On June 15 and 16, the Radboud University hosted a two-day symposium for all HealthNar participants. The international character of the HealthNar network was well reflected in the number of countries represented: 25 scholars from Australia, Germany, Belgium, the United States and The Netherlands gathered to discuss current and future research on the use, development, and effects of health narratives.
Achieved and future goals
On the first day of the symposium, there was plenty of room to get to know each other and learn about each other’s research interests. The five Work Package leaders first summarized the achieved and future goals in the HealthNar network. Work Package leader John de Wit even joined us from Sydney via an on-line connection. It became clear that the network has been very active so far: successful exchanges have been made, seminars have been organized, joint research projects have been developed, and future funding opportunities have been explored.
At the same time, there is still plenty of work to do. In the next two years, more exchanges will be realized, with participants from European universities visiting Australian universities and vice versa. The goals of the symposium were clear: define concrete outcomes of the future exchanges and work towards fruitful long-term collaborations.
Pitches and speed dates
To achieve these goals, shared interests needed to be identified. Each participant therefore presented his/her research themes and methodologies in a three-minute pitch. With a strict referee blowing a whistle after exactly three minutes, almost no one dared to exceed the time limit; in fact, most people wrapped up in two minutes or less to avoid the rather intimidating experience of being whistled at.
After a nice lunch break under the Dutch sun, our special guest Paul Bolls (University of Missouri) gave a lecture on psychophysiological measures of people’s emotional engagement with narratives. The lecture was followed by the second set of research pitches, after which it was time to further explore possibilities for joint research projects during a speed dating session. All symposium participants went on six scientific speed dates and as it turned out, dating your colleagues can be a rollercoaster of emotions.
After an intense and inspiring first day, it was time to relax during a convivial evening with a lovely dinner and an unplanned winetasting session afterwards.
Developing research proposals
The second day kicked off with a session on funding opportunities for future research collaboration. Then, after PhD student Anniek Boeijinga talked about her exchange to the University of New South Wales and the Edith Cowan University, Lelia Green gave a talk on personal narratives about plant-based diets.
In the afternoon it was time to brainstorm about future joint research projects. In small groups participants worked towards concrete research proposals, which were then presented to the other participants. It turned out that many concrete ideas for papers, special issues, and edited books had been developed during the two-day symposium – a huge success! The second day ended with an interactive quiz and evaluation, after which it was – finally – time for drinks.
We are already looking forward to the next symposium; see you in Augsburg!