Sustaining future excellence

A message from Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor James McLaren:

ACU continues to build on on the foundations laid for sustained excellence in the future.

The ACU Research and Enterprise Plan 2022-2023 established a path for achieving sustainable excellence in research capability, effective infrastructure and systems, fundamental research, the translation of research, and the application of research.

The past six months of achievement since its launch, showcases ACU’s strong foundation for sustaining future excellence, in a sector that continues to experience significant change.

A recent early career research funding boost of more than $1 million from the Australian Research Council (ARC) highlights the growth of ACU’s future capability in fundamental, impact-focused research. The three Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) are the highest number awarded to ACU in this scheme in a single year.

Grant success

Early and mid-career researchers have also recently been successful in other national competitive grants that translate research into targeted health outcomes:

  • Professor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Bindi Bennett, who is an ACU PhD graduate, is lead investigator on an ARC Discovery Indigenous project. The project was awarded $750,000 to develop culturally informed, rural and remote learning in social work.
  • Associate Professor Valentina Lorenzetti has received more than $1.1 million from a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant. With assistance from the grant, Professor Lorenzetti aims to map and trial interventions for brain dysfunction in chronic cannabis use.

A number of ACU researchers have also been successful with ARC and NHMRC grants led by partner institutions. The first tranche of awards for the new internal research and enterprise schemes will soon be announced to help continue this pipeline of success. The early career researcher advisory panel has also been established and will inform the university’s future research capability.

International engagement

The Rome Campus’s new location also provides the opportunity to foster the university’s international engagement:

  • The Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry recently concluded a very successful intensive two-month program of international seminars, conferences and public lectures on that campus.
  • The Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences has commenced another Rome series with further research events planned for 2023. These include an international conference to coincide with the opening of the university’s metabolic chamber facility.
A period of change

Across the sector, the next six months will involve significant change.

As previously announced, the Minister for Education paused the 2023 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) pending the review of the ARC. An ERA Transition Working Group, comprising experts from a range of discipline and research backgrounds, will consult with the sector and produce a transition plan by the end of the year for implementation in 2024-25.

The one element we can be sure will not change in the new assessment process is the fundamental requirement for high quality research-related activity.
ACU is well placed to approach these changes in the sector with confidence. The recent comprehensive conversation identifying the overarching impact themes, will help guide our future success in the global and national sector.

Further, recognising the importance of understanding the past to comprehend where we are now and what we should strive to achieve in the future, ACU has the distinctive advantage of being able to draw and reflect upon the rich and vibrant Catholic intellectual tradition to help ensure the “protection and advancement of human dignity and of cultural heritage.”

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