Tracey Barron

Academic Research

By Tracey Barron

Laboratory-based scientific research generally involves human or animal subjects to test a hypothesis. It also involves white laboratory jackets, bacteria-swabbed Petri dishes, test tubes and stoppers, and microscopes, or some close variation on the biology and microbiology theme.

Right? Not always.

That’s one style of research, however, that is not the methodology the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) is seeking to enhance emergency dispatch protocols and, consequently, not the emphasis of discussion at the Academy’s pre-NAVIGATOR research session.

For starters, we don’t have a laboratory at our disposal, and we’re not asking EMDs, EPDs, or EFDs to explain the science behind the causes of emergencies covered in our dispatch protocol systems. The Academy’s emphasis is the validation and improvement of the protocols, and we rely on our research staff, and affiliated councils, institutions, and boards, and you—the protocol users—to keep the systems sharp, relevant, and fine-tuned.

The type of research we want doesn’t involve cell counts or tissue dissection, eye protection to guard against deadly chemical exposure, or anything that remotely presents a potential risk to the investigator. Rather, the Academy relies on far less dangerous approaches, such as data collection through the emergency dispatch systems and/or surveys, and data analysis and interpretation, including case studies, to assist in the Academy’s ongoing commitment to the dispatch science behind protocol.

The following information provides a broad overview of what we will talk about in the pre-conference research session at NAVIGATOR. We want to encourage your participation in research by suggesting ways you can comfortably contribute.


Surveys often involve a set of “yes” or “no” questions, a numerical scale (such as a one to five ranking), and/or open-ended questions. Survey responses provide the foundation to associate behavior or a data point in the context of a specific population to help determine trends and patterns—through data analysis and interpretation. In dispatching research, surveys can be given to a wide variety of subjects: dispatchers, responders, supervisors, quality assurance (QA) directors, emergency medical services (EMS) medical directors, administrators, and critical care units. The results can improve existing data or provide a better understanding of specific characteristics in a general group. For example, a survey can look at the association of positive/negative outcomes of providing bystander CPR according to Pre-Arrival Instructions in the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS).

Generally, the length allotted to the research project often favorably corresponds to the strength of the results. For example, comparing patient outcomes (survival to hospital) immediately following the incident (sudden cardiac arrest and bystander CPR) carries a different weight than longer-term outcomes (release from hospital). For users of the MPDS, this might mean accessing data gathered using ProQA software and, also, reviewing patient EMS ambulance and/or hospital records.

Case study

A case study is designed to share interesting, difficult, or unusual cases with others. It can be based on information/data and resources readily available at the communication center. The challenging part is moving the investigation from a description of “what happens” to a piece of research that can provide a worthwhile addition to educate your staff on the broader emergency dispatch community.

Well-planned case studies offer insight and serve as a vehicle for further exploration.


Research findings will provide you with valuable information to help your center and personnel to know and gauge your performance. Support resources are accessible (at the Academy) for research investigators. The time commitment is flexible because the investigation can be done in the comfort of your center. There is no cost to publish the research in the Annals of Emergency Dispatch and Response peer-reviewed scientific journal ( and/or submit it to the annual research poster contest hosted at NAVIGATOR.

See more about the Dispatch Research Data Analysis course at