Shining a light on Excellence in Graduate Research Education

Amidst the challenges and concerns that are besetting higher education at present, it is important to continue to recognise and reward the dedication and excellence that is at the foundation of university research and teaching. The Australian Council of Graduate Research is therefore delighted to announced the winners of the 2020 ACGR Awards for Excellence in Graduate Research Education.

Established in 2017, these awards publicly promote outstanding performance in higher degree research supervision, leadership and industry engagement. This year the awards recognise some exceptional professionals whose dedication and innovative practice truly makes a difference to research cultures, research students and industry partners both in their institutions and beyond.
With a focus on impact and outcomes, the selection panel included student and industry representatives from the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations and the Australian Industries Group.

Each of this year’s winners were recognised for their personalised and adaptive approach to supervision and leadership across large and diverse academic units and their focus on engagement with industry on real world problems.

ACGR Convenor, Professor Al McEwan said: “Now, more than ever, we understand the importance of partnerships and real world focus in graduate research training. The ACGR Awards showcase some of the great work that is being done across Australia in this regard and demonstrate the value that graduate researchers contribute to our world and our economy both during their studies and after they graduate.”

Professor McEwan also recognised and thanked ACGR’s major partners, ResearchMaster and SkillsForge, for their ongoing support these national awards.

ACGR Award for Excellence in Graduate Research Supervision proudly supported by ResearchMaster

ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production, The University of Adelaide


Based at the University of Adelaide (UoA), the Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production (TC-IWP) was one of the first funded Centres in 2013.

Led by Professor Vladimir Jiranek, the experienced IWP team (with 75 prior HDR completions between them) recruited 13 HDR students to work collaboratively in a ‘grape to glass’, multi-faceted approach to tackling key issues facing the wine industry.

The high quality and innovative team supervision environment was underpinned by four key elements:

  1. formalised, structured and diverse supervision – panels of 2 or more, including university academic(s) of complementary expertise and a relevant industry expert, usually from a partner organisation.
  2. no student works alone” – ensuring collaboration among all the Centre projects
  3. a menu of development opportunities – informed by training needs assessments, a range of skills development programs and supported by biannual road trips and technical tours of wine regions
  4. acknowledging and supporting research as a national and international pursuit – through national visits and seminars and international placements

The outcomes of the TC- IWP were significant: 12 timely completions, 34 HDR authored or co-authored scientific articles, 12 trade articles and 10 technical notes along with a wide and impressive range of industry collaborations and commercial outputs. Most importantly, all 12 HDR graduates found employment in a diverse range of settings: 2 as lecturers, 4 as post docs, 2 in government, 4 in industry and one started his own wine business.

Other members of the Award winning IWC team are

A/Prof David Jeffery
Prof Kerry Wilkinson
Prof Steve Tyerman
Dr Renata Ristic
Prof Leigh Schimdtke

ACGR Award for Excellence in Graduate Research Leadership proudly supported by SkillsForge

Associate Professor Natalie Edwards, The University of Adelaide

Associate Professor Natalie Edwards has served for almost five years as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Faculty of Arts at the University of Adelaide and has been instrumental in both shaping HDR initiatives at the University level and driving their implementation within her own Faculty.

As Director, she has focused on designing, implementing and evaluating measures to improve the postgraduate student experience. Bringing students together for formal and informal events, heavily investing in the recruiting, training and leading her team of Postgraduate Coordinators and specifically targeting and strengthening diversity are strategies that Natalie has used to build a strong intellectual community for students.

She is also very attuned to the need for postgraduate students in the Arts to be exceptionally well trained and prepared for careers within and beyond academia. To this end, she has implemented several initiatives to encourage her students to develop into highly skilled, independent researchers who are able to adapt their knowledge and training to a variety of professional avenues. These include promoting industry engagement in the Humanities and piloting a teaching program for her graduate researchers.

Firmly believing that effective graduate research supervision requires clear pedagogical strategies based upon reflection, rigour and accountability, she has helped her colleagues
develop a toolkit of strategies that can be adapted to different students and different projects, both through individual mentoring and the development of Supervision Series within her faculty.

