“From my own perspective, participating in JPND projects has been a very good experience. You meet different people from different disciplines, you learn how to do things differently, you get different perspectives on things, and I think that enriches the field.”
What impact do you think JPND is having?
I think JPND is having a fairly significant impact. The profile of JPND-sponsored programmes has increased significantly in recent years. Researchers are now very aware of the benefits that synergies created through JPND-supported multi-national research brings. This has made researchers very motivated to participate in JPND-supported calls. I believe that this transnational synergistic approach to research is the right one. JPND has identified that by tackling the big challenges in the field of neurodegenerative disorders in a coordinated manner, the impact of research outputs can be maximised.
JPND has also succeeded in bringing researchers into the field of neurodegenerative disease research who might otherwise have found it difficult to break into areas beyond their own expertise. I am currently collaborating with a group of exercise physiologists on a JPND project that examines the benefits of exercise intervention for people with cognitive impairment. I think that this type of collaborative approach is a great opportunity for us going forward to refresh the field and expand its boundaries while facilitating the growth and exchange of interdisciplinary knowledge.
What is your experience of JPND-supported projects?
What I really like about multi-national projects, such as the JPND ones I’m involved in, is the added value they afford our research. Ireland’s population base does not allow us access to a large number of patients compared to other research groups in Europe, but by working with them, everyone benefits from what we can adopt from each other’s experiences, exploit in terms of resources and learn from new perspectives.
Do you have any general aspirations for this field of research?
Human capital development is very important right now in the field of neurodegenerative disease research, and no less so in dementia research, which I have a particular interest in. At the moment the approach to research is siloed, with basic scientists, clinicians, service providers and policy makers often working independently from one another. This approach needs changing so that the neuroscience research we are doing is rapidly translated into clinical fields and then into policy and practice. The only way to achieve this is through human capital, by educating people from all these areas together – that’s the future and it is so important.
There are a number of initiatives that we are working on in Ireland to achieve consensus and address the siloed approach to research. The next step will be to create human capital-type programmes that are integrated, applied and inter-disciplinary. Even in the event of the development of a very effective disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, patients will still require quality care and informed clinical practice – all this is only achievable with sympathetic, well-considered policy implementation.