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About the Institute of Advanced Studies

About the Institute of Advanced Studies


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The Australian National University was established in 1946 by the Commonwealth Government as Australia's only completely research-oriented university, without undergraduate facilities, to undertake "postgraduate research and study, both generally and in relation to subjects of national importance to Australia". From the beginning the University was seen as an institution which would strengthen Australia's research effort by pursuing research at the highest levels and setting new standards for research in Australia.

This unique character was modified in 1960 when teaching faculties were added through amalgamation with the Canberra University College. The result was a university with two parts: the Institute of Advanced Studies, comprising the research schools with research and graduate training responsibilities; and the School of General Studies (now known as The Faculties) comprising faculties with undergraduate and graduate teaching and research responsibilities. More recently, the Institute of the Arts has become a part of the ANU, adding yet another dimension to its structure.

The Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) is highly regarded internationally for its achievements in basic and applied research and attracts gifted researchers to work in its schools and centres as staff and visiting fellows. Several features contribute to the Institute's distinctive place in the Australian research system. It is block-funded to undertake full-time research and research training; it attracts a wide range of researchers from Australia and overseas; and it provides in one location a range of outstanding research facilities. The combination of these features offers special opportunities for research and research training. The Institute intends to continue to offer such opportunities and to extend those opportunities to the wider research community in Australia.

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The Research Schools and Centres

There are ten research schools and one research centre in the IAS:

The Asia Pacific School of Economics and Management the Centre for Cross Cultural Research, the Humanities Research Centre, the Centre for Mental Health Research and the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health are University centres with strong links to the Institute. The Mathematical Sciences Institute, with an Institute component and a Faculties component, links the Institute and The Faculties.

The Institute has been very successful in attracting Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) funding. The University is now involved in nine CRCs in the fields of robust and adaptive systems, plant sciences, optics, the control of vertebrate pest populations, advanced computational systems, research data networks, tropical savannahs, water quality and regolith studies.

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Links between the Institute and The Faculties

A unique feature of the ANU is the special relationship between The Faculties and the Institute. Although each may carry out work in different fields, the work of one part complements the work of the other. Equipment, library and other resources are shared and special joint appointments have been made in strategic areas.

The Graduate School

The Graduate School is the pre-eminent University structure for linking the Institute of Advanced Studies and The Faculties in 37 University-wide graduate programs. Each program covers the whole of the University's graduate education in the subject concerned and draws on the expertise of all the staff in that field. Students enrol in a primary program and may be affiliated with up to two other programs. In this way students have access to far greater resources than would be the case if they were enrolled in a single department, faculty or school.

Other links between the Institute and The Faculties

The University's diverse range of activities give it the capacity to rapidly mobilise researchers in synergistic endeavours in response to new opportunities, new technologies or national imperatives. Some of the over-arching programs have been recognised as 'centres without walls' and facilitate sharing of expertise and resources across disciplines in thematic joint endeavours. These programs include:

Asian Studies, which brings together the expertise and resources of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, the Faculty of Asian Studies and the Faculty of Arts to provide an important international centre for the study of Southeast Asia and East Asia;

The Astrophysical Theory Centre, a joint venture between the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Mathematical Sciences Institute, providing opportunities unique in Australia for honours students;

The Centre for Molecular Structure and Function, which involves the Research Schools of Chemistry and Biological Sciences, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, and the Faculty of Science, and aims to increase understanding of the relationship between the structure of biological macromolecules and their function;

The Centre for the Science and Engineering of Materials, which aims to facilitate interaction between ANU researchers in the Institute and The Faculties active in materials research, and to provide a focus through the Graduate School for training in the science and engineering of materials;

The Centre for Visual Sciences, which involves staff of the Research Schools of Physical Sciences and Engineering, Biological Sciences, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, and the Faculty of Science in the study of visual processing mechanisms in humans, mammals, insects and computer systems;

The Global Change Confederation, which is giving a higher profile to the established strengths at the ANU in study of climatic change and human impacts;

The Health Sciences Program, which will involve interaction between the Faculty of Science, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, the University of Canberra and the University of Sydney's Canberra Clinical School, to promote research and training in health sciences; and

The Quaternary and Regolith Studies Program, which is built on established strengths in the Research School of Earth Sciences, the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering and the Faculty of Science and has a particular focus on the integration of geologic and biotic features of the terrestrial and marine record.

