What was the focus of your work?
My fellowship title was ‘The role of experiential knowledge in the reproductive decision making of families genetically at risk: the case of Spinal Muscular Atrophy’. I used the fellowship to focus on my doctoral research findings, and the activities I undertook included the following:
- I produced three peer-reviewed publications (published in Social Science and Medicine, Health and Sociology of Health and Illness).
- I developed a fellowship application, which was submitted to the ESRC Future Research Leaders Scheme and was successful.
- I developed collaborations with researchers from other universities (which resulted in us recently submitting an application for a joint studentship).
- I used the fellowship for dissemination and engagement, to support my attendance and presentations at various conferences and events (ESRC’s Genomics Network, Rare Disease Day, SMA Support Research Day, BSA Medical Sociology Group annual conference).
What did the Mildred Blaxter fellowship offer you that you would not otherwise have been able to do?
My fellowship proved to be absolutely invaluable to me in terms of my professional development as a researcher, as it provided me with allocated time to return to my PhD research and undertake dissemination work that would not have otherwise been possible, including the production of three peer-reviewed publications in prestigious journals. It also enabled me to apply for, and successfully obtain, an ESRC Future Research Leaders Award, which will be central to my career development as an academic research leader of the future.
What are you doing now?
I am currently completing the final year of my ESRC Future Research Leaders award, have been promoted to a senior research role, and am in the process of applying for further funding to peruse my research vision. My Mildred Blaxter award was the crucial stepping stone that enabled me to take the all-important step from PhD student to independent researcher with my own research agenda and vision. Had I not had the fellowship, I do not think I would have had the time to develop my own research agenda and strengthen my CV. Having these fellowships available is absolutely crucial and I cannot speak highly enough of the impact it had on my own professional development.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying for a Mildred Blaxter fellowship?
I would encourage anyone considering this fellowship to apply for it. It is currently a very difficult climate for early-career researchers, particularly in the health and social sciences, and obtaining a fellowship like this can really give such researchers a helping hand to independence, allowing them to apply for other fellowships and also to concentrate on their own research agenda.
After the award…
As of 2019, Felicity has gone on to be appointed to the Foetal, Maternal and Child Health Reference group of the National Screening Committee (UK), offering advice on screening policies, and her work has been cited by governmental inquiries and used in Nuffield Council on Bioethics reports. She has received three Wellcome Trust grants, including a research enrichment award used to develop an immersive art installation, I:DNA, which is touring the UK in 2019 and 2020.
- Boardman, F.K. (2014) Experiential knowledge of disability, impairment and illness: the reproductive decisions of families genetically at risk. Health 18(5): 476-492
- Boardman, F.K. (2014) The expressivist objection to prenatal testing: the experiences of families living with genetic disease. Social Science & Medicine 107: 18-25
- Boardman, F.K. (2014) Knowledge is power? The role of experiential knowledge in genetically ‘risky’ reproductive decisions. Sociology of Health & Illness 36(1): 137-150