Research news

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Professor Mary Spongberg Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability)

Research@Southern Cross University

2024 is already shaping up to be a very busy year for the research portfolio. I have just returned from Universities Australia in Canberra, where the main focus of discussion was the government’s newly released “Accord”, a definitive review of the Higher Education. The Accord calls for a transformation of higher education to meet Australia’s future skills needs and to redress our decline in the innovation economy. Research will play a critical role in this reset. While Australian research is performing extremely well within global rankings, the failure of government and industry to fund the full cost of research has limited the potential of Australia’s universities. Regional universities have been particularly disadvantaged by the decline in government spending in research, but there is much good news in the Accord for the RUN group, should the government implement the recommendations. I am particularly pleased to see the commitment to early career researchers and to First Nation’s self-determination.

We will also be gearing up to demonstrate our commitment to research excellence and our improved research performance across the University as we prepare for the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) re-registration in 2025. For the first time research will come under scrutiny from TEQSA. We have been preparing for this since my arrival in 2019. We have been working hard to ensure that the University complies with all Australian government research policies, and that we have excellent oversight and support our researchers and higher degree research candidates, and are showing progress in our research performance.  In addition to being able to demonstrate that our research is at world standard across most of our disciplines, we will also need to provide evidence of our commitment to research integrity, providing support to researchers, engagement, and impact. I sometimes hear researchers complain that the research office is asking them to engage in “busy work” when it comes to compliance or other exercises, but such work is critical to showing TEQSA that we are well governed and producing research that is not only excellent, but undertaken ethically and with integrity. Those exercises that help us record and report on the work you do. They are an essential part of the self-assurance processes the regulator requires us to have in place as a self-accrediting higher education research institution to demonstrate our commitment to maintaining high standards in research quality and integrity. In the coming months if you are required to produce additional reports, attend additional committees, please see this work as a priority and integral to your activity.

I am currently travelling in Latin America with other RUN members, the first time RUN universities have visited here on a research tour. There is much opportunity here and I look forward to talking more to researchers upon my return. 

Best wishes,
Professor Mary Spongberg
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability)

Associate Professor Tobias Kretzschmar with rice crop

Getting to know our Research Cluster Leads

In this edition we’re talking to another of our Research Cluster Leads, Professor Tobias Kretzschmar, who leads our Harvest to Health Cluster. Here’s what he has to say about the Clusters, and his lifelong passion for research.

 You can view Tobias’s full profile.

When or what was ‘the moment’ you knew you wanted to be a researcher?

My grandmother was an avid gardener who’d spend all day in the garden, and she got me into plants. I started helping her out in the garden, then I got my own little patch where I grew my own plants. My uncle was also a bird watcher, who got me to appreciate the wonders of nature.

As well as my family’s love of plants and animals, I was surrounded by nature from the age of around six or seven, because I lived in a forester’s cottage and had to walk half-an-hour through the forest to go to school. I also spent a lot of my own time in the forest as well, and always wanted to learn more about nature – particularly biology and plants.

How will the Research Impact Clusters change the way research is conducted at Southern Cross University?

I think the key is that the Research Impact Clusters are interlinking across other areas of expertise. The central model brought together people within the discipline and built that strength, but the Clusters can do that on an interdisciplinary level, which will bolster synergies.

For example, those of us in Plant Science work closely the Naturopathy Centre – we focus on plants and foods and on regional productivity, while the Centre focuses on the functionality of plants and foods in medicine. Together, we join the dots from plant to patient.

What do you feel are the best aspects of the Research Impact Clusters?

The Cluster meetings provide an opportunity for close discussion with the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), which is excellent. Very few universities offer the opportunity for mid-career researchers to interact with the DVCR on a one-on-one basis.

Also, the interaction and overlap between-the Clusters is building a strong network, which fosters collaboration, and sharing of knowledge and resources.

But I think the biggest benefit of the Research Impact Clusters is that they give our research an outward-looking presence where other universities can see what Southern Cross University is doing research-wise.

