Biomechanics Priorities Conference brings future into focus
The paperless conference employed the Google Docs application to enable simultaneous editing by multiple participants.
Several graduate students in UD’s BIOMS program assisted at the conference.
All of the participants gathered for a group shot at Marriott's Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware.

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9:21 a.m., June 29, 2010----The Biomechanics Priorities Conference brought 55 scientists from institutions across the United States and Australia to the University of Delaware from June 9-11 to help develop a roadmap for biomechanics research for the next decade.

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The conference was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research and the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Support was also provided by the UD College of Health Sciences.

A priorities conference is a participant-centric workshop that promotes identification, refinement, documentation, dissemination, and prioritization of recommendations for accelerating advancements in a given field.

The conference format was originally developed at NIH in the mid-1990s. Irene Davis, professor in UD's Department of Physical Therapy, and Steven Stanhope, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, recently enhanced the format to create the Delaware Priorities Conference model.

One of their refinements was to make the meeting entirely paperless. Alex Razzook, a graduate student in UD's Biomechanics and Movement Science Program, developed a participant communication and document-sharing model system using Gmail and Google Docs.

“Watching a team of six experts from around the world simultaneously edit one online document in Google Docs was a thrilling experience,” Stanhope says. “We all entered the conference as concerned skeptics and emerged as online document-sharing converts.”

The meeting began with keynote presentations addressing four domains: cell/tissue mechanics, joint mechanics, limb/whole body mechanics, and functional outcomes. Participants were then organized into small groups to develop priority statements within and across these domains. The statements were discussed and refined throughout the meeting.

On the last day of the meeting, the 41 final priority statements were scored by all of the participants and ranked based on several factors, including significance and potential impact.

In addition, a number of central themes important to advancing the field were identified. One focused on the importance of advancing clinical research via the integration of basic scientists and engineers with clinicians, and another emphasized the need to enhance our ability to monitor subjects/patients outside the laboratory environment.

Finally, while many of the priorities focused on issues related to rehabilitation, the need to address overall musculoskeletal health and prevention of injuries was identified as an important future focus area.

According to Davis, a final report will be submitted to NIH and made available to other related societies. This summary will also be published in the Journal of Biomechanics.

“Overall, participants enjoyed the format of the meeting and felt that the outcome would have a positive impact on future biomechanics research,” she said.

The conference was held at Marriott's Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware hotel on campus. “Attendees were so impressed with the facilities and service at the hotel that we've already had some inquiries about holding future priorities conferences here,” Stanhope said.

A copy of the conference summary and other conference-related materials will be posted on the meeting website as they become available.

Article by Diane Kukich

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