HSRAANZ President’s Wrap of 2016

HSRAANZ President: Jon Karnon

2016 has been a very productive and positive year for the Association and for HSR.  A great deal of our year has been taken up with responding on behalf of the HSR community to the large number of consultations on health reform and research funding and it is pleasing that health services research seems to be high on the reform agenda.

In June we made a made a submission to The Australian Medical Research Advisory Board’s call for views and ideas on its Strategy and Priorities, which are intended to ensure a coherent and consistent approach is adopted when disbursing MRFF funding into the health and medical research sector. The Association’s submission “A Research Strategy to Improve Health Services Research” defined two broad forms of HSR – local HSR and large scale HSR – and provided a rationale and some broad suggestions to improve the conduct and impact of both forms of HSR in Australia. An overarching component of the submission was the call for a National Centre for Health Services Research to oversee both forms of HSR and provide the basis for developing the necessary infrastructure to ensure HSR reaches its potential to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians.  It was gratifying to see health services and systems research feature prominently as one of the six key strategic platforms in the Health and Medical Research and Innovation Strategy published in November and that investigation of the feasibility of establishing a national institute on health services, and public and preventive health research is a key priority.

In the same month we responded to the Australian Research Council’s Engagement and Impact Assessment Consultation Paper arguing that a key issue with the impact measurement of Medical and Health Sciences research through the analysis of citations in peer reviewed journals is that Public Health and Health Services Research is generally mostly relevant to the jurisdiction in which it is conducted and therefore research undertaken in Australia is less likely to be cited in other jurisdictions than laboratory-based or clinical Medical and Health Sciences research.  Submission

Analyses of citations in peer reviewed journals do not reflect impact on healthcare policy and practice and on patient outcomes and population health within Australia and consideration should therefore be given to the expansion of citation analyses to include the grey literature and the inclusion of case studies or exemplars of research that has influenced policy and practice in the assessment of research impact and engagement in the Medical and Health Sciences division.

The beginning of August saw us submit the results of a survey to the Productivity Commission inquiry into data availability and use.  The key messages from respondents included the:

    • Imperative to improve the speed and ease in accessing data, to provide more up-to-date and relevant information for policy and practice to improve health and wellbeing.
    • Need to improve timeliness for approval and delivery of data, both for non-linked and linked datasets.
    • Potential to improve streamlining of processes to reduce delays and prevent duplication of effort, by researchers and data custodians.
    • Suggestion to improve standardisation and centralisation for cross-jurisdictional data linkage, to reduce duplication of same requirements with multiple gatekeepers.
    • Acknowledgment that access to linked data has been steadily improving.
    • Many examples provided by HSRAANZ survey participants of research projects with high impact and benefits, which highlights why access and use of data is important.


At the end of August we submitted our views to the Structural Review of NHMRC’s Grant Program. Our comments were based on the results on an online survey of health services researchers’ views on the three possible alternative models to the existing grant program.

In November Nick Graves and I wrote a Croakey article explaining why health services research will deliver value for the medical research dollar.

In line with discussions at the 2015 AGM this year we have invested some Association funds on activities to strengthen and raise the profile of HSR. We have just recently commissioned research through Newcastle University into the state and potential of health services research in Australia and New Zealand, which will provide a formal assessment of current research and translation activity.  We hope that the results of this survey, due in April 2017, will make it easier for the Association to advocate on behalf of the sector and will inform the strategy and priorities of the MRFF.  This is all part of an effort to raise the profile of HSR and show its real world impact on healthcare and population health.   The preliminary results of this research were presented at our end of year Symposium and Annual General Meeting held at the National Press Club on 1 December,  which was well attended by researchers, clinicians and policy makers.  You can view the slides here (please note that these are preliminary results only and may be subject to change.)   We were very fortunate to have Mark Booth and Erica Kneipp from the Department of Health respond with their take on the challenges facing health services and primary health care research and the opportunities offered by the MRFF; research translation centres and emphasis on evidence based policy and greater data availability.  The Symposium presentations fed into some really interesting break out session on addressing the potential role and approaches to HSR in different healthcare sectors.  We are aiming to continue the conversation with the Department of Health on proposals to develop setting-specific strategies to support high value health services research that addresses the specified MRFF priority areas for translation.

