A team working on a proposal for a national Centre for Research Excellence in improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer outcomes received the benefit of face-to-face advice and discussion with independent reviewers as part of a Lowitja Institute Quality Assurance (QA) Workshop in Brisbane on 9 March 2011.
The Lowitja Institute also sponsored a National Roundtable on Priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cancer Research in December 2010 as part of Program 1 research activities. Bringing together leading cancer experts, service providers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer survivors, cancer advocacy groups and community representatives, the Roundtable sought to maximise the impact of current and future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer research. This followed the release of a major report on this topic from Cancer Australia.
The Roundtable identified a number of broad research priorities but its strongest message was the need for ‘a nationally integrated approach where proposed research builds systematically on successive research initiatives and ensuring effective communication and translation of evidence into practice. An over-arching governance arrangement for this would address issues of strategic priorities and translation of collective results of research to ensure research relevance and benefit. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ownership of this governance arrangement is crucial, as is partnering with discipline experts.’
As a result, an extraordinary collaboration of researchers, practitioners and other key stakeholders has been developing a proposal for a Centre of Research Excellence that would enable a concerted and combined effort on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer research. Queensland Institute of Medical Research’s (QIMR) Gail Garvey is leading the team, with support from Menzies’ Joan Cunningham. Other key team members include former CRC for Aboriginal Health cadetship student Lisa Whop, John Condon from Menzies, Dianne O’Connell from the Cancer Council of NSW, Patricia Valery from QIMR, Pam McGrath from Griffith University, Alwin Chong from the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia and the Lowitja Institute, and Sandra Thompson from the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health in WA.
The Lowitja Institute supported the QA Workshop for the proposal development as part of its recognition of the importance and value of what is proposed. A QA Workshop involves seeking feedback from a number of independent reviewers representing relevant scientific, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, government and other stakeholder perspectives. Reviewers are then brought together with the project team to discuss their feedback and work on making the proposal the best it can possibly be.
Feedback about the QA process indicated it was valuable for both reviewers and the project team:
‘It was far better than any (other research development or assessment) process I’ve ever participated in…’
‘Not just about getting funds but doing the best work to ensuring the projects delivers.’
The process was ‘…open, safe, inspiring, positive’, ‘inclusive and respectful of all opinions’.
Researcher Joan Cunningham said she found the QA Workshop really useful. ‘It is so rare to have the opportunity for truly constructive feedback from experts who are obviously supportive of what you are trying to achieve and whose sole aim is to try to help you make the proposal – and indeed the project – be the best it can be.
‘The level of insight and expertise across the panel was quite extraordinary, and I still can't quite believe that so many busy people were willing and able to participate in such an intense process at such short notice. Sincere thanks to the Lowitja Institute for making it happen.’