Issue 36 / 23 September 2013

Research that has merit is justifiable by its potential benefit, which may include its contribution to knowledge and understanding, to improved social welfare and individual wellbeing, and to the skill and expertise of researchers.
National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research

IN 2003 the National Institute of Clinical Studies identified the underuse of preventive measures for venous thromboembolism.

Since then, a number of initiatives to address the gap between what the body of evidence was saying and clinical practice have been introduced, including clinical practice guidelines and a VTE prevention policy summit in 2010.

Despite these measures, the recent Caretrack study reported that only 58% of VTE encounters involved the delivery of appropriate care.

The challenge of taking research from the laboratory to clinical practice will be explored at the 2nd annual NHMRC Research Translation Faculty Symposium, to be held on 2–3 October. NHMRC-funded researchers will share their experiences of taking their research to the next stage — the generation of new hypotheses, taking a discovery made in the laboratory through to use for the first time in humans, or translating the findings of clinical research into a change in clinical practice or health care policy.

Many readers will be aware of the NHMRC’s responsibility to distribute research funds via its various grants and people-support schemes. However, you may be less familiar with the CEO’s duty to issue advice and guidance to the community and to the federal and state governments on matters relating to health.

As well as advice and guidance, the agency has a legal, ethical and moral responsibility to ensure that the results of the research that it funds contribute to the body of knowledge, and that they are used to inform future decisions.

The process of translating research findings is not straightforward and can take years, sometimes decades, to achieve. By giving researchers the opportunity to discuss some of the challenges and barriers to research translation, and to share their successes and failures, we can learn more about what works and what doesn’t.

One of the aims of the symposium is to facilitate communication and collaboration across disciplines, and provide researchers with the opportunity to network with individuals they may not normally have an opportunity to meet. It will hopefully be an environment that will encourage, for example, a researcher with an interest in vaccines, to connect with a public health researcher with expertise in evaluating the effectiveness of delivering vaccines to the target community.

The level of response from researchers to the research translation faculty has been encouraging, with about half of the chief investigators currently holding NHMRC grants signing up to join. Some have also have put their hands up to work with the NHMRC as part of a steering committee to build a Case for Action (CFA) on one of the major health issues in the Strategic Plan, including the national health priority areas.

Each CFA will identify a significant gap between research evidence and health policy and practice, and put forward a compelling case on how to address the gap.

The research we do today should influence the decisions we make tomorrow.

Anyone interested in exploring and debating how we can better achieve this goal is welcome to join us in Sydney in October.

Professor Davina Ghersi is the senior principal research scientist with the Research Translation Group of the NHMRC.

2 thoughts on “Davina Ghersi: Evidence into practice

  1. sunita says:

    There seems to me a bias towards reporting the latest, expensive breakthrough which will not be available for another 5-10 years (eg new drug/ stent/ surgery). However there is no concurrent acknowledgement that there are well validated, simple, cheap, effective treatments for many (not all) conditions which ARE available now for minimal cost (eg healthy lifestyle choices, weight loss). These are frequently overlooked by patients & doctors alike, in favour of the newest treatments. We wouldnt need the latest treatments for diabetes/ arthritis so desperately if we made small improvements to our daily exercise and dietary habits. What else could we do with the extra $1billion we save? Improve ATSI/ eary childhood health? Enable better aged care?

  2. Kevin B. ORR says:

    It is frustrating to read of significant research in the news media only to be told, at the end, that it will not be available for a number of years. Cannot significant advances be researched more urgently? Otherwise they should not be allowed in the media at all.


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