Most importantly, students and colleagues alike agree that beyond these achievements
“A/Professor Edwards’ particular blend of passion, integrity, humour and empathy endears her to students and colleagues alike, she is the kind of leader who people naturally want to follow”.

Special Commendation was awarded to Associate Professor Inger Mewburn, The Australian National University

ACGR Award for Excellence in Promoting Industry Engagement in Graduate Research

Professors Liam Smith and Felix Mavondo, Monash University

Professors Liam Smith and Felix Mavondo have teamed up to embed a Graduate Research Industry Partnership (GRIP) program within BehaviourWorks Australia (BWA). BWA is a long established and deeply industry-embedded research unit at Monash University. GRIP is cohort-based doctoral program designed to bring PhD candidates together with government and industry professionals to solve real-world problems. 18 candidates were admitted into the first cohort of the Behaviour Change GRIP in 2017 working with 8 different industry partners, who set the broad topic focus areas.

This cohort has benefited from a range of support initiatives including:
• a front-loaded program of skills training
• an intense 7-week period of embedding in partner organisations at the beginning of the program
• meetings with industry leaders who share their desires for graduate skills to fill known gaps in industry
• half day of training on the policy process
• guided and self-directed cohort building and networking support
• visits to all industry partner sites
• two mini-conferences and open confirmation presentations
• key industry liaison contacts who ensure wider exposure of the student’s research to the partner organisation and provide formal (in some cases) and informal supervision.
• participation in partner-run forums and training on topics relevant to the student.

The success to date has been astounding. Students and industry partners each identifying a range of benefits of this unique initiative. Appreciative industry partners report:
“The research undertaken by the students thus far has contributed to our 4-year strategic plan and strengthened our work … I             can highly recommend the involvement of BC- GRIP PhD students to other industry partners as they have provided a                         technical and innovative edge to the work that we do.”
“The program is unique, beneficial and rewarding, both for the students and the organisation. I highly recommend the                          involvement of BC-GRIP PhD students to other industry partners.”

More generally BWA has undertaken several hundred research projects in collaboration with over 100 industry partners. Many of BWA’s 30 current staff supervise HDR students both within and separate to the Behaviour Change GRIP and most of their students are undertaking research in collaboration with industry partners, and are embracing a similar philosophical approach to their research.

Special Commendation was awarded to Professor Jason Stokes, The University of Queensland

May 2019 – Australian Council of Graduate Research celebrates excellence in research training

Shining a spotlight on exemplary graduate research supervisors and leaders, the ACGR Awards for Excellence in Graduate Research Education were announced at a Gala Dinner in Brisbane on Thursday 2 May.

Established in 2017, these awards publicly promote outstanding performance in higher degree research supervision, leadership and industry engagement. This year the awards recognise some exceptional professionals whose dedication and innovative practice truly makes a difference to research cultures, research students and industry partners both in their institutions and beyond.

This year’s winners were recognised for their personalised and adaptive approach to supervision, leadership across large and diverse academic units and their support for student engagement with industry on real world problems. With a focus on impact and outcomes, the selection panel included student and industry representatives from the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations and the Australian Industries Group.
ACGR Convenor, Professor Sue Berners-Price said: “Graduate research supervision in Australia is constantly evolving and the Council is pleased to be able to showcase some of the excellent supervisory practice in Australia and hence the quality of the research training system in Australia. We are also delighted that our major partners, ResearchMaster and SkillsForge, have joined with us to support these awards for the first time in 2019.”

Professor Berners-Price added: “The winners and special commendations presented in each of the three categories come from varied institutions from across Australia, demonstrating the depth of the quality and excellence in graduate research across our nation.”