As part of our efforts to recognise and promote the best health services research, this year we ran three high profile awards for the best HSR Research Paper of the Year, Best Impact Project and Best PhD student.  The winners of these awards were announced at the Symposium and AGM and the nominees for the Best Impact Project Award presented their work as real world examples of the impact that HSR is having.  More on the awards.  In the 2017 we will continue to run our Life Time Achievement Awards but also introduce a Mid-Career and New Investigator Award.  So start thinking about your nominations for 2017.

During 2016 we have also been working hard to introduce more opportunities for members to engage and interact. Our new webinar series has been a great success, overcoming the geographic diversity of our membership. We have hosted 6 webinars this year, covering a range of topics including design thinking and operations research, obesity and general practice, commissioning and PHNs, strategies to implement evidence, Choosing Wisely and primary healthcare. The webinars have been well attended and the recordings can be viewed after the event. We hope to increase the number of webinars next year so please send us suggestions for topics and speakers for the series or submit an abstract yourself.   These interactive webinars are a great way to share and discuss your research with colleagues beyond your state borders.

We have also introduced this HSR blog and are inviting members to blog about their research.  All we require is a 500 word summary for the HSRAANZ Blog, a 100 word summary for the HSRAANZ email newsletter and a 140 character summary for @hsraanz so that we can tweet about the paper and share a link to the blog.  Submit your Blog item here.

2016 has also seen us continuing to make our website more interactive. Members can now manage their membership online. We aim to have a comprehensive directory of members but for this to work we need members to keep their membership information up to date; including entering information about your research interests and expertise. We hope that this will facilitate networking and collaboration. You can update your profile details and add a photo. Contact Sarah Green if you are unsure about your login details. The online submission of career opportunities, webinar proposals and event information is working well and enabling us to keep the website up to date.    

2016 has also seen us re launch our mentoring scheme with 13 partnerships facilitated. We are monitoring the progress of these partnerships and will be calling for a new set of mentees and mentors in mid-2017.

Looking forward, a lot of 2017 will be taken up with planning the next health services and policy research conference on the Gold Coast 1-3 November. We are still in the planning stage so do let us have your ideas for content, speakers, workshops etc and start thinking about organised sessions and research that you would like to present.

What we would really like to achieve in 2017 is greater member input of information, opinion pieces and debate. We would love to receive ideas and content for our library of fact sheets/opinion pieces/myth busters. Submit your articles here.

We would also like to encourage greater networking between our early career researcher members and to build our services for our New Zealand members.  Our Vice-President Laura Wilkinson Meyers is keen to speak with any New Zealand members who would like to get more involved with the Association's work, particularly in anticipation of the 2019 Conference which should be heading back to New Zealand.

In coming to the end of 2016 and looking forward to 2017, I would very much like to thank all of our members and our corporate groups for continuing to support the Association. I would like to thank the other members of the Executive Committee for their hard work in helping to further develop the Association.  I would particularly like to thank my vice-president Laura Wilkinson-Meyers who has been a great support.  And I would like to acknowledge the huge support of the Executive Committee members who stepped down this year.  Adam Elshaug and Sallie-Anne Pearson have been vital members of the committee over the last two years and were the driving force behind the introduction of the Association’s new awards.  Esther Willing has worked with the Executive over many years, initially as the ERGO representative assisting with activities for emerging researchers at several of our biennial conferences.  Esther is expecting her second child and is stepping down, but with the intention of getting involved again when we start planning the next conference in New Zealand.  And finally a big thank you to Margaret Kelaher who has served as our Treasurer since 2013 and kept us on a strong financial trajectory, whilst also acting as the co-convenor of the 2015 Melbourne conference.

Last, and certainly not least I would like to thank our Executive Officer, Sarah Green who has again been the major player in keeping the Association running efficiently and moving forward.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a productive new year.

Jon Karnon