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Western Alliance – we are what we do

Over the past couple of years, jointly and each on our own, Prof David Ashley and I have clocked up a few thousand kilometers, travelling across western Victoria and beyond, to spread the word about Western Alliance and keep alive the spirit of our regional research network.

From large regional hospital to rural general practice, western Victorians have welcomed what they describe as an important new partnership in regional health. Across the spectrum of health services and academic institutions, people have expressed strong support for Western Alliance’s aim of improving the impact, quality and quantity of research in western Victoria.

So I was a bit surprised recently when a new acquaintance asked, ‘But what do you guys actually do?’ That question inspired me to write a list.

What we do

1. We give away money!

Well, first you have to ask for it. Then you have to fill out a form …

And if we give you money, it has to be used to conduct health or medical research that is ethical and in keeping with Western Alliance’s vision, mission, values and principles.

Keep an eye on our Research Support page for news about the annual Call for Research Ideas and other offers in the Grants-in-Aid Program.

2. We provide training.

In 2016 we delivered the Introduction to Research workshop at SouthWest Healthcare, Barwon Health, Wimmera Health Care Group, St John of God Ballarat Hospital, Western District Health Service and Colac Area Health. This all-day program is suitable for newbies and oldies – if you want to learn the basics of research or need a refresher, you can download the workbooks and watch the videos. For details about future offerings, see Events and Training.

As part of our Annual Symposium, on 8 September we will be offering a workshop on systems thinking, presented by Prof Steven Allender, and later in the year a more advanced workshop, presented by a leading international trainer, will provide researchers who are keen go beyond the basics an opportunity to learn about how to undertake a systematic review.

3. We offer a drop-in and match-making service.

Health professionals and researchers alike are welcome to drop in to discuss their research ideas and projects – whether to get a professional perspective on the feasibility of an idea, or advice about research methodologies, how to apply for research funding or ethics approval, or where to start when planning a research project.

We also provide assistance in linking health professionals, clinician–researchers and academic researchers who are looking for collaborators with complementary expertise and experience. To find out when I’ll next be visiting your area, contact me by phone or email (details below).

4. We like to share.

The Annual Symposium is an event not to be missed! Our biggest regional meeting of the year, the Symposium provides an opportunity to showcase and learn about health and medical research in our region, as well as to network and socialise in person with colleagues who are usually at the other end of a phone or email. Although some aspects of the day follow the format of a scientific conference, it’s not strictly a formal academic event, which makes it a welcoming venue for new and emerging researchers to test their ideas with a poster or short oral presentation. Our Third Annual Symposium will be held in Warrnambool on 9 September.

Western Alliance’s website provides information about all of our activities and links to our member organisations. We publish In Brief, a fortnightly blog with highlights of current research of interest to our communities and region. If you’d like to subscribe, we send out the Talking Points by email when a new article has been uploaded or to announce events, training and funding programs – click here to subscribe.

5. We are exploring new frontiers.

Research is all about testing the known and the unknown to find new solutions, and this is most obvious in health and medical research. New drugs, new technologies and new ways of doing things are emerging every day and present us all with the challenge of keeping up to date and delivering the best possible solutions in health care. Among other strategic moves underway, the partners in Western Alliance are currently exploring the potential for a regional collaboration in big data, which will pave the way for development of a platform for new discoveries through machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Excited? Become a member!

Individuals can now become members of Western Alliance and enjoy a range of exciting benefits. Health Research Trax is a new part of the website providing member-only access to resources, forums and more.

Tell us more. Our aim is to support research in the western region, and whether you are an experienced researcher, an early career researcher or an aspiring researcher, we are keen to hear your views about how we might do that better.

Send your ideas and feedback by email or give me a call: Renée Otmar, tel. 4215 2896, M. 0448 246 415.