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A research consultation program for ISCAIP
  1. Frederick P Rivara, Chair, ISCAIP
  1. Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, Box 359960, 325 Ninth Ave, Seattle, WA 98104, USA

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    Many of us have just returned from the 4th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Control in Amsterdam, with our batteries recharged and with new ideas to develop and implement. The conference was a success, with five days of meeting and interaction. However, concerns linger about the quality of some of the research presented. Many a good idea foundered on the rocks of poor study design, inadequate implementation, inexpert data analysis, and poor presentation. I would like to make a modest proposal to the Society: that the Society should establish a research consultation program.

    Alfred North Whitehead once remarked that the tragedy of human existence is that the young have imagination but little experience while those with experience have little imagination. While it may not be wholly true that seasoned researchers should be put out to pasture, it is hard to beat the creative energy of someone young and new to the field. In Seattle, the geniuses of Microsoft who design innovative software are all young whippersnappers under the age of 30. Watson was barely out of graduate school when he joined with Crick to discover the structure of DNA. The ability to see things from a fresh perspective has a wonderful potential to contribute fresh new insight and ideas for long standing problems.

    Separate from the issue of individuals being inexperienced in research is the problem of isolation. Many investigators and injury control practitioners in all parts of the world work virtually alone. They may be the only individuals in their university or agency interested in injury control, able to do research or implement a program. They may not have available and willing mentors with the expertise to help them. Indeed, in some countries such mentors may simply not be available. Having worked in centers with many other colleagues for a number of years, I have become strong believers in the “critical mass concept”, a large enough group in which ideas can be tested, critiqued, and refined to become viable and important projects. Every Friday morning in Seattle, my colleagues and I gather as a Center to discuss a new idea or project, critique the preliminary data analyses or project evaluation, or evaluate the results of a project. We have practice sessions for talks, review posters, and critique each other's manuscripts and grant proposals. The same is true for Montreal and London and no doubt elsewhere. It is very difficult to do great work alone, and I have the deepest admiration for those able to be successful doing so. For many mere mortals, however, it is extremely difficult to do cutting edge work this way.

    My proposal is that ISCAIP become a “virtual seminar” for injury control members. Those with experience and who are interested could volunteer to serve with one or a few others as a resource for individuals, wherever they may be. This could be conducted in real time by conference call, in virtual time via the internet, or at a slower, but for many, more feasible pace, using mailings of materials and comments. A central coordinating committee could triage materials to volunteers with expertise in a particular area, whether it be behavior modification, health education, study design, statistical analysis or presentation of results. This could be done from the inception of a project, through its design and implementation, data analysis and interpretation, and presentation of results either as a talk, poster, or article. This would not be just for research, but would be as applicable to program design, implementation, and evaluation.

    Best of all, such consultation would be offered in a true collegial spirit and be free to ISCAIP members. I believe that such a program would be of substantial help to individuals at all levels of training, from students to professors, from field workers to agency heads. Let us know of your interest in ISCAIP establishing such a program. The ultimate winners, we hope, would be the children and adolescents who were protected from injury because of the imagination of the young and the experience of the old working together.