Setting priorities for strategic research

Strategic objective 1

Identify and support strategic priority areas for research focus that leverage research excellence, align with our researchers' values, and deliver significant benefits for society.

Selection of strategic priority areas for research focus must be criteria-driven and evidence-based. The criteria for identifying priority areas are demonstrated research strengths that address significant national and international health challenges and that will inspire the creativity and innovation of our researchers.

The evidence for research strengths drew upon analysis and benchmarking of research performance data. Four priority areas were identified to serve as focal points for research activities across the University’s multiple campuses and partner organisations and to maximise community impact at each of the geographic hubs of health delivery activity where University research is conducted.


Recommendation 1

Support the following four strategic priority areas for research focus:

  • obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • cancer
  • mental health and neuroscience
  • infectious diseases.

Each of these will be known as a Strategic Priority Area for Research Collaboration, or SPARC.

Key actions

  • Develop and implement strategic plans for each of the four SPARCs.
  • Harmonise the leadership and governance of the SPARCs so there is transparency and clarity both internally and externally with regard to decision-making and authority (see Recommendation 6).
  • Review the SPARCs two years after establishment and every five years thereafter to ensure University research investment continues to be aligned with research strengths and health priorities.

The recommended SPARCs are strategically focused on delivering outcomes for specific disease groups. Yet feedback from the consultation process identified certain common capabilities to improve health outcomes across all disease groups that merit specific attention. Three such 'cross-cutting themes' have been nominated because they have widespread implications and are critical to attaining outcomes of recognised national significance.


Recommendation 2

In each of the SPARCs, optimise the University’s collective capacity to:

  • contribute to:
    • integrated health care – for improved health and wellbeing of the individual
    • population health and health services – for improved health outcomes for all Australians
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health – for improved health outcomes for these particularly disadvantaged groups within the Australian community.
  • consider health at all stages of life
  • develop a vertically integrated translation pipeline, from basic research through to clinical practice, policy and products.

Key actions

  • Invest in the four SPARCs to deliver practice and policy outcomes in the cross-cutting themes.
  • Promote partnerships between researchers and health-care practitioners that address research questions arising directly from practice across all health settings.
  • Appoint a Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research responsible for establishing and chairing an Aboriginal research network, as recommended in the University of Sydney Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu (Wingara Mura) strategy.