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Chiropractic Journal of Australia : CJA June 2013
Chiropractic Journal of Australia Volume 43 Number 2 June 2013 73 INTRODUCTION There appears to be an ongoing culture of apathy and misrepresentation within the Australian chiropractic profession regarding its academic capacity. In 2006 Hoskins et al1 reported the annual ICL publication rate for chiropractic academics to be 0.62 articles, which is very low when compared to other health disciplines. They found that 31 chiropractors held academic appointments in Australian chiropractic institutions, of which only eight had doctoral degrees. In their interpretation, not holding a PhD was a risk factor for poor research output. What was not investigated was whether this trend of soft performance also applied to publication impact. This concept is important as the vast majority of chiropractic research is conducted within University or affliated institutions. Such institutions generally mandate that academics within their organisations maintain an annual publication rate of one or greater, and strive to publish in high impact journals. In the 1980's and early 1990's Charlton, looking forward, informed the profession accurately about the steps required to build academic capacity. The article,2 captivatingly entitled: Caves, Wizards and the State of the Petunia Patch, describes the process by which a chiropractic coursework graduate, well positioned with knowledge, enters into an apprenticeship under the careful guidance of a highly capable professor to learn and master research skills. This cyclic process of passing on knowledge and skills, and the aggregate of these experiences was described as, the 'petunia patch'. By reviewing one measure of Australian chiropractic academic capacity, Hoskins et al1 were in one sense measuring the health and vitality of the ‘petunia patch’. These fndings suggest that the Australian chiropractic petunia patch has not received appropriate care. It is in a state of disease and is in urgent need of not only corrective care, but also the prudent formulation (and engagement) of an appropriate maintenance-care plan. Several authors3-6 have described the importance of having strong academic capacity in the Australian chiropractic profession, specifcally to fulfl the purposes of economic and political strategy. Recently two of the present authors (MS, AD) spoke with colleagues abroad who eloquently expressed the culture of the Danish chiropractic community. They described the Danish chiropractic culture extended beyond professional strategy to an ethos of community service, whereby chiropractic endeavours to lead the acquisition of knowledge on diseases and conditions that burden the people they serve. Through their efforts they have turned this ethos into meaningful output and their petunia patch is not only sustainable, but thriving. A strategy for chiropractic research in Australia How then can the Australian chiropractic profession take steps to move forward with strengthening its academic capacity, or if the metaphor of Charlton continues, its petunia patch? 1. Recognise the need. The frst step is to appreciate the requirements for optimal growth and the lifecycle of the petunia patch. a. High level academics, such as professors, pass on their capabilities to their candidates who will hopefully supersede them in time. The capability of a graduate is typically proportional to the capability of their professor. Without a few exceptional scholars in the team valuable time is lost re-inventing the wheel before any real forward momentum can be built. Moreover these people typically lead methodological innovation. The role of highly capable mentorship cannot be understated. b. Research is a team effort. Like in most organisational settings clearly defned teams are more successful than one person shows. Discussions between team members can identify the best possible solution to a problem. Tasks are accomplished faster when done by a team and work will not stop when a member is on leave. Team members learn from one another and healthy competition drives people forward. A critical mass is first required in Australian chiropractic academia followed by a top down approach to team construction. c. In Australia like elsewhere, research is extremely competitive and researchers are ranked at both the institutional and national levels. Without exceptional ranking of both the individual and their team, as well as the merit ranking of their project, substantial funding will not be allocated. d. At present if we were to refect on the national ranking scale for health and medical research which occurs on a 1 (being lowest) to 7 (being highest), we would estimate that the average ranking of chiropractic in Australia is at level 2. The system only considers funding for those ranked 5-7 and only funds ≥6. If we are in fact at level 2 then our delicate petunia patch is utterly unable to compete against the surrounding mighty and thirsty fora. e. There is a lifecycle to academia as with the petunia patch. Unfortunately, academic research growth is a long and slow process (most of the time) and continued nurturing is required along the way. Without a succession plan and a mechanism for the next generation to express their potential our petunia patch's vitality will most likely decline, or at best remain isolated and marginalised. 2. Create a fertile space. Once the lifecycle and factors that enable academic growth have been acknowledged, the next step is to construct an appropriate garden bed or environment for our petunia patch to grow. The good news is that chiropractic is well positioned in Australian universities. However, this fertile space is being taken A Commentary to Address the State of Chiropractic Research in Australia
CJA March 2013
CJA September 2013