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Undergraduate research experience

9 Nov, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

I read an interesting blog last week in which two undergraduate students shared their perspectives after completing a research placement, and it prompted me to reflect upon my own research training, and how much of what we researchers – while it sometimes feels as if it is innate – is actually learned skills and abilities (oft by trial and error) that need to be shared with our up-and-coming researchers. Today I want to share a recent experience with an undergraduate student from another Queensland university.

I was approached by Sehana last month regarding the potential to gain some experience in research during her summer semester studies. I invited her to accompany myself and my University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) Research Assistant Ms Jamie Caldwell as we collected data during week four of the the first wave of an 18-month longitudinal study. Today Sehana shares her story:

When speaking to the placement officer at USC regarding a work experience in research, Bridie Scott-Parker was the first name she mentioned.  She thought the placement would be perfect for me especially because of Bridie’s extensive knowledge in research and having recently being awarded the Tall Poppy Science award for her research contributions. 
From reading about her extensive research online, reading a couple of her published papers, and speaking to her about her work, I am now a full convert to “the dark side of research” – as she calls it.
Throughout my degree I have done numerous research assignments, doing certain sections of a report for various courses.  You are always given data, or parts of the report are completed for you and you do the rest.  I have never been involved in any research related activities out in the real world. 
We visited a school, collecting and distributing surveys and sleep diaries to adolescent school children.  From the beginning there were issues that as a novice researcher caught me off guard.  The students came in drips and drabs, many did not have their sleep diaries, others had multiple from previous weeks, some students did not attend at all. 
I stood there the entire time panicking with “missing data” running through my head, while Bridie and Jamie casually took it all in their stride.  It wasn’t until I reflected on it at the end that my theoretical learning and practical experience actually fit together.  And it was exactly that – experience – which they had and I didn’t that made the difference. 
I could see that Bridie and Jamie both had enough experience to know the little things such as bringing spare pens and surveys.  It was when I heard them speaking about participant codes for the research that I realised my degree may have taught me how to do ANOVAs and correlations, but experience like this, out in the real world, surrounded by real participants (and real missing data) is invaluable. 
The first day of any job is nerve wrecking, but I feel this experience has taken away much of the anxiety associated with being a graduate fresh in the research field.  I would highly recommend to anyone who is leaning towards a research career to spend time with real researchers, speak to them, help collect data and just see how it all works in the real world. 

Ms Sehana Naz

Dissemination and implementation of best practice in falls prevention across Europe

28 Aug, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

As injury prevention researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers, we are all aware that falls are an important public health issue. Today I wanted to profile a novel approach to preventing falls. Dr Helen Hawley-Hague of the University of Manchester is the Scientific Coordinator of ProFouND, the Prevention of Falls Network for Dissemination, and she has shared with me some information regarding this innovative injury prevention approach.

ProFouND is a European Commission-funded initiative dedicated to bring about the dissemination and implementation of best practice in falls prevention across Europe. ProFouND comprises 21 partners from 12 countries, with a further 10 associate members. ProFouND aims to

  • influence policy to increase awareness of falls and innovative prevention programmes among health and social care authorities, the commercial sector, NGOs and the general public,
  • ultimately increasing the delivery of evidence-based practice in falls prevention and
  • therefore reducing the numbers of falls and injurious falls experienced by older adults across Europe.

ProFouND contributes to the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP-AHA), with the ultimate objective of adding an average of two active healthy life years to the lives of European citizens by 2020. ProFouND’s objective is to embed evidence-based fall prevention programmes for elderly people at risk of falls using novel ICT solutions in at least 10 countries/15 EU regions by the end of 2015, thus to reduce falls incidence in those regions by 2020. The following resources are available to support falls injury prevention:

  1. ProFouND Falls Prevention App (PFNApp), accessible for registered health care practitioners and available in multiple languages;
  2. Cascade training using face-to-face and e-learning approaches and available in multiple languages; and
  3. A free resources library, in addition to information regarding upcoming conferences, and other recent research.

Having seen the ramifications of falls in my own family, with my elderly grandmother fracturing both her pelvis and vertebrae in one fall, this program definitely seems like a step in the right direction!



Home safety and the prevention of falls

17 Aug, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Safety Centre has created a new online resource to tackle the number one cause of injury to children in Victoria, Australia – falls.

Targeting parents of children aged from birth to 14 years old, the site details simple steps parents and caregivers can take to prevent common injuries by age group, such as

* changing a baby’s nappy on the floor rather than on an elevated change table, and

* wearing protective gear, including mouth guards, when playing contact sports.

RCH Trauma Service Manager Helen Jowett says the frequency of under 14-year-olds requiring a hospital admission following a fall has increased by 29 per cent since 1998, at an annual cost of $18.6 million.

