Rob Calder takes on this new role in the SSA, building the Society’s capacity for improving the scientific understanding of addiction.

I am incredibly happy to start work as the SSA’s Head of Communications as of April 2022. I have edited the Society’s website for the past 3 years – developing the news and features section of the website, re-designing large parts of the archive, and producing written and audio content for a growing audience of policymakers, practitioners, and researchers. These have included pieces on drug consumption rooms, naloxone, co-production, and designing academic posters.

‘Building capacity’ and ‘improving co-ordination’

There is an occasionally overwhelming amount of information about addiction. A lot of which is found online, and is based on understandably passionate opinions. In this context it is ever more important to encourage and support voices that are passionate about being independent, questioning, critical, considered and evidence-based.

As Head of Communications for the SSA, I will work to build capacity for effective science communication and co-production across the sector. I will also work to improve co-ordination between research, policy and practice. There are several exciting long-term plans for achieving these aims, and I am eager to start working on them alongside my friends and colleagues in the SSA team, the journals (1 2) and the board of trustees.

In the 2000s and 2010s, I worked in addiction treatment settings, before moving into research. When I made that change, I was struck by the differences between research and treatment. But, I saw a shared enthusiasm for innovation, best practice and improved care. One of the most effective ways to improve treatment options for people who use drugs, is to improve communication between research, policy and practice. The challenges of improving dissemination and communication across the sector are many and complex, and I look forward to getting to grips with them.

Projects and conferences

I have recently helped to revamp the SSA’s project and conference funding schemes. These fund projects that aid dissemination, that organise expert meetings and that identify gaps in research, policy and practice. They also, of course, fund people to organise addictions conferences. We have increased the funding and will make both schemes more focused by putting out themed calls for submissions.

We will decide on those themes in collaboration with the SSA membership. The SSA will be much more active in developing two-way communication between the Society and its members. This way our funded projects, our website, our newsletters and events can all work to meet your interests and needs.

About the SSA

The SSA’s two journals, Addiction and Addiction Biology are global leaders in publishing high-impact addiction research. Much of the income from these journals is fed back into the sector via schemes run by the SSA. For example, there are several funded PhD’s and fellowships running at any one time, as well as post-doctoral transition schemes, a professorship scheme and many travel and bursary funding options. We also support early career researchers through the ECR network.

The SSA Annual Conference and PhD symposium are central in the UK addictions calendar, and I am honoured to be involved with these amazing events as they return to in-person this year. This year’s Society lecture will focus on human rights and drug use from Professor Gabrielle Fischer.

The SSA website remains key to the SSA’s communication strategy. The website team and I will keep improving and developing content so that the website continues to be a go-to addictions resource. We will also develop the website to help people develop skills in science communication, podcasting and video making. Please get in touch to find out how you can be involved.

In the meantime, I look forward to getting on with my new role. I hope to see you at the SSA Annual Conference in November.

by Rob Calder

The opinions expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official positions of the SSA.

The SSA does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of the information in external sources or links and accepts no responsibility or liability for any consequences arising from the use of such information.


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