Dietitians Do Research

Dr Angela Madden, Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire.
Last modified on 29/06/2018

by Dr Angela Madden, Subject Group Lead and Research Lead for Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Hertfordshire.

When my new academic diary arrives each year, one of the first dates I add is for the BDA Research Symposium. I then hold my breath hoping that my university timetable will not allocate immoveable teaching on the same day. For 2018, so far, so good!

I have been attending the research symposium as often as I can since it started, and can honestly say that it is one of the highlights of my professional year.

The presentation and discussion of the latest research gives so many ideas and new information about diverse topics all focusing on nutrition and dietetics. Some is up-stream, early-stage research whilst some is practice-ready, good-to-go evidence that dietitians need. Some work is very simple whilst others are more complex, doctoral level studies. The diversity is the symposium’s strength – there is something for everyone.

Wherever dietitians work, it is never in isolation, and similarly, research is not a solo activity (although it can have its solitary times). So, getting together to listen to the latest findings and being able to talk easily to presenters, chairs and other audience members is invaluable in developing what we do.

Most years I go home buzzing with a list of potential student projects that might be worked up and, if all goes well, may eventually make a small contribution to the evidence base.

A recent example of how ideas develop came from the work on blended diets presented by Cantwell and Ellahi at the 2016 symposium. This stimulated four undergraduate projects in 2017-18 and – hopefully, reviewers permitting – we will be able to share these findings later this year.

The people part of the day is so important to me too: a friendly, enthusiastic and positive audience with the possibility of catching up with old friends and colleagues, making contact with people whose names I’ve known for years and never met, and meeting those at the start of their career who are our future leaders.

An added incentive for presenters is the possibility that abstracts will be published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics – good for the CV and also allowing dissemination to a far wider global audience.

So, the date of the next symposium, Wednesday 5 December 2018, is now in my diary and so is the abstract deadline on 18 July.

I hope you’ll consider adding to yours and hopefully see you in Birmingham!