Message from our Chief Operations Officer
19 Sep, 2023
This year, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what we need to do as a Centre as we head toward our mid-term review. All Centres of Excellence are reviewed by the Australian Research Council (ARC) at their mid-point to ensure that they are meeting their goals, and are operating in alignment with the proposal and the Commonwealth funding agreement. This isn’t a scary thing but a great opportunity to reflect on what we are doing and how we are doing it – and importantly what our gaps are so we can finish strong. It is certainly stressful though, a bit like having a rental house inspection but it’s a great push to do a spring clean!
The Centre of Excellence professional community is a friendly and collaborative group, so I was fortunate to be able to get a hold of a copy of the CE17 review terms, and ASTRO3D even published the review document and strategy that they provided to the ARC. We know each year the expectations on what Centres achieve beyond research are raised, which is reflected in the contract we have between the ANU and the ARC. With that in mind, the Centre has work to do to be in the best possible position for the mid-term review. We want feedback from the ARC that enhances our program to make the most of the opportunity – rather than things we can see ourselves.
To this end, I have led the following improvement processes.
The International Scientific Advisory Committee (ISAC) and Centre Advisory Board (CAB) are key bodies for the Centre that, when used effectively, guide strategic direction on research objectives and nonresearch objectives respectively. Given their importance, I sought to change the composition of these bodies to better reflect the make-up of our team and our desire for engagement. Our two new board members give the 2022 ISAC and CAB messages at the introduction to this report. Along similar lines, we have also continued to be conscious of our Associate Investigators (AI), ensuring that for any new man, there is at least one new woman brought into our team. This has meant we have more exciting emerging leaders of all genders across the world involved in our Centre as AIs.
The Centre executive and sub-committees are how we make decisions for the whole team. These need to be groups so that an outside auditor could understand their function in the Centre and see the value they provide. Some changes were as simple as a new name to reflect their activities, through to folding a committee. One important change was to the executive to ensure that the Research Program Managers (RPMs) could be part of the decision-making processes in an appropriate way. We also wanted to talk more about research, so the executive was divided into research (where the RPMs join), and management, where we can discuss at times more confidential matters. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in 2023.
Another domain that is important, and agreed by our CAB, is public relations and communications. For the Centre’s research to have any impact the world needs to know about the work we do and our people. I have restructured the Business Team to enable our resources to focus on this important aspect of what we do. Marketing and communications is a critical function of TMOS to build relationships, and ideally build our industry engagement and translation opportunities for our researchers. As part of this, we are doing a major refresh of our website so that we are talking to the public and people in the private sector, instead of just to ourselves.
Staffing is another domain that is very important to me. Given the scope of our funding and our strategic plans, I have firmed up the roles of the Business Team for the duration of the Centre. For the researchers, we also need to take this approach to retaining our key talent and ensuring that we meet our obligations to building a diverse future workforce. It’s also important that we reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on the careers of our postdoctoral researchers, who were at times unable to access lab facilities for up to 12 months of their contracts, have been limited in their ability to build their network, and some remain unable to travel internationally due to ongoing visa processing issues. I see resolving this as part of the key work of the executive during 2023, to develop an appropriate succession plan and pathway to support the critical mass of researchers the Centre is training.
Dr Mary Gray
Chief Operations Officer