We are happy to introduce a new feature called Author Profiles where we interview BMJ Open authors to find out more about them and their work.
For our first author profile, we spoke to Erik Martin from Deakin University, Australia, to find out more about his research and his thoughts on Open Access. Erik is first author of the article ‘Exploring the implementation of the framework convention on tobacco control in four small island developing states of the Pacific: a qualitative study‘ which has recently won the CAPHIA 2014 Team Award for Excellence and Innovation in Public Health Research.
We welcome our readers’ thoughts and suggestions on this new feature. If you wish to suggest any questions to ask for future profiles you can do so by commenting at the end of the post.
-Tell us about yourself
I started my career in science to pursue a career which involved making positive changes for society. I chose public health and health promotion as it is a discipline where there is great need and it is possible to make a difference for the betterment of quality of life for people at a population level. Tobacco control always interested me due to the sheer numbers of people it affects despite the fact that it is a human creation and evidence of its harms dates back many decades.
-What are the messages we should take from your paper?
There are a few:
– Tobacco as a public health issue is very far from being over.
– There are many ways in which tobacco control policies can be shaped, from the downstream in terms of legislation and its enforcement, to the upstream in terms of a country’s social, political, economic and cultural environment – just like health itself.
– As a result of the previous point, there are many potential points in which there can be a deviation from what a government says it will do (or what it intends to do) and what can happen on the ground once implemented.
– The Pacific Islands, despite having challenging environments for health policy, are making strong progress towards implementing tobacco control policies and thereby reducing the harm associated with the tobacco epidemic in the region.
-And what limitations should we be aware of?
The main limitation would be that of complexity. Given it is based on the primarily qualitative research on a highly complex issue that is shaped by many forces and is context-dependent and not reproducible in a controlled environment. That being said, this is also a strength as it explores this real world context.
-If you wanted to repeat your study, what would you be looking out for that may have taken you by surprise the first time around?
The time it takes to plan for and conduct research in far away places.
-What impact will your study have on the field?
It adds a level of detail that isn’t common in the public realm, especially in small and developing island nations such as those in the Pacific. It also draws upon political theory, which tends to be under-utilised in public health despite policy often being labelled a barrier to achieving public health goals.
-What still needs to be done in the field?
Many things in many different areas – too many to mention! In tobacco control specifically, there’s a lot more qualitative and quantitative research needed on the implementation and effectiveness of policies that many countries have sought to implement over the last decade.
-What feedback has your article generated?
It has generated positive feedback especially from relevant stakeholders in the region who are interested in and tackling the issues it presents.
-Congratulations on the CAPHIA 2014 Team Award for Excellence and Innovation in Public Health Research award! Tell us about it. How did it feel to win? What does this mean for your research?
The journey of a PhD can sometimes be seen as an insular and quiet one that seldom achieves recognition far beyond the research team, but in this case it was fantastic to receive an award and be recognised amongst some very distinguished peers in public health. It was an honour to receive this award and as well as giving me some great assurance, I believe it brings more welcomed attention to the issues my research aims to address.
-Had you heard of Open Access before submitting to BMJ Open? What are your thoughts about Open Access?
Yes I had – it’s a rather interesting new world for academia which is a field of great tradition. I think Open Access is a great opportunity for earlier career researchers to get their research out there in an increasingly competitive environment. That being said, it also has its challenges as there are several unknowns and it has changed the publishing landscape so rapidly.
-If funding was no object what would be your dream study to run?
I’d like to explore the in-depth experiences of more countries in relation to tobacco control policy. I’d also like to look into what is happening at community levels in extremely remote places that may not have access to the wealth of expertise, resources and information that we do in countries like Australia. Another area that would be interesting (though it’d be more than funding that is the barrier) would be to explore what has gone on behind the closed doors of the tobacco industry in order to shape public health policies.
-What advice would you offer to anyone starting out in the field?
Be patient and diligent and your hard work will be worth it.
-What’s next for you (personally and professionally)?
I’ve recently acquired an Associate Lecturer in Public Health position at the Deakin University School of Medicine, which has been a great experience so far in looking at the teaching side of things and developing my career as an academic. Nonetheless I’m simultaneously interested in continuing my research in tobacco control and perhaps following up on some of the Pacific Island countries I visited in 2011 to see how things have progressed. I’m also interested in exploring tobacco control policy at home in Australia, particularly amongst minority populations which still have very high tobacco use prevalence rates in comparison to the relatively low rate in the general population.