More than one way to research

Science – the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment

When I set out to research human movement and how to maximise efficiency and performance, I was determined to break from the usual science model and take a more holistic approach to my methodologies of discovery. As a scientist I was determined to take my laboratory out into the natural world rather than attempt the impossible task of squeezing the natural world into a laboratory.

The Western world, driven by analytic thought, logic and results created by data, all too often produces research that misses the beauty and wonder that a control group and a treadmill in a laboratory would surely inhibit.

I have the privilege to work with some incredible professors, doctors and researchers. My plan would be to go into the field in search of human movement, working in environments such as a desert, jungle, the arctic or mountains and throughout Africa. Then return with my learnings, including movement data, video analysis and documented perceptions to share and discuss with my network of academics to help me understand exactly what I had seen in the natural environment.

My challenge is to take the results of these collaborative thoughts and deliver them through coaching to the athlete. So often the scientist and the athlete think about subjects in a different way. My work specialises in bringing the two mindsets together and, of course, we can all learn from each other.

This approach is not conducive to writing papers or publishing articles but that is not my motivation. I cannot think of one research trip where my initial research plans did not expand to accommodate a subject that I experienced while in the field. This would rarely happen with the traditional more rigid approach to science.

One of the big advantages I have is that I fund all of my own research and am therefore not restricted to predetermined agendas or encouraged to allow external pressures to influence my findings.

The unending pressure for scientific research to end in publication means that there is very little collaboration. Information and ideas are closely guarded until they appear as a paper or publication. I believe this lack of synergy between researchers stifles science and its progression.

I cannot think of any research trip with tribes, indigenous people or athletes living in training camps, where I did not come away citing the power of the group as one of the most influential factors. My great hope for the future is as scientists we take a leaf out of their book.