Most of those injuries occur in the home and behind those statistics are children like Ella, who had a tough lesson in gravity when she fell from a tree she was climbing in her back garden. The eight-year-old, from country Victoria, landed head-first when she fell, and was rushed to her local hospital where she was assessed as having a significant head injury.

Ella was promptly sent to The Royal Children’s Hospital by air ambulance for emergency surgery. After discharge, she spent several weeks resting and was unable to play contact sport for three months.

The new website shows that, unlike Ella’s hospital stay, safety around the home doesn’t need to be expensive, emotionally draining, complicated, or time-consuming.

Importantly for injury prevention around the world, the website is an easy-to-access repository for information regarding, and links to, useful tips and advice that can be applied in any home anywhere, anytime. For example, falls-prevention safety pertaining to furniture, and to bunk beds specifically, may have helped prevent my nephew from breaking his arm as a young boy.

Traffic lights…robots…robocops?

5 Aug, 15 | by Sheree Bekker

101st Anniversary of the First Electric Traffic Signal System

The early twentieth-century intersection was a strange scene. While the world’s largest automobile manufacturer sold over 20,000 cars a month in 1914, horse-drawn wagons and carts still crowded the streets, and accidents became increasingly frequent. Intersections in major cities were congested, and traffic was directed by police officers who stood in the middle of chaotic highways waving their arms–an unenviable beat, to say the least, especially during a blustery winter in the Midwest.

A solution to the problem was woefully overdue. Gas-lit stoplights appeared in England before the turn of the century, but these had a tendency to explode, and mechanically operated signs that displayed the words “stop” and “move” still relied on traffic attendants. Enter the inspiration of today’s Doodle, the electric traffic signal, which was first installed at the corner of 105th and Euclid in Cleveland, Ohio on August 5th, 1914.

~ Google Doodle 5 August 2015

My morning started with the google doodle above, which led (as is usual for me) to a tweet:

I have been wondering all day why I grew up (in South Africa) saying “turn left at the next robot” – which has often led to strange looks and hilarious consequences now that I live in Australia!

Wikipedia revealed that:

The etymology of the word robot (traffic light) derives from a description of early traffic lights as robot policemen, which then got truncated with time

While in South Africa this is simply a matter of semantics, it seems that another country in Africa has taken this likeness a step further. This same google search for the traffic light/robot connection led me to this recent article: Robocops being used as traffic police in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yes: large solar-powered ROBOCOPS!

A follow-up piece: Kinshasa’s traffic robots: ‘I thought it was some kind of joke’ – in pictures is fascinating!

These robocops were developed by a Congolese association of women engineers, to tackle the problem of traffic safety in Kinshasa in a novel way:

“In our city, someone can commit an offence and run away, and say that no one saw him. But now, day or night, we’ll be able to see him in real time and he will pay his fine” ~ Therese Izay 

Whilst I did not do a comprehensive search, I failed to find any research underpinning the Robocop initiative (if you know of any please share!). Sure, at first glance, injury prevention researchers will have questions about the issues potentially inherent to the robocop initiative – but many of us are also mightily privileged in the resources at our disposal (which is why the open access movement is vitally important), and, crucially, have never been to Kinshasa. Approaches to solve problems that have worked in some contexts will not necessarily work in others. The real world demands nuance, and is complex.

What this does show is that people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are willing to look outside the box to new innovations to make their cities safer. It is time to look at old problems in new ways. We often forget that innovation and creativity can be the lifeblood of academic research too. How can we all add little more playful creativity to our work to seek to find these innovative solutions? Bridie Scott-Parker has written here before that we should look for injury prevention ideas everywhere.

Perhaps this world DOES need more robocops after all!


Media and injury prevention

6 Jul, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

As an injury prevention researcher, I am often dismayed at the way in which injuries, risk, and injury prevention efforts are portrayed in the media. I clearly recall being disgusted as an idealistic teenager, having read a newspaper article regarding the untimely death of a peer who had been killed during a police chase. The police involved were vilified, and the article waxed lyrical about how the teen was a pillar of the community, which was a very different representation of reality. Since this time I have taken most media with a grain of salt, preferring to investigate myself, and to make up my own mind, rather than blithely accepting everything that is said, written and printed. I realise this is not the case for everyone, however, and the media has an amazing capacity to influence public opinion, which is highly relevant for injury prevention efforts in particular.

My post today was prompted by the publication of a paper in Accident Analysis and Prevention by Brubacher, Desapriya, Chan, Ranatunga, Harjee, Erdelyi, Asbridge, Purssel, and Pike. Brubacher and colleagues noted that British Colombia introduced new road safety laws focused on impaired driving, speeding and distracted driving in 2010, and examined the focus of the injury-related media during the period May 2010 to December 2012. From an injury prevention perspective, clearly these laws are designed to keep British Colombians safe – not just drivers, but others with whom they share the road such as pedestrians. Pleasingly 51% of reports which mentioned the new laws were supportive, but disappointingly 11% of reports were against the changes: in real terms this means that every tenth article during this time was NOT supportive of these injury prevention efforts.

