Executive Director's report 2012

First, may I wish you greetings for this time of the year. December, in our world, is a month of deadlines – for exam results and reports, for redeeming or keeping promises of things to be done before the long break. It is also the month in which the major grant rounds open, with the hope of success next October; all softened by the promise of a long vacation, and by plans for time with the family.

So, warmest wishes for safe travel, for the time with your families and for a strong start to your grant writing. My holiday trip will (if I am fit enough after a winter of illness) be the Sydney-Hobart race, in which Mat Vadas and I have entered our yacht (a 40-footer, Breakthrough). Wish us a safe passage.

  1. State of the Institute
  2. Bosch Grant Preparation Scheme
  3. Annual Scientific Meeting
  4. Translational Grants in Aid Workshop
  5. New arrangements for waste disposal
  6. BMSF (OSBF) Restructure
  7. Bosch Flow Cytometry Facility
  8. Theme Leaderships
  9. Elections for the Executive Leadership Group

1. State of the Institute

2012 has been a year of consolidation. Over the last 3 years, we have expanded our Facilities (from 3 to 6), launched new initiatives such as the Translational Grants-in-Aid, established new scientific meetings (the Facilities-based meetings, Young Investigator seminars), won a string of new equipment grants, launched new research instruments – powerful microscopes and sequencers, automated devices for the measurement of complex animal behaviour, high-sensitivity mass spectrometers and an imaging mass spectrometer.

Over the same three years we have adapted to a restructure of the Institute, as a University centre based in the School of Medical Sciences. The work of adaptation has been rewarded by strong, consistent support from School. No doubt more change lies ahead, some of it generated internally, much of it arising from restlessness in the University, and in the wider society. The year 2012 has important for the consolidation of the many changes we initiated, or have had to deal with, since 2010.

The state-of-the-Institute as we move into the always-uncertain future? I believe it is strong – in our finances, in morale, in momentum, in the quality of what we do, in the support of members and, after some uncertainty, in our place in the firmament of the University. Our model of a networked Institute – without a building, with a lean, active management, taking its structures to members where they are in their departments so that the departments stay strong and membership can be inclusive, but nevertheless achieving all that a traditional, walled institute can achieve - that model is increasingly understood and appreciated within the University, and within its review processes.

We have been quiet pioneers; the new CPC structure is, to a remarkable extent, modeled (consciously or otherwise) on the structure of our Institute. There is no room for complacency on our part, but every reason to continue our innovative path.

2. Bosch Grant Preparation Scheme

The Bosch Grant Preparation Scheme will run again this year. As previously, panels of readers will be available to read and comment on your grant – provided you get it to them with reasonable time. What’s reasonable? – 7 days before the Research Office deadline. We don’t have the RO deadlines yet, but here are the NH&MRC deadlines; Research Office deadlines are typically 2-4 weeks before the Research Council deadlines:

Category

Initiative/Scheme

Applications

Open

Applications

Close

RGAF

Internal Closing

Date

Research Activity:

Centres of Research Excellence

28-Nov-12

20-Feb-13

9-Jan-2012

 

Project Grants

05-Dec-12

19-Mar-13

 

 

Program Grants

06-Mar-13

05-Jun-13

 

 

Development Grants

10-Apr-13

10-Jul-13

 

 

Partnership Projects (First Call)

 20-Jan-2013

30-Apr-13

 

 

European Union Collaborative Research Grants

TBA

TBA

 

 

 

 

 

 

People Support:

Research and Practitioner Fellowships

12-Dec-12

13-Feb-13

25-Jan-2012

 

Career Development Fellowships

15-Jan-13

6-Mar-13

 

 

TRIP Fellowships

TBA

TBA

 

 

Early Career Fellowships

TBA

TBA

 

 

Postgraduate Scholarships

TBA

TBA

 

ARC

Research Grants:

Discovery Projects

16-Jan-13

06-Mar-13

 

 (dates subject to change)

Discovery Indigenous

13-Feb-13

10-Apr-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARC

Equipment Grants:

Linkage Projects (Round 1)

TBA

TBA

 

 (dates subject to change)

Linkage Projects (Round 2)

TBA

TBA

 

 

Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities

27-Feb-13

24-Apr-13

 

 

Centres of Excellence

13-Mar-13

08-May-13

 

ARC

People Support:

Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

11-Feb-13

27-Mar-13

 

 

(dates subject to change)

Future Fellowships

19-Dec-12

20-Feb-13

 

 

Australian Laureate Fellowships

10-Dec-12

31-Jan-13

 

3. Annual Scientific Meeting

The 2013 Annual Scientific Meeting will be in honour of Professor P.O. Bishop, Professor of Physiology (1955-67). Bishop founded the field of visual neuroscience in Australia, and recruited and mentored many scientists who have since been prominent in Australian neuroscience.

This meeting will honour him by bringing together scientists now leading the fields he pioneered (thalamic function, parallel processing, physiological optics, cortical processing of visual information and the neural basis of stereopsis). The meeting will be held on June 26-27, and will be enriched by a gathering of many of Bishop’s associates and people mentored. Invitations to these special individuals will go out over the summer break; and attendance will, as always, be open to all members. Part of the program will target Bosch Young Investigators – more detail later.

Enquiries to the organising committee – Bogdan Dreher, Ted Maddess (ANU) and Paul Martin and myself.

