Stakeholders are a significant resource in any project as they can provide monetary support as well as advice and guidance. Since stakeholders are invested in projects, monetarily or not, they are motivated to see a project advance and be successful. Our project surrounds Ebola, a virus that has made global headlines over the past several years, which means that there are many people who have personal stake in my group gathering effective and accurate data to predict future outbreaks and better prepare for them. The most obvious stakeholder in the project is my team, which is comprised of two other Lehigh students as well as two professors, Javier Buceta and Paolo Bocchini. All of us have a strong desire to see the project succeed as we are invested in social impact and will have dedicated months of effort to put our survey in action. Our project’s success would also mean making a breakthrough in the scientific community and would make a difference of global-scale. Personally, this project is the first I have undertaken since my time at Lehigh and so being able to make progress on our goal or even achieve it would be impactful to me personally as well. Another stakeholder is Lehigh University, through its facilitation of our work through the Global Social Impact Fellowship program. Lehigh is invested in our success because not only does the University want to be at the forefront of impactful research, but also because it wants students to be able to use skills taught in the classroom to work with peers in a real-world setting. The National Institute of Health is one of our partners for our project and by attaching their name to it, they have a stake in its success as well. If the research that we publish is in any way unreliable, they risk their reputation as an organization, although likely not on a large scale. Because they formed this partnership, they are also invested in the project itself and the impact it will make. Some of the most personally invested stakeholders are the people in Sierra Leone who have personally been affected by Ebola, many of whom lost loved ones to the virus. They hold stake in our project because predicting and preparing more effectively for future outbreaks could save countless lives as once someone is infected with Ebola, their survival rate is only around 10%. Similarly, healthcare officials in Sierra Leone are also stakeholders as they are responsible for the functionality and upkeep of healthcare in the entire country. The nation was destroyed by the epidemic over the several years and although the disease is no longer active in Sierra Leone, it still is at risk. Preparing for future outbreaks is a significant interest of healthcare officials so they hold a great stake in our project as well.
Another important aspect of any successful research project is its credibility. Even if project has collected data from tens of millions of people, if it isn’t reliable it becomes useless. Currently, our partnership with NIH improves the validity of our project, but a solid goal for the semester would be to establish ties with other organizations who have a long-standing reputation in the global impact stage as well as ties with the government of Sierra Leone, specifically in the health division. Having this support would enhance our reliability in the professional realm as well as potentially provide funding support for the project that we currently do not have. Another way to enhance the credibility of our project would be to work with professional data collection scientists with expertise in survey development in order to ensure that our survey is effective. Having a professional check our completed survey would validate that the data we will be collecting is done so in a way that yields the most accurate results, making our project more reliable. Finally, testing our survey before implementation is critical as we may be writing a survey in several languages. Having native speakers take and test our survey would ensure that we are not travelling across the world to implement a survey that cannot be properly understood or answered by respondents. Even if we write the survey in only English, testing it in Sierra Leone with people who speak English to varying degrees would improve how reliable our final data will turn out to be.