ACU's culture of research excellence

Published: Tuesday 22nd November 2016

Photo of ACU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Wayne McKenna.

A message from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Wayne McKenna: ACU’s culture of research excellence, now well-known internally, is increasingly gaining external acknowledgement.

Recent success in the ARC Grant funding allocations is testament to ACU’s growth in this regard over recent years.

ACU was awarded five 2017 Discovery Project grants by the ARC, a total of $1,892,500 in research grant income. Our success rate of 20.8% was well above the funding success rate across the sector (17.8%) and ahead of institutions such as The University of Sydney (19.3%) and The University of Queensland (17.2%).

Indeed, ACU achieved a success rate higher than half the GO8 Universities and was ahead of the average success rate of these institutions (20.2%).

These projects, commencing in 2017, will conduct investigations across various fields of research. In the biological sciences, Professor Bruce Kemp of the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research investigates the storage of fat and sugars in the body in his project Mechanism of AMPK activation by drugs and metabolites. Dr Bronwen Neil, Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, leads an historical examination of the evidence for competing utopian ideologies in early Christianity.

Other successful projects will conduct research in the fields of social work, policy and administration, education and curriculum and pedagogy.

An even higher success rate was returned by applications to the ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards. Two of six submissions were successful, bringing in a total of $704,506 in research funding.

This funding will support Dr Tom Barnes, Institute for Religion, Politics and Society, to conduct research into the effects of industrial decline and the Victorian automobile industry. Dr Hannah Forsyth, School of Arts, was also funded through this scheme and looks to re-evaluate our economic past and produce a history of professions in 20th century Australia.

In a near-miss, ACU’s submission for a Centre of Excellence was unsuccessful after being one of only 20 institutions invited to provide a full proposal and attend an interview with the ARC in May.

Centred on the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education (IPPE), the Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Thriving Futures attracted commendatory assessor comments; significant acknowledgement of ACU as a site of research excellence. We are already in planning for resubmission in mid-2018, for award in the 2020 CoE round.

Elsewhere, ACU is increasingly collaborating with the research community at an international level. Supported by the newly-opened Rome Campus, Researchers from the Institute for Religion and Critical Enquiry conducted a series of seminars in September and October of this year.

Attended by top researchers from geographically dispersed locations, including Yale, KU Leuven, Notre Dame and Sorbonne, events at the Rome campus continue to elevate ACU to a position of international renown in fields of key strategic interest to ACU, such as religious studies.

Back at home, internal events such as the 5-Minute Research Pitch (5RP) showcase the diversity of research being conducted across the University. The Institution-wide winners of this event, Dr David Opar, School of Exercise Science; and Dr Catherine Bishop, School of Arts, represent ACU in the National Finals at Southern Cross University today, 22 November. We congratulate them both and look forward to the outcome of the ‘pitch’.

Looking to 2017, we anticipate and plan for the continued development of a strong culture of excellence for research at ACU. Further achievements in grant success, opportunities for increased collaboration both nationally and internationally and events for sharing and celebrating the success of our researchers are all on the horizon in an exciting year ahead.

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