Engaging the wider community for better research outcomes - it's not rocket science

Published: Thursday 25th August 2016

Photo of post-mission exercise (reconditioning) topical team

Photo: Professor Julie Hides meets with members of her Post-mission Exercise (Reconditioning) Topical Team at ACU Brisbane’s Satellite Centre in South Bank.

Message from Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane) Professor Jim Nyland: As my EPG colleagues know all too well, running their part of a national (and increasingly international) university successfully requires quite a bit of travel which can be physically demanding. Part of the reason for this has been the historically poor design of many passenger planes that were created at a time when research assessing the impact of air travel was based on the testing of young adults (usually men) from the military flying for a few short hours at altitudes of around 5,000 feet.

As we know, today people of all ages choose to fly long haul at altitudes of 30,000 feet. No wonder then that the impact on the public of such travel habits have resulted in an increase in such conditions as deep vein thrombosis, to name but one. There is a lesson here for researchers about the importance of engaging the wider community to achieve much better research outcomes than would otherwise be the case. And this isn’t rocket science.

One of the research programs at ACU Brisbane’s satellite Centre based at the Mater Hospital in Southbank under the leadership of Professor Julie Hides actually is rocket science. Her research team are engaged with a wide international community of outstanding scholars on a project for the European Space Agency to protect astronauts from the potential long term effects of their occupation such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and other conditions related to deconditioning or premature ageing. Their work has helped the European Space Agency and the wider space community, prepare astronauts for long duration exploration missions. Their report shows that musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems are especially affected and have a strong relevance to the practice and effectiveness of reconditioning. Until an in-flight solution is found that prevents space deconditioning entirely, the need exists to optimise post-mission reconditioning to correct neuro-musculoskeletal changes and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal problems, and promote return to pre-flight function, as well as ensure good long-term health.

The approach taken involved developing a collaborative team of scientists, medical operations experts and astronauts. It also involved engaging with the wider community - consulting with those who experience and witness effects on astronauts, and then exploring ways how evidence based terrestrial practices could be adopted directly for the benefit of post-flight reconditioning.

The Centre for Musculoskeletal Research are one of many research teams at ACU Brisbane dedicated to reaching for the stars (as well as ensuring the safety of those who travel towards them) through a commitment to leading research programs that go beyond the research lab and are grounded in the context of the impact that they have on the wider community - thereby guaranteeing much better research outcomes.

Congratulations to our research teams on such sterling work.