To be NIHR, or not to be, that is the question (but not a research one).

Over the summer you may have caught the hullabaloo about Benedict Cumberbatch and his Hamlet currently playing at the National Theatre in London.

Part of the fuss was caused by the Director’s decision to move Hamlet’s famous ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy to the beginning of the play. To have poor old Benedict come out on stage and deliver it like some sort of film trailer.

It has been moved back to its rightful place now. And I am sure Benedict can take care of himself. But i am sure we can all empathise with that feeling of being a bit exposed and uncomfortable carrying a message for someone else or even performing or working with material that you are not familiar with. I for one hate presenting other people’s slides.

This occurred to me because of the current ‘One NIHR’ campaign that you can read more about in the latest issue of ‘Faculty World:’

The campaign is intended to build a sense of ‘openness,’ of community across the whole of the NIHR. It is an important one therefore. NIHR has developed many parts to itself over the last ten years. It is not always easy for those who work in it, let alone those who work with it, to know how it all fits together.

Part of the campaign involves asking people who are part of NIHR to wear ‘I am NIHR’ badges. I shall Instagram mine and it will appear magically on the right-hand side of the page in a short while. Again, I think it’s a good idea aimed at building up a single identity for NIHR and giving those who work in it a sense of belonging.

The badge is also proving to be a great conversation opener. So far I have been nobbled by a Glaswegian Trade Unionist, seven year old child and an osteopath who have seen the badge and asked what the NIHR is. In the first instance it resulted into a discussion about research into domestic abuse. In the last, it prompted a conversation about how they might take forward a research idea.

Should patients and the public wear the ‘I am NIHR’ badge? It’s a simple question and yet it raises some complex issues for public contributors.

There are those who say that, if NIHR is true to its public involvement principles, then surely it should be encouraging people to wear the badge with pride. After all, at the heart of citizenship is that feeling of being a full member of the community. For others it raises concerns about the independence of patients and prompts worries about them ‘going native.’ I think it is probably a sign of a grown-up organisation to ask them to wear the badge but without regarding it as a vow of loyalty or with an expectation of compliance. For that would undermine one of the key reasons we are here; to support, yes, but to be objective, to challenge, to say it like it is.

So I shall be hoping that many of our public contributors will wear the badge. Do what you feel comfortable doing I would say. But I will also be stressing to my colleagues that sometimes the single most important and constructive thing a patient can say is: ‘I am not NIHR.’

Here’s hoping you have a day free from slings and arrows.


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