4. Translational Grants in Aid Workshop

The Translational Grants in Aid Workshop will be through the afternoon held on March 21 2013. There will be presentations from each of the recipient labs, and we may bring in a ‘translational expert’. We anticipate a strong series of presentations, which I hope will be strong enough to persuade the ELG and Board to continue this innovative program.

5. New arrangements for waste disposal

PC2 waste: Until recently, PC2 waste has been decontaminated in an autoclave in the Anderson Stuart Molecular Biology Lab (N232). That autoclave has come to the end of its working life. It broke down, quotes were obtained, repair was expensive and uncertain; replacement extremely expensive and technically elusive – we tried again and again to find an effective location for it elsewhere in the Anderson Stuart Building. Where it was, in N232, it was blocking a long-needed refurbishment. We also tried to arrange a pickup service to an autoclave facility in the Blackburn Building, and ran into much resistance about the use of University vehicles, and which staff should/would manage the transport.

This tangle of problems will, we hope, be solved, by outsourcing. Outsourcing requires the support of a central regulatory office, within the University. That has now been achieved, a short-term contract is in place and, with reasonable luck, will be extended as a long-term solution. The costs will be covered by the Institute; some onus will remain with users concerning packing and handling. Please liaise carefully with Donna in the packaging and handling of waste produced from your work. The arrangement will be revisited from time to time, to ensure that it remains cost-effective, and functional for users.

Non-PC2 waste: In the new year, we will seek to extend the PC2 disposal contract to less toxic waste. It should be possible, and prove a long-term solution for this need as well. But this has still to be negotiated and organized.

6. BMSF (OSBF) Restructure

Key personnel in the creation and management of the Bosch Oxidative Stress Bioanalytical Facility (Professor Stocker, Dr. Lam, Dr. Maghzal) are leaving the University of Sydney, to the Victor Chang Institute. Our warmest wishes go to them for success there, together with our gratitude for setting up this cutting-edge Facility. The major, high-end equipment (mass spec and HPLC) will stay in the Facility, which has been restructured as a Mass Spectrometry Facility, with Professor Paul Witting as the academic most responsible.

A new Officer for the Facility has been appointed, Dr. Xiao Su Wang; she is located in the same office in the Medical Foundation Building as used by Dr. Lam. Xiao Su did her PhD with Professor Stocker; the Bosch Mass Spectrometry Facility is open for business. I am very grateful to Paul, for stepping up to the academic supervision of this Facility; and I welcome Xiao Su to the Officer role.

PS: One early addition to the Facility will be equipment related to the successful bid submitted late last year for an Imaging Mass Spectrometer. The bid, pioneered by Leo Phillips, was joint with the Kolling Institute, where the major equipment will be located. But a cryostat essential for tissue preparation, and a computer and software essential for analysis will be located in the BMSF, and Bosch members will have ready access to the instrument at the Kolling. Use it! –mass-spec-quality identification of molecules across the surface of a tissue section, with resolution approaching light microscopy – what’s not to like?

7. Bosch Flow Cytometry Facility

The Bosch Flow Cytometry Facility has been restructured. It now runs independently as a Bosch Facility, with access by a per-head subscription, as in other Bosch Facilities, and will also be a node of the Advanced Cytometry Facility in the Centenary Institute.

The BFCF will have three cytometers:
- A FACS Calibur located in the Medical Foundation Building
- A FACS Aria located in the Blackburn Building
- A FACS Calibur to be set up in the Anderson Stuart Building (subject to demand).

A new Officer has been appointed, Dr. Angeles Sanchez Perez, who is currently located in the Medical Foundation Building, but is committed to service the three machines and users in different buildings. The academics most concerned are Professor King and, while he is on leave, Dr. Fraser. I am grateful to them, for their work in management and in the restructuring, and I welcome Angeles to the role of Officer. This restructured Facility is now ready for business under the new structure.

8. Theme Leaderships

Almost a decade ago, under Professor Hunt’s Directorship, the work of the Institute was organised intellectually into 5 themes, each with a Theme Leader. This was a pioneering, prescient step, which anticipated, for example, the Faculty’s 2009 development of 6 themes (5 of them co-extensive with Bosch’s themes).

Last year, the Leadership of the Neuroscience Theme changed to Professor Phillips, and this year Professor Stocker’s departure has meant a change for the Cardiovascular Theme. I am pleased indeed that Professor Stuart Cordwell has agreed to become the Cardiovascular Theme Leader.

9. Elections for the Executive Leadership Group

The Executive Leadership Group plays an important part in the governance of the Institute. Its membership includes the Director and Deputy, the COO, the Theme Leaders and four elected members (Professor Chan-Ling, Mason, Twigg and Vandenberg).

The last elections were held over 3 years ago. There seems to be no written rule for how often they should be held, and the ELG has been cohesive and effective. But, given the passage of time and the major restructure of the Institute in 2009, the ELG, at its meeting early this month, resolved that these positions will be declared vacant, and new elections held. This will be done, with lots of advanced notice of details, in January-February.

And finally...
….. my thanks to all who have helped the Institute this year – to the Deputy Director (Professor Mason), to our Advisory Board, to the ELG, and particularly to our Chief Operating Officer, Charean Adams, who manages so much of the Institute’s work, from strategy to the detail of our functions.

It was a little unnerving for me to realise how smoothly things ran while I was long away on sick leave; even a small crisis during that time would have been re-assuring. But there was not even the slightest problem. I am genuinely grateful for all who ensured this.

Jonathon Stone
Executive Director