It also shows how our research links to local industry and global SDGs, which broadens its impact and relevance – that’s been done really well, and helps to forge collaborations with other universities and with industry for future research.

What sort of engagement will RIC’s undertake with internal and external stakeholders?

I probably covered our engagement with internal stakeholders with my last answer. In relation to external stakeholders, an exciting recent development is that we’ve signed an MOA with Korea’s Sejong University, looking to undertake collaborative projects and running student exchanges between our two universities.

We also have ongoing collaborations with industry and universities in China in the medicinal plant space and, within Australia, we’re also expanding our industrial hemp program of research into all states and territories (except the ACT) through partnerships with Universities and government agencies.

What would you like to see the RICs achieve?

Personally, I’d like to see early career researchers benefit. Most of them are on soft money – that is, they’re not university-funded, so they hop from project to project making their funding future precarious.

More funding security also allows early-career researchers to broaden their horizons by exploring outside their current areas of research. The support provided by the Clusters means young researchers are not locked into one particular area of research, and they can move laterally across different areas before deciding on their specialty.

What’s your ultimate research project?

I’d really like to develop our medicinal cannabis research more, to build it into an international research consortium. There’s a lot of work to be done in this area, and developing an international research consortium would help us to level the playing field on this.

Because cannabis research was prohibited for so long, this is new research that only started about 10-15 years ago, so I think we need to collaborate and share resources. We need to get the research community – which is a very splintered community, not only in Australia, but throughout the world – together. But that can be hard, because there’s not enough funding to go around – so it’s a highly competitive environment, and researchers can be very protective of their resources. I’d like to see more research consolidated to develop a solid foundation of research into medicinal cannabis.

Academic nominations for 2025 123 domestic and 235 international. Employer nominations for 2025 359 domestic, 41 international.

Rankings and reputation update

Thanks to everyone who sent us their nominations for the 2025 edition of the QS Academic and Employer Reputation exercises.

From this we submitted 358 academic nominations and the maximum 400 employer nominations – a vast improvement on last year’s figures.

Also, 66% of academic nominations were internationally located – more than double last year’s 29%. 

Why does this matter? Because SCU’s international academic votes are six times more influential in QS’s reputation calculation than their domestic counterparts, while employer votes are treated the same regardless of source.

Please watch your Inbox for any reputation surveys from QS in February to April (sent from [email protected]) or THE in November to January (sent from [email protected]).

Although voting for your own institution is not possible for the QS survey, it’ll still ask several questions about SCU, such as whether the institution is embracing grand challenges in sustainability. However, the THE’s survey does allow self-voting.

Please send any questions to: [email protected].

Finally, we’ll reach out later in the year about nominations for the 2026 edition, but you can provide additional nominations before then at any time using the same methods as last year.

Elizabeth Mossop
Academic Director Elizabeth Mossop

Living Lab update

Welcome to our Academic Director of Living Lab

A big welcome to Living Lab Northern Rivers’ inaugural Academic Director Elizabeth Mossop.

In addition to these roles, Elizabeth is a Professor of Landscape Architecture and Strategic Lead Creative Industries, Faculty of Design Architecture and Building at the University of Technology Sydney, and an Adjunct Professor of Southern Cross University.

A founding principal of Spackman Mossop Michaels landscape architects, based in Sydney, New Orleans and Detroit, Elizabeth’s research practice focuses on the role of landscape in urban revitalisation and resilient communities and cities in the face of climate change.

Elizabeth brings extensive post-disaster recovery and rebuilding experience to Living Lab Northern Rivers, having worked in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She was also instrumental in the creation of the Coastal Sustainability Studio at Louisiana State University- a multi-disciplinary research laboratory influential in setting the direction of Louisiana’s resilience planning and design

Front entry of a house

How high? Thinking through a successful house-raising project.

Raising houses above likely future flood levels will preserve buildings and minimise disruption to the people who live in them.

If you’re considering raising your home, you can learn more about what’s involved and what you need to think about before starting your project at our next free workshop.

