Trial design, cyclist safety, health impacts of bushfires and teamwork analysis the focus of ARC Discovery Grant winners
Congratulations to all of our ARC Discovery Award recipients announced yesterday!
Statistical tools to drive cheaper, better trials
Dr Jessica Kasza from our Biostatistics team was funded to deliver a project developing statistical tools for the design of cluster randomised trials (CRTs) that reduce waste and improve research efficiency. CRTs differ from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in that rather than individual participants being randomised, they are randomised by group. It’s a design that is gaining popularity in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors, as well as in education and public health policy.
CRTs might be preferred when the target of an intervention is a group of people or a process or system; when there is a high risk of contamination arising from control-group members adopting all or part of the intervention; and for logistical reasons that may rule out an RCT.
Advances from Jessica’s project will allow the design of new biological, physical or social interventions with lower trial-associated costs, but that still yield meaningful results. This reduction in research waste will reduce costs and improve the efficiency of translation of results across a broad spectrum of trials.
Mapping when and where people cycle
Dr Ben Beck and colleagues plan to develop a world-leading platform for city-wide modelling of cycling exposure. The project will provide unparalleled insights into cycling exposure by combining multiple cycling data sources through the use of advanced spatial statistical and machine learning techniques.
Cycling has numerous health, environmental and social benefits, through engagement in an active lifestyle and reduction in traffic congestion and air pollution. Feeling unsafe when riding a bicycle is a major barrier to participation, and providing protected cycling lanes that are well connected to essential services can overcome this barrier. However, the absence of cycling data has limited the ability to implement infrastructure where it is needed most.
Ben's project will model the number of cyclists on each road in a city, which will enable detailed measurement of cycling safety and enable the identification of areas in which cycling infrastructure can be implemented for the greatest gain. Ben and his team hope these tools will ultimately lead to increased cycling participation, enhanced safety, reduced inequities and improved infrastructure planning.
Enabling bushfire-related health protection policy
Bushfire smoke exposure carries human health risks, especially from air pollution containing fine particulates of diameters less than 2.5microns (PM2.5). During the disastrous 2019/2020 bushfires in Eastern Australia, daily average PM2.5 concentrations exceeded 100 μg/m3 in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, four times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum of 25 μg/m3, and far beyond the 8 μg/m3 typical of those cities.
Despite this, there is scant epidemiological evidence around the links between bushfire smoke and health. Previous studies by this research team have demonstrated a link between short-term bushfire smoke exposure and increased death or morbidity from respiratory and cardiovascular disease. With our own bushfire season growing longer, and fires affecting countries around the world, Professor Yuming Guo and colleagues plan to help close this evidence gap and enable robust policy-making around bushfire-related health protection.
The multinational study design will mean that the effects of smoke exposure will be seen across diverse groups, so that particularly vulnerable cohorts maybe identified. Yuming and colleagues will capture data from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Brazil, Chile and Columbia. Data from 2001-2020 will be gathered and interrogated, including daily PM2.5 data, climate, topographical and land use information, health outcomes data, socio-demographic information and details about fire intensity.
Harnessing technology to improve teamwork and communication in healthcare
Dr Danijela Gasevic and Professor Dragan Ilic are working with colleagues at the Monash Faculty of Information Technology on a project exploring teamwork and communication as a key component of an effective, patient-centred healthcare delivery system. Teaching, learning and assessment of teamwork skills is a major challenge in current educational and vocational healthcare and other systems in Australia.
Their learning analytics project will be conducted in the context of simulation-based healthcare education, and it will support the development of effective strategies to improve teamwork and communication skills in healthcare.
The researchers will use sensor-technology to capture multimodal ‘trace’ data including gestures, speech, workspace spatial layout and manual handling of objects, rendering them visible and able to be analysed by computer. They’ll then link these with high-order constructs related to high-performance teamwork, such as effective communication, coordination and leadership. This will assist the assessment and improvement of collocated teamwork, that is work conducted where team members share the same physical space.
Considering that communication and teamwork are two of the top most critical skills required by Australian employers, the results of this study are directly translatable to benefit a huge range of industries in Australia.