After Chairing the Centre’s Advisory Committee (CAC) over the past couple of years it is timely for me to reflect on some of our meeting outcomes. Committee members were invited onto the CAC because of their experience in government, industry, community and indigenous affairs, as well as research and academic leadership. Importantly, we also have welcomed a Centre Early Career Researcher (ECR) representative to the CAC to provide input from the lived experience of a Centre researcher.
Why have a CAC? Primarily, because there is much more to achieving the Centre’s success than just doing great research. In fact, given the high calibre of the Chief Investigators, and the forward-thinking Centre research strategy, together with oversight from a stellar Science Advisory Panel, the CAC sees little risk in the Centre not achieving significant breakthroughs. Adding to research excellence, the CAC takes a broader perspective of the Centre’s risk profile and what constitutes success. For example, over the past year we have focused much of our attention on how the Centre is preparing the next generation of plant scientists for what looks like an unpredictable and challenging future. Centre ECRs will be responsible for shaping the next phase of plant science and its impact on society, both in Australia and beyond. Their ability to do this will be a major legacy of success for the Centre. It has been very pleasing to see the efforts made to embed a positive culture amongst the ECR cohort that is founded on the core Centre values of integrity, inclusivity, and international excellence. For example, in the short presentations from ECRs at our meetings we have seen examples of collaboration and teamwork, an openness to a diversity of thinking, engagement in continuous learning and improvement, and a respect that all in the Centre community should be given opportunity, support, and encouragement. In addition, we have been very impressed by the activities of the Researcher Development Portfolio and the breadth and depth of its professional and personal development initiatives. It is clear to us, that growth and development opportunities for ECRs abound in the Centre. Recent Centre survey results suggest, that for some people, the abundance of offerings for ECRs can feel overwhelming. Better to have more options than too few, and we encourage ECRs to pick what’s best for themselves and maintain resilience and a healthy personal balance.
There is a saying that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and nurturing a binding culture in a multi-Node Centre is a significant challenge for the Centre leadership. Personally, it was very satisfying to see all the social media posts of centre ECRs from multiple sites enjoying spending time together at Hobart’s restaurants and pubs during last year’s research retreat. These friendships and the trust embedded within them will help make the Centre a unified venture and create multi-dimensional success. So far so good, and congratulations to all of you that have been so engaged in the Centre’s progress to date.
In 2023, there are several emerging areas of focus for the CAC. Some examples will be, how is the Centre:
- preparing a path to impact for its science;
- integrating traditional indigenous and modern scientific plant knowledge systems;
- helping ECRs develop broader communication skills;
- ensuring that the health, safety, and wellbeing of its staff are maintained; and
- planning appropriately for its mid-term review.
Our diverse CAC representatives are all committed to the success of the Centre and its people. If Centre members wish to connect with the CAC to discuss Centre, career, or other issues we are happy to engage. Please contact us directly and if you are unsure how to do this, I can either help or connect you appropriately.
All the best for a successful 2023, I look forward to seeing what exciting initiatives and developments the Centre makes this year.
Dr John Manners
Chair, Centre Advisory Committee
Honorary Fellow, CSIRO
Adjunct Professor, The University of Queensland