VC’s Update – REECon, ARC Centres and VC Garden Party

11 November 2022

Hi everyone, 

Today marks 104 years since the guns fell silent at the end of the First World War. It's a reminder that peace is a historical privilege and responsibility for all of us to try to uphold.  

I don't know about you, but November is the busiest month of the year for me. Trying to get everything done before the end of the year, and then on top of that, all of the end-of-year events. One hazard of being a Vice-Chancellor, is it is your job to eat for the university. Oooof...  

Speaking of food and end of year parties, the VC Staff Garden Party is back - our first one in person event since I sprung for an Imperial (6 litre!) bottle of champagne to send off Gareth Evans in 2019. You might remember it was our last event at University House, and it was super-hot. I remember the heat, because my garage burned to the ground while we were celebrating. So, save the date - the afternoon of Friday 16 December 

For our students, I remember this time of year as always being stressful because of exams and the need to finish off the final pieces of assessments. But a glorious summer break awaits. For those who are graduating, we will be decorating the campus from Kambri to Llewellyn Hall to celebrate your achievements. For staff on campus, make sure you pop along to celebrate with the graduates - it's the most important of all our university traditions. 

For staff, students and alumni - if you want to do something different over the summer break - check out the ANU MakerSpace Kinetic project, where you can win up to $50K of funding for coming up with new innovations and ideas. Applications open at the end of November before the winners are decided in May 2023. You can join an information session on 22 or 24 November or visit the website for all the details. 

ANU has been in the middle of conversations centred around our expertise as the national university. This includes the announcement of a development and engagement program at the National Security College for Parliamentarians by the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong. I also got a chance to talk about the nuclear submarine program, how ANU can help create the huge workforce this endeavour requires. The reality is, we as a country do not currently have the skilled workers or pipeline of students to operate and build a nuclear fleet - this means building the nuclear knowledge and capability for Australia across the board; from nuclear physics, to engineering, law, policy and security to name a few.   

Finally, this fortnight, we also hosted the ANU Australian Rare Earth Element Conference (REECon).  This event brought together industry, government, and academia to help figure out how Australia can help supply the world's supply of rare earths. These are critical minerals necessary in many leading-edge technologies - especially those necessary to create a zero-GHG world.   Congratulations to Professor John Mavrogenes from RSES who has championed this work and brought this group together.  

And as we talk about the transition to a greener future, we must continue to lead by example in reducing greenhouse gases from our atmosphere. Many of you will remember ANU College of Law Professor Andrew Macintosh speaking out about serious integrity issues in Australia's carbon credit scheme earlier this year. As part of our Below Zero commitmentwe have released 17 guiding principles for carbon removalThese principles, authored by ANU experts in carbon removal, establish a rigorous standard by which ANU can buy carbon credits in the short-term before producing credits in-house via projects that are connected to ANU land, research, teaching or partnerships - a unique approach to offsetting carbon emissions in Australia. These principles highlight the role ANU seeks to play in improving carbon removal methodologies and markets and identify a range of priority co-benefit areas for projects on Australian land, including supporting First Nations' connection to Country and traditional knowledge. 

I am also delighted that ANU will play a pivotal role in eight (of the 11!) ARC Centres of Excellence announced on 4 November. This is a fantastic outcome and demonstrates the importance of academic collaboration and partnerships. Congratulations to all involved in winning ARC funding - a great achievement in itself as this is a highly competitive process. The list of ANU-involved Centres includes: 

  • ARC Centre of Excellence for Indigenous and Environmental Histories and Futures;  

  • ARC Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence Against Women;  

  • ARC Centre of Excellence for the Mathematical Analysis of Cellular Systems;  

  • ARC Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Futures;  

  • ARC Centre of Excellence for Carbon Science and Innovation;  

  • ARC Centre of Excellence for the Weather of the 21st Century;  

  • ARC Centre of Excellence in Optical Microcombs for Breakthrough Science; and  

  • ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery. 

Congratulations to everyone involved - I've been part of two Centres in my own academic career, and it's a privilege to receive funding to progress our understanding of the world around us. I am very pleased to see the broad range of fields of research recognised in this round. Congratulations to all involved.  

Most of you will know I am a long-term Twitter user, and I feel like I am watching a slow motion train wreck as this platform seems destined for wholesale collapse. So yes, I am now on Mastodon as @cosmicpinot@mastodon.nzAlso demonstrating my tech prowess, I downloaded the Cipherise app, and it then took me 23 seconds to successfully enrol in the ANU passwordless system. I already love it, so if you have not done so, I recommend you join 8,000 of your colleagues in using the authentication system of the future.   

Finally, the new ANU Reporter website launched this week. For more than 40 years, Reporter has told compelling stories from across our campus and community. The new website builds on this legacy, providing a powerful platform that highlights our unrivalled research, expertise and insights in new and exciting ways. The new website is already grabbing attention, with Senator David Pocock tweeting out an article on how our researchers are tracking down koalas in Kosciuszko National Park. And I really enjoyed the article about the names we use or are mistakenly given when we order coffee (I just go by Brian - but maybe I should be using a nom de guerre). The new website will be complemented with two print editions annually. Thank you to the ACE digital team for your work in moving ANU Reporter into this new format. 

27 degrees tomorrow! I'll be in the garden fixing a leaking irrigation pipe, spraying weeds, all before what looks like an exciting (weatherwise) Sunday.