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Monday, November 21, 2011

UCT Research in 2011: Wrap-up

Wrapping up the 2011 academic year: UCT/ESSM research cocktail party conversation topics

Such a busy time recently, hence the big gap between posts!  I am off to London tomorrow for the UKSEM Conference, where I will be presenting three talks.  The first is on Sports Science in the media in 2011, where I'll tackle the topical stories of the year (Oscar Pistorius, doping in cycling and the Kenyan marathon dominance and the genetics vs training debate).

The second is on the fallacy and oversimplification of the 10,000 hour concept, because I saw from the conference programme that Matthew Syed of "Bounce" fame would be presenting a talk called "The Science of Success", and I feel it's important to at least counter this with some science....

That is, to present the proper scientific view of the role of genes in performance, because unlike Syed has said, genes do not play little to no role in performance, and it is definitely not "all about the training" (for more on this, you can read the posts I wrote back in August this year).

And then the third talk will be on doping and the limits to performance.  I guess it's topical again now, with the "sub-2 hour marathon debate" once again opening up, albeit very prematurely.  If you followed the Tour de France coverage on site these last few years, you'll also be aware of the idea that there is a physiologically believable performance limit, and that's the topic of the third talk at UKSEM.

Then I'm also going to chair a round-table discussion on running injuries, which features Daniel Lieberman (of barefoot running fame) and Benno Nigg (biomechanics guru), among others.  As a matter of fact, I'm giving a presentation tonight at the Sports Science Institute of SA on barefoot running, which I'll share with you as soon as it is done.

So all in all, UKSEM should provide plenty of fodder for the site in weeks to come.  Assuming I can find the time to post!

ESSM 2011: The academic year ends

But for today, I just wanted to do a recap of the year in research at the University of Cape Town, where I am jointly employed.  The unit is the Exercise Science and Sports Medicine research unit (ESSM for short), and last week, we held our annual year-end function.  This is a function where all those eager and interested "guinea-pigs" who have volunteered to be studied as part of our research get to come for a finger-dinner and listen to a few presentations on our research.  It's just feedback and information, mostly to say thank you for their time (and blood, sweat, tears and occasional muscle sample), but also to get sports science out, to translate it in a way that makes it more accessible.

My mission from the evening has always been to give each person one item of "cocktail party conversation".  That is, next time they're at a social event, whatever it is, they need to be able to say "Hey, I heard about this really interesting stuff being studied at Sports Science, where they're looking at..."

So my presentation on the evening was to summarize what the ESSM Unit had been doing in 2011.  Consider that we have about 40 people involved in research at a time, and that's no easy task - it means effectively trying to summarize 40 years of research, assuming each person has had a productive year, into a 30 min presentation!

But below is that presentation.  I created a mock-up newspaper, with "articles" featuring some of the research areas, and then I did a short interview with the relevant scientist responsible.  Each "interview" was 2 to 3 minutes long, where they elaborated on their work, a few questions, and then moved on as I took the audience through the "newspaper".

There's no sound, unfortunately, so the detail is absent.  But this is really just a filler and to showcase some fo the work that the unit is responsible for.  It doesn't get nearly enough air-time, in most instances.

Enjoy, and speak to you again from London!


P.S. Presentation may take a while to load.  Just click the grey "play" arrow, hover your cursor over "More" and click "Full-screen".

Oh, and if you get this in an email, please CLICK HERE to be taken to the site where you can watch the presentation