To maximise our capacity as injury prevention researchers, policy-makers and practitioners, I believe it is vital to work with media as much as possible, clearly and consistently emphasising benefits rather than giving extensive airtime to perceived downsides such as being ‘unfair’ (downsides of which personally I struggle greatly to relate – I think being injured or killed by a distracted, impaired, and/or drunk driver is unfair).

Minimising dance injury through changing dance floors

25 Jun, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

As someone who has appreciated many dance performances (primarily as I have absolutely NO dancing ability or talent in any single speck of my body!), and as an injury prevention researcher and advocate, my interest was piqued by an article authored by Hopper, Alderson, Elliott, & Ackland recently published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Having been made for martial arts instead of dancing, I can still recall as a teen the difference flooring can make when you ‘land hard’ – bouts on a tatami were much preferred to bouts in a gymnasium with wood floors (too hard) or with gymnastic mats (too soft). Shin splints already irritated by running hurdles and leaping triple jump were further aggravated by both types of floors. Similarly, Hopper and colleagues note that dance floors have the capacity to contribute to – or prevent – ankle injuries such as ankle tendinopathies and sprains. In their examination of ankle joint mechanics, 14 dancers performed drop landings on five different floors. They note that “Considering the large mechanical demand required to stabilize the ankle joint during landings, floor properties that can absorb landing energy have the potential to reduce ankle joint loads.” Given that nearly 30 years later my shin splints can be aggravated simply by playing a game of basketball with my husband and children (I have decided that it is not simply due to ageing!), it is important to prevent injury wherever possible. Minimising injury is the next best step, although I really don’t think I can blame my shin splints for my non-dancing career path. Thankfully my career does not depend on my lower legs!

More background on our blogging team

19 Jun, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

Blog 3: So today I wanted to share some more background on our blogging team. As an applied social psychologist, I find this information very interesting indeed!

What excites you about being part of the Injury Prevention social media editorial team?  

Sheree Bekker: The invaluable conversation that has sprung up around scholarly work through the collaborative power of social media and blogs inspires me to no end. I tend to find more relevant scholarly content through Twitter than through traditional platforms, and Injury Prevention has played a big part in that. As researchers, I believe that we should own our voice on social media, and constructively add value to this conversation.

David Bui: Through my studies in medical school I have seen the costs of injuries to society and individuals worldwide.  This is a great opportunity to harness the underutilised power of Social Media in health promotion and Injury Prevention, across multiple disciplines and multiple borders.

Angy El-Khatib: Being a part of the Injury Prevention social media editorial team is a great opportunity personally and collectively. By being a part of the social media editorial team, I am able to stay up to date on various topics within the realm of Injury Prevention while acquiring different perspectives from individuals from different backgrounds, disciplines, and locations. I’m also excited to be able to potentially increase readership and engage readers to create a conversation around the latest Injury Prevention research and ideas.

Klara Johansson: I am very interested to explore ways to share and disseminate knowledge and research results, outside the “old-school”, regular channels. I look forward to learning from my new co-editors, who all seem to be great communicators.

Joseph Magoola: The opportunity to work and collaborate with a variety of scholars on the injury prevention platform is nothing short of exciting. It also excites and inspires me to have an opportunity to represent Africa since low and medium income countries bear the brunt of the injury burden.

Julian Santaella-Tenorio: It is really exciting to be part of this team and to have a space to communicate and express ideas on ways to improve injury prevention, and to discuss about new studies and topics relevant to this field. I am very motivated to learn more and continue growing as a researcher as I walk through this experience.

What are you passionate about?

Sheree Bekker: Intersectional issues drive my life’s work, and my aim is that my research is, and always will be, an extension of that.

David Bui: Passionate about bringing people and ideas together.

Angy El-Khatib: I am passionate about translating scientific evidence and research into public health action. My goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of myself as well as my community. Outside of my work, I am passionate about health, fitness, and wellness.

Klara Johansson: Open discussions and innovative research in collaborative teams with high scientific ambition + high levels of tolerance and kindness; I also enjoy making difficult subjects understandable to students and the general population. Passions on my free time: nature, gardening, books, movies, writing fiction, playing music (clarinet, harmonium, piano, accordion).

Joseph Magoola: Writing on my social media accounts (facebook, twitter and my blog) as a way of reaching out to the masses. I am also interested travelling a lot, especially by road and as such, ensuring road safety is part and parcel of my aims to contribute towards reducing the carnage of our roads.

Julian Santaella-Tenorio: I am passionate about things that can make people have a better, healthier and happier life. I am inspired by ideas challenging previous knowledge, creative thinking finding answers from different angles, and the power of multidisciplinary groups. That is why I am passionate about public health research.


