5th PIURN Conference creates new partnerships and explores research interests


Over 200 delegates gathered in the Cook Islands on Tuesday (July 4, 2023) to participate in the three-day 5th Pacific Islands Universities Research Network (PIURN) Conference.

The conference focused on “Exploring this Sea of Islands”, engages the work of one of the Pacific’s most revered academics, Epeli Hau’ofa and highlights the diversity of research in the region.

Addressing the delegates at the opening of the conference hosted by The University of the South Pacific (USP) Cook Islands and Te Puna Vai Marama (Cook Islands Centre for Research), PIURN Conference Co-Chair, the president of the University of New Caledonia, Professor Catherine Ris said the network has “built a culture of research in the region, overcoming geographical, languages and cultural barriers, to connect Pacific Island countries and territories through collaborative projects, biannual conferences and regional academic initiatives.”

She added, “The 5th PIURN Conference is a unique opportunity to create new partnerships, start a conversation on research interests, and get to know each other better as our ocean connects us all. Regional cooperation is more important than ever.”

The three-day conference brought together Pacific Universities from Papua New Guinea to Samoa, French Polynesia to Fiji, Solomon Islands to Vanuatu, and colleagues from neighbouring universities in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.

With numerous themes, the conference demonstrates the uniqueness of the state of research in the Pacific and the profusion of knowledge, traditional and scientific.

In his capacity as Co-Chair of the PIURN Conference, USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia paid homage to one of USP’s founding scholars, the late Professor Epeli Hau’ofa’s work, “but I am drawn to one of his many legacies, and that is: an inclusive Oceanian identity!”

Professor Ahluwalia also remembered “the late Dr Marjorie Crocombe’s immense contribution to her beloved country and our region. Marjorie and her late husband, Ron, were founding staff members of USP, and both have left indelible imprints on our fabric as a regional institution of higher learning and research.”

“For us, having so many scholars of the Pacific coming together to share their research offers the opportunity for each of us to connect, support, and, as Hau’ofa puts it: to ‘transcend all forms of insularity, to become one that is openly searching, inventive and welcoming’,” he added.

The Pacific Islands Universities Research Network has implemented 17 collaborative projects since its inception in 2013, including a documentary, Nations of Water, on climate-induced migration.

Marking the 10-year anniversary of PIURN is a stepping stone for the network with its now 15 members from across the region; the conference consolidates the common achievements and anticipates the challenges that await the future of our ‘Sea of Islands’.

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