Fleming Fellows Social Science and Methods Toolkit Workshops

As part of the Fleming Fund’s Fellowship scheme (a UK aid capacity building program to address antimicrobial resistance in low and middle income countries) the Fleming Fellows from Uganda visited the University of Edinburgh in June 2019 to engage in peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, mentorship and expert training. As part of the wider objective to design an AMR research project, the fellows were invited to take part in a two-part workshop to discuss social science approaches to AMR and the potential value of interdisciplinary research in this field. The second session drew on these discussions to explore a “Methods Toolkit” for the fellows to incorporate into the design of their research project.

The Fleming Fellows shared their experiences of the ways in which social science can add value and insight into AMR research projects and raised questions about the importance of language, disseminating research to communities and policy makers as well as how to incorporate an ethnographic approach to a primarily quantitative study. This discussion illuminated the kinds of social science relevant to these contexts, with the fellows offering diverse examples of the challenges and successes of such projects in relation to AMR. Topics covered included behaviour change, the social study of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, the social study of AMR policy and research, and why it is important to investigate the language used to describe AMR.

Key questions included: How to move knowledge around AMR away from the dominant ‘objective, rational’ mindset of the lab? How to translate AMR research in language which will be meaningful for the communities and policy where it will be efficacious? How can ethnographic methods intersect with a One Health approach?

In collaboration with the fellows, the second workshop was designed as a methods toolkit which would enable the fellows to:

  • Assess local understandings of AMR, infection and antibiotic medicines.
  • Communicate the fellow’s research project, it’s intentions and results to the communities involved.
  • Engage ethnographically with local people to understand their world, rationales and the challenges they face.

The workshop paid particular attention to emerging and experimental methods in social and medical anthropology such as: participatory mapping, interview methods including focus groups and go-along in addition to novel techniques like the AMIS “Drug Bag”. As AMR research often involves new kinds of interdisciplinary collaborations the toolkit focused on adaptive techniques which could be deployed in the field without formal social science training. Further, in discussing the project design with the fellows, the workshop facilitated greater understanding of the kinds of solutions, techniques and collaborations necessary for conducting efficacious research in this area.

The workshops are the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between the Fleming Fellows and Social Science at the University of Edinburgh including links with the ERC research project DiaDev and Edinburgh based Beyond Resistance Network. Further to this, an output of this collaboration will be a co-authored paper which will assess the efficacy of the Fleming Fellowship program at Edinburgh and reflect more broadly on the kinds of multidisciplinary global collaborations undertaken in regards to AMR.

The workshop was run by Dr. Alice Street, a Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, and Iona Walker, a DiaDev Research Fellow and Wellcome Trust PhD Student in Social Anthropology. The Fleming Fellows are Ibrihim Mugerwa, William Olum, Joel Bazira, Michael Omodo, Merab Acham and Joseph Kungu.

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