research projects.
We held our first conference at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London at the end of March 2015 and I was delighted to welcome around 70 hugely talented scientists along.
Our first conference
We were very privileged to have Professor Stephen Holgate and Professor Peter Barnes among our speakers, 2 of the world’s 100 most influential biomedical scientists.
Also speaking were researchers we've worked with in the past, who talked about their careers and discussed the options that are open to young researchers
On top of this, I wanted to give junior researchers the chance to show their work and encourage them to keep doing amazing things for lung research. 16 young researchers presented scientific posters which demonstrated their recent projects and findings.
Entries were judged by a panel of established researchers, and Professor Peter Barnes eventually presented our first ever prize to Thivyan Thayaparan for his work researching pleural mesothelioma.
Looking forward to the future
I believe it’s important to foster a strong community spirit among our lung researchers. We talked about how researchers can help us too - perhaps by taking part in a marathon or cycling event, by taking part in our Take Steps sponsored walks throughout June, or holding a Big Breakfast in November.
Finally, I felt it was really important that all our researchers, from those who are just beginning their careers to those who have a wealth of knowledge to pass on, had the opportunity to meet and discuss their ideas for advancing lung research.
Everybody I spoke to was really positive about their experiences. They told me the conference was really interesting and useful, and that the day was brought to life by learning about how we can all come together to support each other in different ways.
This is the first step to developing strong relationships that will help the lung research community to thrive well into the future. I already can’t wait to see everybody again next year!