This year’s Exercise and Sports Science Australia conference kicked off in fine fashion, with the opening keynote provided by Dr Michael Joyner from the Mayo Clinic. Mike’s talk was engaging, clear, but also forward-thinking. We know that physical inactivity is a problem of epidemic proportions, so what needs to be done is for us all – researchers, clinicians, policy makers, corporations, families, adults and children alike – to put our energies towards solutions. I found it refreshing to hear such a prominent scholar and physician proposing dramatic and large-scale interventions; if we are to reverse the damning inactivity trend, we need to aim high, think big, and integrate our actions across all sectors.
A great privilege to attend Tuesday night’s professional development session organised by Suki Hobson (@sukihobson), featuring Andy Franklyn-Miller (@afranklynmiller). Drawing from his wide-ranging experiences working with high performers in sport and in business, Andy shared his beliefs about what makes (and sustains) a world class performance team. Here are my sketchnotes from the evening. Thanks Suki and Andy for hosting an insightful session!
Workshops can provide some of the most informative and useful learnings throughout a conference, or at least that has been my experience so far. The opportunity to discuss and debate ideas in a small group on a well-defined topic is a recipe for success.
At this year’s Australian Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport, my PhD Supervisor Paul Gastin (@paulgastin) and I attended the “Publishing Your Work” workshop. The workshop was jointly-facilitated by Greg Kolt (University of Western Sydney), Kim Bennell (University of Melbourne), Evert Verhagen (Vrije Universiteit Medical Center Amsterdam), and Gordon Waddington (University of Canberra), all of whom have editorial involvement with prominent sports science and sports medicine journals such as the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. I took away some great insights from the session which I am pleased to share here (in sketchnote form, naturally), with permission from the workshop facilitators:
The keynote presentations from this year’s Australian Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport were well-chosen, in terms of topics and presenters. As someone who is only moderately familiar with this topic, I found Per Aagaard’s presentation on neuroplasticity and human movement performance (specifically muscular power development) to be well-targeted, particularly given the variety of disciplines represented in the audience. Also, kudos for delivering this keynote presentation barefoot, with the cuffs of his trousers rolled up…! The things you can get away with when you are conferencing it up in tropical Phuket 😛
Here are my sketchnotes from Per’s presentation:
Here are my sketchnotes from Craig Purdam’s fascinating Refshauge Lecture at this year’s Australian Conference of Science in Medicine in Sport. Craig elaborated on the history of tendinopathy research, demonstrating great respect for the work that has gone before while outlining how the past has informed our present-day understanding of tendinopathy and its remaining mysteries.
Increasingly, stakeholders at all levels of sport understand and value the contribution that sports scientists make to improving athletic performance and encouraging healthy participation. Sports scientists have rightly become essential members of athlete support teams, with senior sports scientists taking on performance management responsibilities that require them to oversee several aspects of an athlete’s preparation.
Sports Science, without question, is the biggest and most important change in my lifetime.
– Sir Alex Ferguson (Former Manager of Manchester United, from 1986 – 2013)
One thing I really enjoy about attending big conferences is the opportunity to learn from researchers in disciplines related but distinct from my own. The keynotes and invited presentations are particularly good opportunities to do this. It’s like turning up for lectures from a course you’re not enrolled in 😉
What a privilege to see Bengt Saltin presenting the Honorary session on the final day of the European College of Sports Science Congress 2013. Seems a very humble man, despite the incredible impact and apparent timelessness of the work he has done, from the early part of his career until now. I was amazed to see the very elegant way he links basic mechanisms to human performance. We could all do with more of this capacity to zoom the lens in AND out, so that we make interpretations and recommendations with consciousness of the micro and macro worlds.
We’re about 40 mins away from the closing Honorary session of this year’s European College of Sports Science Congress, to be delivered by Bengt Saltin. Time enough for me to jot down some quick thoughts about my experience of this year’s conference…
I used to think of conferences as a really big deal. And I still think they are…to an extent. I feel absolutely privileged to have my work accepted for presentation before my peers, and I can hardly complain that this process of research dissemination involves international travel as well. But with a few conferences under my belt now, I am beginning to understand that these events serve not as a capstone on research projects, but as a chance to sow seeds. The chance to propose your unique ideas, to push your chicks out of the nest and see if they fly, so to speak.
I was happy with my mini-oral presentation. Said what I wanted to say, and got a couple of good questions afterwards which will inform my write up of the study. I was also pleased that the mini-orals were presented in separate rooms. Last year’s multi-purpose room setting was chaotic to say the least, so I’m glad that the conference organisers listened to the feedback and did things differently here in Barcelona.
Good to see an improvement in social media use by the conference. Evert Verhagen (@evertverhagen) and myself had a great chat about this earlier in the week, and we both agreed that there is plenty of room for improvement (less broadcasting, more interaction) but I think it’s a step in the right direction. Particularly pleased to track the #ECSS13 hashtag and see lots of other Twitter handles aside from my own. A different experience to what happened with #ECSS2012 😉
Barcelona is simultaneously wonderful and terrible as a conference location. It is wonderful because of the gorgeous weather, the long sunny days, the friendly people, the incredible food, the efficient transport. But it is terrible because I couldn’t help but feel a little torn between wanting to catch conference sessions and yearning to go exploring outside the walls of the conference venue… #firstworldproblems!
More to come over the next few days, as I get time to catch a breath and let my ideas germinate. While I haven’t been as intensely involved as a conference participant this year, it has been a productive time nonetheless, and encouraging to feel that my research questions (big and small) are heading in the right direction.
Drawing content together at the intersections of art, science, culture, imagination, and literature, Brain Pickings has to be one of my favourite websites right now. Consistently excellent posts that leave me feeling inspired and better-read than before. Here’s a gem that sums up why I love science, but also why the idea of doing strictly “hard science” is not enough.
Science is an inherent contradiction — systematic wonder — applied to the natural world. In its mundane form, the methodical instinct prevails and the result, an orderly procession of papers, advances the perimeter of knowledge, step by laborious step. Great scientific minds partake of that daily discipline and can also suspend it, yielding to the sheer love of allowing the mental engine to spin free. And then Einstein imagines himself riding a light beam, Kekule formulates the structure of benzene in a dream, and Fleming’s eye travels past the annoying mold on his glassware to the clear ring surrounding it — a lucid halo in a dish otherwise opaque with bacteria — and penicillin is born. Who knows how many scientific revolutions have been missed because their potential inaugurators disregarded the whimsical, the incidental, the inconvenient inside the laboratory?”
Science respects ruthless critical analysis in pursuit of the true truth. But as scientists, we have to respect that centuries of scientific inquiry and data still represent dramatically incomplete representations of the total possible understanding we could have about a problem and how best to solve it. That’s not to say that the pursuit of scientific truth is not worthwhile, but that we as scientists have to allow room for serendipity, intuition, and instinct to glue together our puzzle pieces in ways that our logical minds would never consider.