Posted in social spotlight

Social Spotlight: Claire Whitehouse

This week I am delighted to kick off the social spotlight interview series again with Claire Whitehouse, lead nurse for research at The James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and founder of the #WhyWeDoResearch global campaign.


I love the #WhyWeDoResearch campaign. Can you tell us some more about how it started?

CW:  In 2014 I decided to introduce my team to our local population using twitter as our social media platform. I tweeted using our Research and Development handle @JPUHResearch and having explored the use of twitter for a few months prior to this, I had identified that photographs received the most attention, retweets and ‘favourites’. To introduce our team I decided to release one photo, name and job title per day along-with the individual holding a placard upon which they had written the reason why they personally are involved in research. There was born #WhyWeDoResearch. I had intended this would be for the 12 days of Christmas as a Christmas campaign. Within four days Michael Keeling (@keeling_michael ‏) of York Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust had picked up on it and from there it became a National campaign, at which point it was extended throughout the Christmas period. By the new year it had reached Canada and Australia and became known globally. Now, two years later it is in 23 countries globally, with >15,000 separate accounts participating and >250 MILLION impressions on the hashtag. I lead the campaign entirely voluntarily and there are other individuals who support this lead eg Hazel Smith who is based in Dublin. I am also involved in the Health and Research through Social Media (HARTSofthepossible) project which aims to drive health research through and using social media.

I really love how you have created these grass-roots campaigns. How did you first get started using social media professionally?  

CW:  The Executive Team at the JPUH decided to set up a Trust twitter account and asked departments to raise a hand if they wished to host a departmental account. The Head of Research and I felt this would be a sensible step to take (being research and development) so I volunteered to host the account and take the plunge (as I felt it was at the time). I recognised that there might be individuals or groups considered ‘hard to reach’ who were missing out on research opportunities and we all know social media is a growing entity. I’d used facebook in my personal life and joined twitter as a social media platform for my professional life

Which platform(s) do you enjoy using the most?

CW:  I focus on twitter as it’s so easy to use and has an extremely large reach. The @wenurses team have a fantastic tool called twitterversity which helps people get started.

That’s fantastic! I can probably guess the answer to this next question, but do tell us more about which topics interest you on Twitter? Do you take part in any particular twitter chats?

CW:  Regular twitter chats are hosted using #whywedoresearch – the topics vary depending on who volunteers or what conversations are happening at the time, this is the beauty of twitter, you can create live chats and people will always be interested. In 2016 we hosted the worlds first research tweetfest in May to coincide with International Clinical Trials Day. We can’t claim entire credit as an idea as it grew (as most things do) from a small idea. I tweeted (from my bed) one Saturday morning 2 weeks before ICTD and asked #whywedoresearch followers if they would like a tweetchat on ICTD. By that afternoon I had 11 individuals offering to host chats and within 48 hours we had set up over 20 chats and coined the phrase #tweetfest. The 2017 tweetfest is over 2 weeks from Monday 15th May and there are 31 chats to choose from.

What advice would you give someone just starting out on social media?

CW: Don’t be scared. Embrace it and go for it.

Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us?

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic” _- Albus Dumbledore

Thanks Claire for taking the time to share with us your experience of using social media in your work. I look forward to seeing your campaigns grow and prosper over the coming months. 


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