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Campus News : March 2011
www.uow.edu.au University of Wollongong Campus News March 2011 5 UOW SHINES IN NEW ERA RANKINGS FOCUS ON RESEARCH Macromolecular and materials chemistry, interdisciplinary engineering and tourism research have been singled out as among UOW's high- achieving areas following the results of the Federal Government's first Excellence in Research for Australia Initiative (ERA). UOW's standing as an international, research intensive institution has been boosted with the ERA initiative announcement by Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Senator Kim Carr. The ERA initiative assesses research quality within Australia's universities using a combination of indicators (such as publications, research income, esteem/ applied measures) and expert review by committees comprising experienced, internationally-recognised experts. ERA identifies research areas within institutions and disciplines that are internationally competitive, as well as emerging areas where there are opportunities for development and further investment. UOW was rated at or above world standard for research across a significant majority of its disciplines by the ERA initiative and received the highest possible ERA rating of 5 (well above world standard) for research quality in the areas of: • Tourism: recognising the outstanding work done by the Faculties of Commerce and Science, UOW was the only university in Australia to receive a 5-star rating in this research discipline. • Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry: UOW was the only university outside the Group of 8 to receive a 5-star rating (Faculties of Science and Engineering). • Interdisciplinary Engineering: strong research activity in the Faculties of Engineering, Science and Informatics saw UOW receive one of only two 5-star ratings awarded in this discipline. A range of UOW disciplines received a rating of 4 (above world standard) for research quality including Science, Engineering, Arts, and Creative Arts. Engineering research (rated a 4) placed equal 4th out of 31 universities in Australia, and UOW was one of only six institutions to receive the highest rating (4) for visual arts. UOW consistently places in the top 2% of world universities and among the top 10 Australian universities for Australian Research Council grant outcomes and income. "UOW has established its excellent track record as one of Australia's most research intensive universities by focusing on and developing areas of research strength," Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper said. "The 2010 ERA results confirm the success of that strategy and our standing as an internationally recognised research institution. These results will also assist UOW to identify and plan other potential research areas for further development." BG Professor Judy Raper Researchers 'crowdmap' impact of flooding As media reports emerged of rising floodwaters in Brisbane on the afternoon of 11 January Lothar Hinsche, a researcher and consultant associated with UOW's Decision Systems Lab/Centre for Software Engineering in the Faculty of Informatics, swung into action. Within 11 hours he set up the Ushahidi open source "crowdmapping" platform to obtain a spatio-temporal map of the floodwaters and their impact. "Crowdmapping" refers to the idea of generating maps (often of adverse events in disaster scenarios) by tapping into the "wisdom of the crowd". Citizen "journalists" send in SMS reports (SMS is often the last available telecommunications service when all else fails) of what they are able to observe in their current locations such as rising floodwaters, disease outbreaks or utility outages. These are translated into a web-based interactive map (which also generates alerts and permits observers to visualise the progression of these events over time). "Ushahidi" is the Swahili word for "testimony". The tool was built by community activists and used with good effect during the recent Haiti earthquakes, floods in Pakistan and the political violence in Kenya. It is maintained by a non-profit company and continues to grow through the activities of an international network of volunteers. "Efforts such as these highlight the humanitarian dimension to Informatics research. We are committed to generating important innovations in this space," said Faculty of Informatics Dean Professor Philip Ogunbona. Decision Systems Lab/Centre for Software Engineering Director Professor Aditya Ghose had discussed the Ushahidi platform and its research implications in a seminar in December. "I had no idea that we would find ourselves deploying the platform so soon in a natural disaster context," he said. The site can be seen at http://brisbaneflood.edu.ms/ BG (From left): Professor Aditya Ghose, Lothar Hinsche and Professor Philip Ogunbona pictured with the website displaying the crowdmapping platform. The University of Wollongong's SMART (Simulation, Modelling, Analysis, Research and Teaching) Infrastructure Facility has gained $250,000 in research funding from the NSW Government for ground- breaking work to inform public transport planning. Member for Keira David Campbell in February announced the funding through a research partnership between Transport NSW and SMART. SMART describes the research -- which examines how social and environmental factors have an impact on transport modal choice in Sydney's south-eastern suburbs -- as an Australian first. "The research will enable future decision-makers to ask a range of 'what if' questions by looking at the scenarios that have been modelled," Mr Campbell said. "For instance, what mode of transport would people choose if they had better access to more convenient shopping facilities or lived in medium density housing close to jobs and schools? "It's imperative that governments around Australia rise to the challenge of finding workable and sustainable solutions for growing our cities in a way that is acceptable to the community. "It's great to see this new Infrastructure Research arm of UOW undertaking work for Sydney's growth, in a collaborative way but on a commercial basis," Mr Campbell said. The prototype model developed with this funding will help equip policy makers with the next generation of planning tools to manage infrastructure projects and transport networks. The research pays special attention to transport and the impact of congestion and shifting population density on future transport choices. KM Transport NSW gets SMART