Winner of the 2019 Awards were:

ACGR Award for Excellence in Graduate Research Supervision proudly supported by ResearchMaster

Professor Rod Barrett, Griffith UniversityProfessor Rod Barrett has supervised 24 HDR candidates to completion (20 PhD and 4 Research Masters). This includes 10 PhD completions in the past 5 years, all using a co-supervision approach. He has co-authored 45 refereed journal articles with his most recent 10 PhD completions. Twelve of his former students have secured academic appointments across 4 different continents and several have ongoing and senior positions in industry.
As well as being a successful and effective supervisor in his own right, Rod has demonstrated leadership across his institution by proposing and then leading the development of the Principles to Promote Excellence in HDR Supervision Practices which have been endorsed and adopted across the whole of Griffith University. The principles reflect the diversity of views around excellence in supervisory practice and are relevant to all supervisors, irrespective of their background, experience, and training.
By practicing what he preaches, Rod understands and demonstrates the importance of individualising the research supervision approach to each individual student and context.
Rod’s former students are glowing in their praise of his supervision with one describing his “consistent and meticulous support” along with him “allowing me the freedom to pursue research ideas that I was passionate about” as “what sets him apart from other supervisors”.

Special Commendations to

  • Associate Professor Salman Durrani, Australian National University
  • Sydney Precision Bioinformatics Research Program, The University of Sydney

ACGR Award for Excellence in Graduate Research Leadership, proudly supported by SkillsForge

Professor Alex Boussioutas, The University of Melbourne

Professor Alex Boussioutas is the Associate Dean Graduate Research at the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (MDHS) at the University of Melbourne. He has a real passion to ensure that both the Faculty and the University, not only produce high quality and timely graduate research completions but also provide graduate researchers with a stimulating environment where they can learn lifelong skills in addition to progressing their academic careers.

Over a long career of outstanding graduate research leadership, his innovations have included the establishment of advisory committee training programs, and academic and professional skills development programs for graduate researchers within the MDHS. Both these programs are now being implemented across the University.

His achievements are even more remarkable given he also maintains an active career as a clinician scientist.

Specifically, Alex has supported strong candidature management across his faculty by
• creating the Graduate Coordinator-led Annual Progress review meetings within the Department of Medicine and then implementing these as mandatory across the whole faculty
• establishing weekly HDR forums and
• instituting minimum requirements for Advisory Committees
Recognising the importance of cohort support networks, Alex introduced the innovative PhD Capstone Program and Thematic programs. Driven by his interest in international relations, he was also instrumental in setting up a Masters of Research program that allowed international graduates to develop research skills prior to their introduction to a PhD.

Alex’s work and graduate research leadership has been commended by students, supervisors and professional staff and managers of the university.

Special Commendation to Associate Professor Nick Hopwood, University of Technology Sydney

ACGR Award for Excellence in Promoting Industry Engagement in Graduate Research

Professor Siobhan Banks, University of South Australia

Professor Siobhan Banks is a dedicated and inspiring graduate research supervisor who supports all HDR candidates to connect their studies, and themselves, with industry.
Siobhan is one of the few academics in the world to deliver novel fatigue management solutions for 24/7 industries through multidisciplinary research combining biology (fatigue and circadian rhythms), psychological behaviour (individual and team performance), and technology (engineering/human factors/human centre design). Through this multidisciplinary research nexus, Siobhan has attracted substantial funding from global companies including NASA and Lockheed Martin and Thales, and invitations to partner with universities and training institutions in France and the USA.
These collaborations position Siobhan to strategically develop initiatives where she has been able to encourage, train and support HDR candidates to build research partnerships with industry. Siobhan has supervised to completion 13 HDR candidates (9 PhDs and 4 Research Masters; 7 as principal supervisor) and 22 Psychology Honours students; and is currently supervising 8 HDR candidates.
Siobhan instils in her students that it was possible to do excellent research that also has purpose and impact, that industry is receptive to high-quality researchers who can ‘walk in their world’, and the importance of demonstrating the quality of researcher-industry relationships.
Siobhan has 3 primary aims in mind when supervising. They are:
1. Dedicated mentorship of candidates to develop both the practical skills and the passion to initiate and sustain productive “win-win” collaborations with industry
2. Provision of rich network-building opportunities for candidates to start building their own independent industry research collaborations
3. Academic leadership to guide HDR candidates in how to co-create outputs of significance to all parties

 

