“We are building, we are achieving” – DVCR pays tribute to staff at annual Research Weather Report


There is no doubt, it’s been a pretty tough year for research. With many research programs disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and related financial pressures impacting funding, Macquarie researchers (and the staff who support them) have had to dig deep to continue to produce the quality of research for which our University is renowned.

This perseverance was recognised earlier this month, when the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Sakkie Pretorius was joined by senior research leaders to deliver the University’s annual Research Weather Report.

Acknowledging the continuing challenges facing the research sector, Professor Pretorius said there was much hope and optimism to be gained from the success of Macquarie’s Strategic Research Framework over the last five years, and thanked Macquarie staff for their contribution to this success.

“Our publications have increased by 35 per cent, 100 per cent of our research is now rated as world class or above at two-digit level, our HDR completions have increased 89 per cent and our external research income by 76 per cent, and we’re now one of the top 200 universities in the world. These are remarkable achievements.”

Among the many highlights shared by Professor Pretorius was the University’s outstanding grant success achieved to date in 2021 (as shown in the YTD summary below). He noted that despite the difficulties of the past 18 months, the University was on track to exceed $85 million in annual external research funding for three consecutive years – demonstrating the teamwork and commitment of Macquarie academics and professional staff to nurture shared research aspirations through adversity. 

“We have a culture of consilience across Macquarie where we work very well together – it’s what differentiates us as a distinctive university,” he said. “Multidisciplinary’ and ‘interdisciplinary’ are not just catchphrases here – we live and breathe it.”


Although some research targets have been adjusted to accommodate the impacts of COVID-19, and a number of challenges still lie ahead, Professor Pretorius emphasised that Macquarie’s strong culture of consilience and innovation – supported by strategic initiatives within the Focused Investment in Research stream of the Operating Plan and the targeted use of COVID recovery support funding – would help keep the University’s research on an upward trajectory.

Ensuring learning and teaching and research imperatives are synchronised and complementary will ensure both financial sustainability and academic excellence for Macquarie moving forward, Professor Pretorius argued.


“So, we don’t have to fear the future. We are that future. We can build back better.”

Watch the full Weather Report presentation, including the Q&A session with senior research leaders:





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  1. Great to hear the 2021 Weather Report about our outstanding research achievements. Congratulations Macquarie! This is all the more remarkable at a time when academic staffing levels are being decimated.

    It is surprising, however, that the university still aspires to improve its ERA rating in Earth Sciences, an area that has been particularly hard hit by staff losses. That’s what prompted my question during the discussion at the end of the Weather Report.

    The answer that people holding honorary positions will step up is, to my mind, somewhat unsatisfactory. Honorary staff are great from an institutional perspective because they produce research output without costing anything. I’m sure there are many Earth Scientists lining up, eager to provide pro bono academic labour to a beloved institution fallen on hard times.

    But surely, if we are really serious about improving research performance in any area, isn’t the best way an investment via staff salaries?

  2. I am wondering if a more complete response will be given to the question about the ERA’s and Earth Sciences, and if the other questions raised, but not answered publicly, could be summarised and responded to within a site or “This Week”?

    Specifically, the question of ERA for Earth Science (presumably many other departments as well (cognitive science?)) goes to the fundamental point that not only has capacity been slashed, but the answer actively acknowledges that we are relying on honorary positions (volunteers) to ensure completions of HDR students, which if I remember correctly (weather report 2018 or 19) accounts for ~50-60% of first Author research across the university. This is a huge burden to place on people who are essentially volunteering to support students, and on those students who are only starting their research careers in the most trying times imaginable. It also creates a structurally unsustainable expectation of research output as those honorary positions will be likely linked to student completions (i.e. on the order of ~3 years), and are unlikely to be renewed by longer-term positions. What happens in 3 years when the ERA rounds post 2025 see the standing of previously strong research areas, that a crucial to face challenges like the climate crisis, diminish?

    Has consideration been given to planning the research strategy and areas beyond 2025 i.e. 2030 – 2050? This seems fundamental to a truly forward looking institution being successful, especially given international scientific and economic focus areas being announced for this period such as the phase out of ICE vehicles, transitions to cleaner fuel sources (ITER; renewables, hydrogen, battery etc.), and ideally net zero or better emissions (which seems likely to include Carbon-Capture-storage).

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