Professor Ciro Rico and Dr Susanna Piovano were among the South Pacific Coastal Shark Conservation Research Programme team members that received the 2017 Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for Research Impact.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) hosted the 7th Research Excellence and Innovation Awards Evening at the Laucala Campus on 16 November 2018.
More than 100 academic staff were recognised for their research outputs that were published in highly-ranked outlets in 2017; including A*, A and B-ranked journals, books and book chapters.
USP also recognised inventions that received patent certification through the Patent Rewards.A total of 70 A/A* publications and 112 B-ranked publications were awarded including the registration of three patents in the area of Engineering and IT.
Professor Derrick Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation & International) said this year’s publication successes reflected the effectiveness of USP’s research strategy in delivering on the University’s ambitious Strategic Plan objectives for research.
This year, the Research Office embarked on a University-wide consultation to gain feedback on the success, challenges and lessons learnt of implementing the Quality of Research (QOR) policy in the last three years, the impact of which will determine the way forward for appropriately measuring and evaluating the research performance of its staff for the next triennium.
“This will ensure that we strengthen the capacity of our researchers as well as enhance the quality of research that contributes to the region’s social, economic and environmental development,” he said.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President, said while it is an important occasion for people who publish ranked journals and produce research of outstanding impact, it also celebrates and recognises innovation.
He noted that one significant feature of the event is that students were among the awardees, “so we can see the scope of how far the University can go in the future if most of our students do this”.
“We have indeed come a long way and we also celebrate the fact that over the entire publications of the University over the 50 years, 63 per cent has been produced in the last decade,” he noted.
“This is a true measure of how transformational this effort has been and 73 per cent of the entire output of ranked publications have come during the last 10 years. This is a celebration of a whole journey,” he added.
According to Professor Chandra, the Research Office spent close to a quarter of a million dollars on the rewards system which is a good indication of the priorities of the University.
Chief Guest Professor Alan Peter France, based in the University of Auckland, said it was an exciting opportunity to see the journey USP is taking and where it is in the process.
“We have been developing internally a whole lot of practices and strategies towards improving research excellence and it is an opportunity to share that with you,” he stated.
He stressed the need to have an institutional vision and plan about how to help colleagues increase the quality and impact of their research.
Professor France also talked about the need to have clear leadership from the top.
“Not only is this about role models and having research active staff in key leadership roles, which is of course very important but it is also about setting out clear expectations so staff know what is expected of them in being ‘research active,’ “ he said.
Furthermore, he elaborated on the need to draw on the wealth of talent and experience in our universities especially amongst senior colleagues.
“As Professors and Associate Professors we have a responsibility to help the next generation. We know that life as a scholar has changed dramatically and the pressure they are under to perform at all levels has been increasing,” he noted.
Professor France also emphasised the importance of developing a positive and creative research culture amongst disciplines, schools, research centres and faculties.
“Such a culture should be supportive and encouraging, giving recognition and reward for success but also one that provides opportunities for collaborations and to build productive networks both within and outside the university,” he stated.
Additionally he talked on the importance of promoting one’s work not just at an institutional level but also at the international and global level.
“If your work is to get the global recognition it deserves, if it is going to make an impact beyond these shores, then there is a need to explore ways that will increase the international profile of your work. In this internet age there are many opportunities to do this,” he said.
The VC Prizes awardees were as follows:
• Best Student Research – Ms Avnita Goundar;
• Best Research Output – Jointly awarded to Professor Mohammed Rafiuddin Ahmed and Sandeep K. Patel; and Dr Apisalome Movono;
• Research Impact – South Pacific Coastal Shark Conservation Research Programme, Team members include: Professor Ciro Rico, Dr Susanna Piovano, Kerstin Glaus and Celso Calwich with special acknowledgement to Dr Cara Miller and Dr Amandine Marie; and
• Innovation – Jointly awarded to 1) USP MBA Programme, Graduate School of Business and 2) Braille Eye-Slate, Mr Nikhil Singh, Mr Vinaal Prakash and Dr Utkal Mehta, with special acknowledgement to Ms Monika Koroi
The three patents awarded were the Emi Sensor for Non-Destructive Corrosion Estimation in Concrete; Footsteps waste energy harvesting system using hydro generator; and My Kana, a mobile app to promote healthy eating in the South Pacific.
A special feature of this year’s awards is the Pacific Islands Transport Exposition Research grant by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is one area where USP has made a major impact in the region.
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