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Links with other institutions

The Institute has in place a number of programs to foster interaction between the Institute and other researchers. These include:
  • the IAS-Australian Universities Research Programs Scheme involving collaboration between individual academic staff, jointly and competitively funded by the Institute and other universities and where possible by outside funds;

  • secondments of staff from other universities to the Institute, both on an ad hoc basis and as part of advertised programs;

  • collaborative research scholarships to enable research students of the highest calibre enrolled at other Australian universities to spend between 12 and 18 months of their course at the Institute; and

  • the provision of course work for PhD students from all universities these currently take the form of either intensive courses of lectures/seminars or intensive summer schools (the latter is by invitation in the fields of Physics and Earth Sciences).

In addition to these programs, there are several other ways in which the Institute interacts with researchers from other institutions. For example, the University is prepared to meet half of the costs associated with Institute staff giving lectures and seminars at other universities. There are a number of excellent facilities at the ANU, some of which have been funded as national facilities, such as the telescopes, the 14UD accelerator and the supercomputer facilities. Time is set aside on these facilities for use by non-ANU staff free of charge or on a cost recovery basis.

The University has a vigorous program for visiting fellows from other institutions in Australia and overseas financial support is provided for some of these visitors at various levels in each of the schools or centres and in The Faculties. This is one of the most valuable and stimulating forms of collaboration between University staff and academic staff from other institutions. Also, Institute staff undertake field work, visiting fellowships and study programs overseas.

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Staff in the Institute of Advanced Studies

Academic Staff

The funding of all academic staff in the Institute to undertake full time research and research training is unique in the Australian higher education system, and the Institute has been most successful in attracting staff of high calibre for continuing and fixed-term positions. About 60 per cent of the research staff of the Institute are on fixed term appointments. With this mixture of academic staff, the Institute is able to sustain innovative, long term, fundamental research programs essential to its core work on high level research training. At the same time it retains the flexibility and capacity to take advantage of opportunities in applied research.

Research Support Staff

A highly trained workforce of research support staff is critical to efficient use of resources expended on research. As of March 1999, the Institute had 445 technical staff (including research officers, research assistants, technical officers, technical assistants, engineers) and 313 administrative staff (including programmers, illustrators, publications staff, archivists and administrators) supporting its research effort. The science-based research schools maintain workshops involved in engineering specialised equipment which has in some instances led to commercialisation of the technology. Other research schools have a strong commitment to in-house publication of internationally renowned journals and monograph series.

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Governance and external advisory bodies

The Board of the Institute of Advanced Studies (BIAS) is one of the two main academic bodies that report to the Council of the University (the other being the Board of The Faculties). BIAS comprises heads of schools, representatives from the appropriate areas, and representation from the Board of The Faculties. Each research school or centre has a Faculty Board or equivalent, which advises the director of the school and BIAS on academic matters.

The Institute of Advanced Studies Research Advisory Council, comprising distinguished researchers from Australia and overseas, assists the University in achieving the objectives of the Institute and advises on the strategies and research activities undertaken in the Institute in the light of national and international priorities.

Each school and centre has a Research Advisory Board, with members drawn as appropriate from the higher education system, public and private sectors and other research institutions, including CSIRO. Research Advisory Boards assist the heads of schools and centres in achieving the objectives of the research schools and are well-informed on matters of national and international importance.

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Research Facilities

Combined with other research facilities located in Canberra in such places as the CSIRO, the National Library, the Commonwealth Archives and the War Memorial, the Institute's resources and researchers create a rich and stimulating research environment for staff, students and visitors. Some of the outstanding resources on campus are noted briefly below.

Library resources. The ANU Library collection comprises almost 2 million volumes and 11,000 serial titles. The move towards the 'virtual' Library has meant that increasingly access to scholarly information is provided via the Library web site. The move to the 'virtual' library has been significant with access provided to over 110 Electronic Databases and over 500 full-text electronic refereed academic journals.

The Library holds the most comprehensive collection of Asian scholarly material in any Australian University library. Combined with the National Library of Australia, the collections represent one of the world's major resources for the study of Asia.

Other services provided through the Library's web page are access to the Library catalogue and worldwide library catalogues, Internet and networked information services, detailed information and access to the online electronic databases and electronic journals the Library subscribes to, past examination papers, ANU theses, and subject gateways to information.

Research equipment. The range of research equipment in the Institute is both first rate and extensive. It includes, for example, a 2.3m Advanced Technology Telescope, high performance computing facilities, a SHRIMP ion microprobe, a 14UD nuclear particle accelerator and the H1-Heliac Stellarator.

Computing facilities The University has established one of the most powerful computer installations in a university environment outside the USA. Most of the facilities are available to researchers in other institutions.

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