Programs and projects
The chief elements of the Performance Research Centre are:
- Post-Graduate Scholarships
- Visiting Scholars Scheme
- Applied Sensors Unit
- Data Analytics Unit
- Sports Research Funding
- National Small Technologies Program
- Workshops, Seminars, Events
The AIS provides placements for post-graduates including honours, masters, PhD’s, and post-doctoral students through a call for Expression of Interests annually in September. This scheme identifies specific areas requiring further research, thus providing a more focused assistance to AIS and national sports programs. It enables scholars to work with specific sports on a day-to-day basis, interacting closely with coaches in identifying and addressing issues of practical relevance. Since each of the scholars is enrolled through an Australian university and has both AIS and university supervisors, the scheme promotes the recruitment of external expertise to help solve sport-related problems. In the past financial contributions to the scheme are negotiated between the AIS, a partner University and a National Sporting Organisation, however under new direction, the AIS will primarily award scholarships to students who have obtained an APA (Australian Post Graduate Award). Under Australian Government policy, the AIS can only offer scholarships to non-Australian citizens when there are no suitable Australian candidates, however an appropriate VISA will need to be acquired.
The AIS Sport-based PhD Scheme (established in 2001) provided a model that is now being emulated in other countries.
Students interested in applying for a research scholarship should periodically refer to the ‘Positions vacant’ website.
In 2007, the AIS Performance Research Centre commenced its Visiting Scholars Scheme with the sole purpose of supporting visits to the AIS by internationally recognised innovators who can contribute to the improvement of the AIS' delivery of innovative programs and science. The Scheme provides funds to allow AIS sport science and medicine researchers to bring specially targeted people to the AIS in Canberra for periods of about one month to assist with the planning or conduct of AIS research, or the interpretation of results. Generally, three Scholars each year are supported.
The Applied Sensors Unit designs and develops advanced sport-specific software for coaches and scientists, typically utilising sensor and video technology. The Unit gives the AIS the capability of gaining competitive advantage through highly innovative use sensors in a variety of sporting applications. This capability enables our scientists to monitor athletes in the field, rather than being confined to laboratory settings.
The AIS Data Analytics Unit is dedicated to 'making sense' of data by analyzing and presenting the data in a way that will provide greater insights for Australian coaches and scientists. The Unit is comprised of three analysts each with a different set of expertise and responsibilities in the key areas of analytics.
The AIS has long recognised the importance of research and the development of technologies to enhance coach and athlete performance. The AIS Sports Research Fund is an allocation of a specific, dedicated budget for research and development targeted at the needs of sports. With the limited funds available, A total of $240,000 is allocated as $20k grants to the following Category A sports: Athletics, Canoe (Sprint and Slalom), Cycling, Diving, Hockey, Paralympic Alpine Skiing, Rowing, Sailing, Swimming (inc. APC), Triathlon, Water Polo and Winter Sport. The Sports Research Consultant, Sports Performance Manager, Coach and Sports Coordinator in consultation with the performance enhancement teams for each sport will decide on the research projects that will likely deliver performance outcomes. The funding being made available to sports is viewed by the AIS as an investment in the future of athlete performance outcomes. As such, the AIS quality assures the research by assessing protocols and proposals through both the AIS Ethics Committee and an AIS Research Committee. This quality assurance check ensures that the research proposals are both scientifically valid and will also reap the outcomes envisaged by the sports research team.
Since 1997, the AIS has recognised a need for development of small, unobtrusive equipment to enable increased monitoring of athletes in field situations (as opposed to laboratory environments). There has been awareness that such equipment can enable more regular collection of data, providing a continuous and comprehensive picture of training adaptation rather than just occasional ‘snapshots’. Because of limitations to ‘in-house’ technological capacity, progress in this area has depended largely on the formation of collaborative links. In July 2001, the Australian Sports Commission became a partner in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Microtechnology, and in the following years some very significant advances have occurred, particularly in regard to the development of prototypes for use in rowing and swimming. Strong technological and human resource platforms have been established to support future work (as evidenced at the 2004 CRC Annual Conference when there were no less than 23 presentations on sport-related developments).
Driven by the need to better service athletes and coaches, the Performance Research Centre has been at the foreground of developing technology which not only serves its purpose, but also has potential commercial scope as well.
The Performance Research Centre organises a weekly series entitled, 'Smart Talk'. Originally created to disseminate research information, Smart Talk presentations provide a variety of opportunities for Commission staff to hear about various activities in Australia and around the world. In September 2007, the 100th Smart Talk was delivered by Professor Peter Fricker, Head of the AIS.
Workshops have been conducted to expedite collaborative research. The most successful of these occurred on 2nd and 3rd November 2006 when the AIS and CSIRO came together for a two-day workshop. From this event, no fewer than 12 research projects were seeded.
A follow up workshop entitled, 'Frontiers of Human Performance' was subsequently hosted by the AIS on 13th and 14th March 2008. This workshop will bring together scientists from the AIS, CSIRO, DSTO and NICTA to discuss where performance gains in human endeavour are likely to occur in the next 4-5 years.