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Getting Birth Research Funded

Apr 16th, 2014 Research

When I first started in birth work, I wondered why such obvious good questions were not researched.  As I learned more I began to understand the problems of good research, and why certain types of studies would likely never be done (what woman wants to be randomized to epidural or not?)  This week I am learning about another step researchers with questions must take — having a grant proposal reviewed.

The problem is, no matter how big a problem I think something is I still need to be able to convince a group of other scientists that my question is worth funding.  This means I need to craft a compelling argument in just a few pages.  I need to convince them the research is feasible, and that the answers will change practice and add to scientific knowledge.

And if that wasn’t enough pressure, I also need to convince them that my grant is more important than other grants they are reviewing because they cannot and will not fund them all.

What used to feel like conspiracy against natural birth now seems so obvious.  While I am consider the utility of interventions that reduce the need for medication or shorten labor by half an hour invaluable, other grant readers are likely to consider them insignificant in the grand scheme of all the research that should be done — and then they would likely fund the research that has a bigger “impact.”

This is the side of research I had never really appreciated, but without it no work gets done.  The next time I read a study about positioning in labor I will give due appreciation to the research team that took the time to craft a solid argument and convinced a funding committee that understanding comfort in labor was as important as understanding cancer.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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