2018  ACGR Award for Excellence in
Graduate Research Leadership
Associate Professor Pia Ednie-Brown, RMIT

Professor Ednie-Brown’s leadership in Graduate Research Education  is in the maturing area of Creative Research Practice. Her role as Practice Research Symposia Director since 2016 supports her schools HDR culture and intellectual community. Two major symposia each year run for 5 days each and bring together candidates, supervisors, external supervisors and industry stakeholders, hosting up to 12 examinations and presentations and 90 + progress or milestone presentations, a keynote, workshops and a conference dinner. Through an OLT grant, she coordinated the 2016 and 2017 symposia which involved candidates and supervisors from 13 other universities.​

Professor Ednie-Brown has also initiated discursive sessions, workshops on supervisor techniques, candidates involved in international research collaborations and many more activities that have benefited candidates and the wider creative practice research community.

Professor Ednie –Brown was also part of a cross institutional OLT project iDARE which developed new approaches to ethics and research integrity training through challenges posed by creative research practice and has developed a suite of entirely new course material and initiated significant online and face to face developments in the coursework requirements for creative practice candidates.​

Another achievement is the development of the Practice Research Portal (practice-research.com). And in mid 2013 Professor Ednie-Brown introduced a new HDR selection process for her school – the “pre-application presentation” which offers an effective support mechanism for supervisors in considering new candidates.

This is just a short snapshot of her contributions and achievements … the list goes on ….

2018  ACGR Award for Excellence in
Graduate Research Supervision
Professors Kim Bennell and Rana Hinman
and Mr Tim Wrigley The University of Melbourne

Not only do Professors Bennell and Hinman and Mr Wrigley achieve excellent outcomes for their students through a thoughtful and well executed strategy for support and career development, they also provide extensive mentoring and support to less experienced supervisors, enabling and building a culture of excellence in supervision at the University and beyond.

Collectively they lead the Musculoskeletal Research Program in the Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine (CHESM) and collectively have completed 52 RHD students (28 PhD) from numerous disciplines (eg. physiotherapy, medicine, podiatry, exercise science, engineering) and countries (eg. Australia, USA, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, China). Their core supervisory model is team-based whereby students are supervised either by the three of them together or by pairs, depending on the research topic. Using this team model, they have supervised 13 Research Higher Degrees (RHDs, 11 PhD) to completion. Individually, they have also supervised many other students with different internal/external supervisors, determined by student and research needs

CHESM team includes physiotherapists, biomechanists, podiatrists, exercise scientists, engineers & doctors and additional supervisors from within CHESM are used to form supervisory panels relevant to a student’s thesis topic and  students are exposed to a vast array of research projects & design methodologies (eg lab-based biomechanical measures, qualitative studies, clinical trials, surveys, clinical guideline development etc), not just those of their supervisors.

All students supervised by this team have completed within 4-years and all theses were passed without revisions or with minor revisions.  The students have averaged 6 peer-reviewed journal articles each during their PhD candidature, all of which include one or supervisors as co-authors. And many have won awards for their PhD work.

2018 ACGR Award for Excellence in
Promoting Industry Engagement in Graduate Research
Professor Vito Mollica, Macquarie University

Professor Mollica came to academia from an industry background and almost all of his research has been in collaboration with industry partners. He truly believes that in this field of research, working on real- world problems is essential. Since 2012, he has had 6 HDR completions, all fully engaged and sponsored by industry. Currently, he leads a team of 5 HDR candidates under his direct supervision and oversees a CRC based PhD program comprising over 46 PhD students, all fully funded by industry to the tune of $2.3M per annum.

Professor Mollica says that one of his most fundamental goals is to create opportunities for HDR students to be exposed to and integrated into the research community, and also to expand their employment prospects. He aims to provide his students with the best possible platform to further build their careers beyond their HDR studies to the business community and to the higher education sector. This is evidenced by his development of research programs including (1) Management Consulting Research— A Living Case Study and (2) Master of Research; international collaboration agreements; and broad communication of research findings.

On top of this since 2012,  Professor Mollica has been Director of HDR at MGSM. This role involves significant effort in delivery of HDR commencement programs, supervisor coordination, pastoral care and strategic direction for the faculty.

He is truly an asset to Macquarie University, the industries with which he partners and the candidates that he supports and supervises.