Q AND A WITH JERRY OVERTON
Q1. First, the introduction. Tell us a little about yourself in relation to the research process. And what is your role as part of the Institutional Review Board (IRB)?
Research is central to what we do at the Academy Research leads to change, and every day we find those who help validate or change the protocol. We could not be where we are without the element of research. There is always new territory to explore. The fire and police protocols are wide open, and the possibilities for research are exciting.
My role? I serve as chair of the Institutional Review Board (IRB). We ensure the rights and welfare of the human participants are protected. Our role is not to say if a proposal is good or bad. Our role is making sure that it meets the criteria of ethical research. However, as Chair, I am in the ideal position to encourage research that has to do with emergency dispatching and the protocol systems. Anything we can do to interest more people in research, I’m all for it.
Q2. Is the IRB directly affiliated with the Academy or does it act independently of the Academy?
The IRB consists of nine members with multidisciplinary expertise/professions and from the community recruited to participate in research review activities conducted under the auspices of the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch. The Academy is the sponsoring agency of the IRB, but the IRB acts independently from the Academy. The Academy does not influence our review or decisions.
The IRB acts ethically to protect the human involvement. The Board’s main role is to review research proposals with an aim to ensure a person’s well-being. We certainly don’t want the research to cause any harm—emotional, physical, or any type of personal harm—to the people willing to participate in a research project. We also want to guarantee proper and accurate attribution to the researchers and autonomy to the participants. We look for maximal benefits without causing any harm to the individuals involved.
Q3. What is a key role of the Academy’s research?
The protocol has made a huge difference in emergency dispatch and response. Protocol saves lives. Protocol helps to manage resources. Protocol is the vital link—the key role in leading to better outcomes—in emergency services, as Dr. Jeff Clawson continues to emphasize since he developed the Medical Priority Dispatch System™ more than 40 years ago. Research leads to better outcomes from protocol. Research proves our willingness to change based on new information and evidence. We are the gold standard because we set the standards.
Q4. What can be achieved through research into emergency dispatch? Personal satisfaction? Contributing to the bank of emergency dispatch knowledge? Your name published in a respected research journal (AEDR)?
All these qualities are achievable, and it depends on the research team/individual to what matters most. Research starts with a question, curiosity, and a lot of times looking at an already heavily researched topic from a different/new perspective. Research is an opportunity to discover, to change or verify the existing knowledge through evidence. A real passion for research develops over time. It is recognizing that you are part of a change process. You don’t get paid for research. You get the personal satisfaction of contributing to a larger body of knowledge. Research is difficult. It’s not easy. So, there is also a sense of tremendous achievement associated with the finished research project and its publication.
Q5. List your tips for successful/personally meaningful research.
Find a topic that excites your interest. An assigned topic might not always be an optimal driver. The topic must resonate with you and compel you to excel. It’s like reading a good book. You don’t want to put it down or put it aside. You are caught up in the excitement of your own curiosity. Remember, not all research leads to change, but that doesn’t make it meaningless or take away the integrity of your work. It all goes back to answering a question. If you have a curiosity to do something, you have a real spark to do research. This is your chance to change the world.