[csaa-forum] BIG ISSUES: A JOB FOR BOUNDARY-SPANNERS
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Wed Dec 6 08:07:47 CST 2006
BIG ISSUES: A JOB FOR BOUNDARY-SPANNERS
A new report released today (Wednesday) details the benefits to Australia of
encouraging big collaborative research projects, to provide solutions to the
big problems the country faces.
These 'big issues' include caring for an aging population, maintaining water
supply, cyber crime, and aboriginal health and welfare.
The report "Collaborating across the Sectors" is published by the Council
for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS).
CHASS President Stuart Cunningham said that a new breed of researcher was
needed to find the answers.
"Australia needs what I call 'boundary spanners', researchers willing to
stretch out over the normal boundaries to work with people from other
disciplines," he said.
"It's where surgeons go to art school to sharpen up their technique. Or
scientists work with historians and lawyers to work out the best way to use
Professor Cunningham said the way researchers are organised by disciplines
hampered efforts to bring them together to work on the pressing national
"It's all the biologists in this building, the economists over there, and
the historians and lawyers somewhere else," he said. "We need them to work
together on big problems, because no single discipline has all the answers."
He said the physical separation is mirrored in funding systems.
Applications for research grants are considered by the social sciences
panel, or the biological sciences panel, or creative arts or physics panels.
"But who considers applications when a mathematician wants to work with an
artist and a doctor, on medical issues? Or an economist with environmental
scientists on water supply?
"It's always the 'boundary-spanners' who are disadvantaged, and they are the
very people who have the key to some of our most promising research," he
Professor Cunningham said the report makes five key recommendations, to
remove the institutional and funding impediments to conducting this
The report "Collaborating across the Sectors" was funded by the Commonwealth
Department of Education, Science and Training. It is available at:
For interview: Professor Stuart Cunningham 0407 195 304
For information: Toss Gascoigne 0408 704 442
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Mr Toss Gascoigne
Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS)
28 Balmain Cres, ANU, ACT, AUSTRALIA
PO Box 8157, ANU, ACT AUSTRALIA 2601
Ph: +61 2 6249 1995 OR +61 2 6230 7179
0408 704 442 (international +61 408 704 442)
Fax: +61 2 6247 4335
Email: director at chass.org.au
ABN: 75 017 337 844
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