I hope you are looking forward to hearing from our bloggers, starting next month!

More background on our new blogging team

18 Jun, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

Today I will share more about our blogging team members.

Blog 2: Explain your injury prevention research and interests.

Sheree Bekker: My research investigates safety promotion and injury prevention policy and practice within community sport in Australia. I have a particular interest in dissemination and social marketing. The overall purpose of my research is to allow people to be safe, as well as feel safe, whilst participating in sport or physical activity.

David Bui: Undertaking a number of different projects currently; my injury prevention research focuses on Hip fracture and Falls Prevention research, working with Neuroscience Research Australia. I am also looking into Social Media and its utility in healthcare and civilian settings, and I believe that it represents a powerful new medium in health promotion and injury prevention.

Angy El-Khatib: I am interested in integrating public health approaches with athletic training practice. Athletic training has traditionally focused on the individual but may be able to maximize the effectiveness of prevention efforts by using population-level approaches to improve health and wellness.

Klara Johansson: I am not currently doing research on injury/safety. But I am interested in social difference in injury risk – and also how perceived risk of injuries affects people’s daily lives, mobility, fears and physical activity; and how perceived and real injury risks interrelate with each other and with gender and socioeconomics. Main focus on adolescent safety; real and perceived. Also interested in open data and availability/accessibility of injury statistics globally.

Joseph Magoola: My research interests center around prevention of injury, especially through generation of data for evidence-based decision making and policy action. I am also interested in the use of media to disseminate research findings and for advocacy.

Julian Santaella-Tenorio: At the moment I conduct research on policy evaluation, specifically on policies that impact injury-related outcomes. I am interested in looking at substance use policies and firearm-related legislation and their effects on the health of populations.

Tomorrow: Learn about their passions!

Self-report versus observation

14 Jun, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

For various reasons ranging from cost to a lack of alternatives, self-report is a common data collection method. However, anyone who has used a self-report data collection method would be well aware of the limitations of this method. Limitations primarily focus on the accuracy of responses, and can include such considerations as an intentional reporting bias (e.g., the participant wants to be seen in a positive light), and an unintentional reporting bias (e.g., the participant simply forgot that they had engaged in the targeted behaviour). I myself have used self-report methodology in a number of different research projects, therefore I am always interested in studies which investigate the validity of self-report measures by comparing the findings with other methodologies.

One recent study compared self-report findings with the findings from home-based observations: Osborne, Shibl, Cameron, Kendrick, Lyons, Spinks, Sipe, and McClure report that in some instances, the self-report responses were 100% in agreement with some of the observations held in the homes of 32 families, while in general the Authors concluded that self-report methodologies can confidently be used in instances where observation may not be feasible. The Authors note that knowing that a home visit would be occurring may have encouraged participants to more accurately report items in the self-administered survey; however, interestingly the Authors also noted that over-reporting of safe practice was demonstrated in approximately half of the items, while under-reporting occurred for one-third of items, suggesting that self-report biases are a complex phenomenon indeed.

Choosing a data collection method can require consideration of multiple factors including strengths and limitations associated with each approach, and validation studies can help us understand the potential magnitude of some of these strengths and limitations.

Friday 29 May in Australia is Fatality Free Friday

28 May, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

Tomorrow, Friday 29 May, is Fatality Free Friday down under. As noted on the website,

Road safety is a complex issue but we believe that if drivers consciously think about road safety and safe driving for just one Friday in the year, that day’s toll – statistically about 5.3 deaths – could be reduced to zero.

That’s our aim. Not a single road death in Australia for just one day. Just one Fatality Free Friday.

We believe that if drivers are asked to actively concentrate on road safety and safe driving for just one day in the year, they’ll drive safer for the next few days too and, over time, change their outlook completely, consciously thinking about safety each and every day they get behind the wheel.

Various events have been underway throughout Australia this week, promoting Fatality Free Friday tomorrow. I am delighted to be coordinating the Fatality Free Friday event for the Sunshine Coast region at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and I look forward to welcoming road safety partners Transport and Main Roads, Queensland Police, the Sunshine Coast Council, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, and Rotary, as we engage with our community so that we may all be safer on the roads.

Visitors will have the opportunity to take the pledge to be safer drivers, signing an inflatable car; learn firsthand vehicle features which can help prevent a crash, and protect you in the event of a crash, from vehicle inspectors; engage with police officers who will be attending with a police vehicle and a police motorbike; access a breadth of road safety resources; see and hear the wake of sadness which follows a crash from a display of thongs representing Sunshine Coast community members killed in road crashes over the past five years and from stories shared by the remaining family members; and learn about efforts being taken to improve young driver road safety in particular by community groups like Rotary and a researcher (me!).

I urge everyone, everywhere, to make every day a Fatality Free Friday for all road users.

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