Views and Visions: Posts from our People

Michael Rumsewicz
Former Research Director
Apr
13

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Gavin Smith and Michael Rumsewicz at UNC-Chapel Hill
Gavin Smith and Michael Rumsewicz at UNC-Chapel Hill

Making research matter

I have just spent a hectic three weeks going from Adelaide to Colorado to North Carolina, to Perth, and then back home to Adelaide. Because of this I’m not entirely sure which time zone I am in (at least my body doesn’t know). The reason for the travels – visiting research centres in the United States that are similar to the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, and attending our Research Advisory Forum in Perth.

The idea was basically to share experiences and approaches on how to get natural hazards research into practice and look for opportunities to collaborate. In the USA I spent time with:

  • National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder
  • Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning at Colorado State University 
  • Department of Homeland Security – Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

First of all I need to thank the folks at the centers for their marvellous hospitality – they were most welcoming and eager to share experiences. While lots was discussed, I just want to focus for the moment on the topic of engagement. I think it is fair to say that each group was staggered by the degree of collaboration, participation and engagement from end-users in our projects, and the degree to which we are already seeing the research have an influence on operations and policy.

From the US I arrived in my jetlagged state in Perth, for what turned out to be our biggest RAF yet. And our best. I sat in on a mix of presentations in the auditorium and breakout sessions and realised that as management, we were no longer running the RAF – our end-users and researchers were running the RAF.

The breakout sessions, for both existing and new projects, were engaged, thoughtful, exciting, and focused discussion between researchers and end-users alike.

Someone came up to me on the Thursday and said, “Michael, I’ve been to a lot of RAFs, and this is the best one ever. Even at the dinner last night, I went from group to group (I am a social butterfly) and every one of them was talking about research.” I’m assuming that was a good thing!

Our Cluster Lead End-User Representatives deserve a big chunk of the credit for the environment and culture they have nurtured and developed within their areas – without their skill and time and knowledge we could not have come this far.

What are we doing that is different? Fundamentally I think it comes down to:

  1. Having keen, knowledgeable and active end-users involved from day one, wanting to be involved, shaping the projects, figuring out how the findings can be used to support their roles. This has made a tremendous difference.
  2. Having keen, knowledgeable and active researchers that want their research to shape and inform practice and that want to work closely with, and listen to, end-users in a team environment.
  3. We are a small enough country (in terms of population and number of states and territories) that we can link to all of the like-minded organisations across the country and work on the common issues they are facing.
  4. Being able to take a relatively long term view of the program, taking the time to make sure we develop the personal relationships within project teams that can then foster the sort of discussions that need to be had.

Come to Showcase 2017 – Research Driving Change on 4-5 July in Adelaide, invite your friends, and find out what has been achieved and where we are going. Be involved - I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

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