Our Research Theme Champions commenced in August 2016. Their role is to lead and promote cross-disciplinary research and practice across the University's research themes to build research capacity. They have provided an overview of their plans for the next 6 to 12 months below. We encourage researchers to connect with them to ensure we optimise the academic expertise available for projects.
As theme champion I am interested in developing links between researchers concerned with improving educational aspirations and outcomes for all children and adults regardless of their backgrounds. This endeavour will involve researchers from multiple disciplines across the University and within the other three themes to facilitate a long-term focus on education and aspiration across the lifespan. I have a particular interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) educational outcomes which have been shown to be related to gender, social and cultural capital and school achievement, primarily in mathematics. I also intend to develop partnerships between schools, the University and government/business sectors to improve student and teacher knowledge of current and future careers so as to broaden aspirations and increase opportunities for all.
Learning starts early, well before formal schooling. Informal learning in the first three years of life, including language development, is critical for individuals' long-term educational outcomes and their life chances more broadly. One early priority in this theme will be for us to team up across disciplines and to partner with families, communities, government, business and other organisations to improve early outcomes in language and other key domains. This work will necessarily intersect with the other themes. Learning also continues throughout life and offers new chances to adults, promoting employment and social inclusion. This theme welcomes researchers to join us in engaging with diverse learners to improve outcomes at different junctures in life.
Given that health and wellbeing are complex phenomena shaped by a wide range of factors – institutions, health systems, socio-economic resources, cultural attitudes, gender, age, and so on – there is an urgent need for interdisciplinary research across behavioural, health, biomedical and social sciences and the humanities that can engage community, policy makers, clinicians, not-for-profit organisations and private enterprise in generating solutions that can support health and wellbeing across the lifecycle.
In our roles as Health and Wellbeing Theme Champions, we aim to build interdisciplinary and cross-sector teams who are poised to work with community and a broad range of stakeholders to tackle the complex health and wellbeing issues faced by the Greater Western Sydney community and beyond. Ultimately, we aim to build a robust community of practice committed to person-centred care, evidence-based practice, and systemic change, both locally and nationally.
Our intended focus on collaboration and translation in Health and Wellbeing is closely tied to the University's Strategic Plan and our mission to be a research-led university with regional, national and global impact. To this end, we will work closely with the Translational Health Research Institute to support knowledge translation and research implementation, and all Schools and Institutes across the University to grow collaboration and partnerships.
In the first six months in this role, we aim to meet with researchers and Research Directors across Schools and Institutes with expertise and/or interest in health and wellbeing research to map interests, skills and potential teams. Guided by participatory methodologies, we will collaborate with relevant researchers to develop a strategic plan and identify how the University can support and grow interdisciplinary and cross-sector research in this field; hold the first of a series of industry events that bring researchers together with sector representatives to identify the key challenges; and hold three workshops for researchers to share expertise, build interdisciplinary and industry relationships, and develop skills in participatory research and design. Where possible in this initial phase, we aim to support interdisciplinary teams to apply for funding.
My current research interests are in the dynamics of socio-environmental change in both urban areas and extreme environments. Over the next 12 months I plan to support a more sustained dialogue across University researchers in order to: map out key areas in environmental sustainability for developing engaged research projects (locally and internationally); nurture collaborative approaches and partnerships with public sector, industry and local community groups; and design ways to work meaningfully across the humanities, arts and sciences in tackling the pressing challenges and predicaments of changing urban ecologies. This includes thinking and practicing ways of living differently in times marked by ecological emergencies and paying attention to the profound transformations in the context of socio-environmental change taking place across Western Sydney. In supporting research initiatives with impact (including non-traditional) I'd like to see a broader interdisciplinary dialogue on how Western Sydney University might become an exemplar for environmental sustainability.
My goal is to support researchers aiming to build cross-disciplinary teams at the University across units where a culture of interaction does not currently exist, or is only in its early stages. For instance, connecting researchers in the environmental sciences to those in the environmental humanities can lead to new opportunities to improve human-environment interactions in urban and peri-urban ecosystems. Similarly, biologists and environmental scientists interacting with mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists can help to identify many of the solutions for the big data-driven challenges to environmental sustainability. In addition to facilitating team-building, I envision that these activities will also lead to more efficient and productive links with stakeholders outside the University through the bringing together of individuals' networks.
My aim for the first six months is to work with the existing centres of urban research at the University, such as the Urban Research Program in the School of Social Sciences and Psychology and the Cities and Economies cluster at the Institute for Culture and Society, and to open up discussions with areas of the University such as business, health, education and law which come at urban life from interesting angles. I also intend to apply my Future Fellowship research into innovation and start-up ecosystems, working with Launch Pad and regional innovation partners such as UrbanGrowth NSW. Finally, I'd like to think about how we might debate some interesting new ideas from urban theory and policy – the sharing economy, density and height done well (and badly), digital cities come to mind – and explore them using Sydney as a research site.