Whether you’ve qualified for government assistance or you’re just taking the initiative, we’ll help you think through the critical issues to make your project truly successful – before you start.

Hosted by Living Lab, and facilitated by Sasha Mainsbridge from Mullum Cares, the workshop will also be attended by staff from James Davison Architects, local Council planning and recovery officers, and a Case Manager from NSW Reconstruction Authority — who’ll all be happy to assist with your specific property questions. 

When:           5:30-7:00pm Thursday 4 April 2024

Where:          Grafton Regional Gallery

Bookings:     registration is essential

Research Ethics and Integrity icon

Ethics Office news

Ethics committees meeting dates

Here are the upcoming Ethics Committee meeting dates and submission cut-off dates – you can find the full meeting schedule for 2024 on the Southern Cross University website.

Human Research Ethics Committee

Meeting date

Submission cut-off date

Monday 8 April

COB Monday 25 March

Please note that all high-risk applications must be reviewed at one of the scheduled meetings by the full HREC. For enquiries, please email: [email protected]

Low-Risk Committee

Meeting date

Submission cut-off date

Monday 25 March

Thursday 14 March

Monday 8 April

Thursday 28 March

Workshops

Workgroup around table

Outside Opinion Impact Pathways workshop - 15-16 April 2024 – Gold Coast campus

This comprehensive two-day workshop offers a strategic approach to grant writing, with special emphasis on the ARC fellowship program.

Designed for researchers at all career stages, this provides essential tools and insights, with specific focus on creating impactful research pathways.

It’s important you attend this workshop if you’re planning to apply for competitive research grants in the next two years.

Industry partners are welcome to attend on Monday 15 April

This is a great opportunity for you to explore partner expectations and shared understandings to map impact pathways (including for the ARC fellowships). The attached and below flyer may assist you with inviting your collaborators.

What: Research Impact Pathways workshop

When: Monday 15 & Tuesday 16 April 2024

Where: Southern Cross University Gold Coast Campus

Queries: Email [email protected]

RSVP: Email [email protected] by 25 March 2024, including:

  • attending in person or online
  • any attendee dietary requirements
  • industry contact details (name, email, organisation and in person or online)
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Health Translation Queensland’s Autumn Seminar Series: Indigenous data sovereignty in health research

This session will explore and provide you with a foundational understanding of Indigenous Data Sovereignty in Health Research, covering:

  • what is Indigenous Data?
  • understanding Indigenous Data Sovereignty
  • applying Indigenous Data Sovereignty through Indigenous Data Governance

When: 11:00am-12:00pm AEST, Tuesday 16 April 2024

Where: Online

Register: Eventbrite

IRMA Dashboard

New look IRMA

IRMA, Southern Cross University’s Research Management System, is undergoing a progressive transformation in both look and feel!

Researchers using the database for Human Ethics and internal Grant funding are now being directed to the new interface, NextGen, to submit all applications and reports.

NextGen is being progressively rolled out across the whole system, offering a more user-friendly experience and enhanced functionality to benefit researchers and administrators alike.

All of your existing research data is still there behind the new-look contemporary appearance, and new data can be transferred with the click of a button from inbuilt online forms (known as coversheets), while streamlined automated approvals will facilitate efficient processing.

You can find instructions for IRMA NextGen in the IRMA Spark Knowledge Base pages.

QCIF

Digital Research news

Exciting news for staff and research students at SCU – the new QCIF training Calendar has just been released!

With nearly 40 different courses on offer, you now have more opportunities to enhance your skills in key research computing areas. From programming and statistics to data management and bioinformatics, the training program is designed to meet the most in-demand topics.

And the best part? It's all free! Don't miss out on this chance to upskill.

Library news

Confident Supervisors textbook

New open textbook for HDR supervisors

If you’re supervising an HDR student, you might like to check out an open textbook that our colleagues at James Cook University recently launched.

Confident supervisors – creating independent researchers covers pertinent topics across the whole HDR lifecycle, including:

  • researcher integrity
  • HDR writing
  • supervising Indigenous and international research students

You can access Confident supervisors here: https://jcu.pressbooks.pub/confidentsupervisors/

Open Access Logo

Update to Read and Publish Agreements information for 2024

Looking to publish an Open Access article in 2024?

The Library team have updated our Read and Publish Agreements guide for 2024. Find out more about our new agreements with APA, ACM and Taylor and Francis, as well as our ongoing agreements with Cambridge, CSIRO, Elsevier, Sage, Springer Nature and Wiley/Hindawi.

For more information and to check your publication’s eligibility for fee-free Open Access publishing, contact the Library team for expert advice and guidance [email protected]

The Open Access icon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access) can be used as an image.

Feature story

ERIC Ethical Research Involving Children

ERIC – the Ethical Research Involving Children initiative

The Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP) recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Ethical Research Involving Children (ERIC) project, led by the CCYP in partnership with UNICEF’s Office of Research Innocenti. This project was initiated in response to international calls for more guidance to ensure upholding of the rights and dignity of children and young people in research that involves them.

Now translated into six languages and with an online readership averaging 5000 visitors a month, ERIC is considered by the international Childhood Studies research community as a ‘go to’ source for trusted guidance on key ethical issues shaping children’s participation in any research context.

‘We didn’t realise at the time that ERIC would grow into the international beacon it has become,’ says project lead Professor Anne Graham, Director of the CCYP and Southern Cross University’s Professor of Childhood Studies.

‘From an initial international survey, consultations with more than 400 stakeholders and an exhaustive literature review, we developed extensive print-based guidance, reflexive tools, case studies and other resources, alongside published academic articles.’

‘But we soon realised these wouldn’t bring change on the ground, because very few could likely access these. So we looked at developing a portal that was more engaging and inclusive, and gives us flexibility a static document never could,’ she says.

‘The website offered the perfect solution to reach a broader international audience and enable us to update the resources in real time’ adds Dr Kate Neale, Project Officer with the CCYP and Teaching Associate with the Faculty of Health, who oversaw ERIC’s transformation from printed document to online presence.

‘ERIC includes a collaboratively developed Charter, which sets out the internationally-agreed principles for ethical research. This has now been signed by more than 340 individuals and organisations from 52 countries, and includes the editorial boards of leading international journals’, she says.

The use of social media has also been key to drawing global attention to ERIC.

Having achieved so much in its first decade, the next major goal is to ensure the currency and long-term sustainability of the online resources.

‘As experiences of childhood around the globe are rapidly changing, so too is the complexity of the ethical issues in research involving them,’ says Anne.

‘The pervasive reach of the digital footprint in research, the culturally appropriate inclusion of First Nations’ children in different contexts, issues of data sovereignty, attention to the human rights of children in conflicts not of their choosing, and in humanitarian disasters, are just some of the issues that beg ongoing attention in ensuring efforts to capture their experiences are ethical,’ she says.

‘It’s a fast-moving space, but one we need to be in to ensure young people’s voices continue to be heard on matters that impact their lives.’

You can find out more about the Centre for Children and Young People from the Southern Cross University website.

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AI-Powered Digital Transformation for the Smart Circular Economy

Southern Cross University was recently awarded nearly $730,000 in funding from the CSIRO Next Generation Graduates Program to develop new knowledge, skills and tools to create a smart circular economy in Australia in general, and the regions in particular.

The program will see six PhD and nine Honours students from diverse backgrounds collaborating with industry under guidance from Southern Cross University, University of Technology Sydney and local businesses. Together, these partners bring multidisciplinary expertise in AI, business and engineering that are essential to addressing this complex problem.

Led by Southern Cross University Chief Investigator Professor Andrew Rose and CSIRO Partner Investigator Dr Aaron Thornton [who holds positions with both CSIRO and Southern Cross University], this program will fit the next generation of leaders with the skills, knowledge and industry focus to enable transition to a circular economy.

You can find out more here.