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Director's Review of 2010


It has been a real pleasure for me to assume the Directorship of the Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES) on February 1, 2010, and to have the opportunity to work with and lead such an outstanding group of people. Whenever I travel or talk to people outside of RSES, I am constantly reminded of the esteem with which our School and colleagues are held within the University, throughout Australia and the rest of the world. The number of major prizes, fellowships of learned societies, publications, citations of publications and grant funding successes during 2010, and the ongoing achievements of our education programs, only serve to reinforce my view of the exceptional quality of activity within the RSES.

The biggest strategic challenge that I face as Director of RSES is to maintain and enhance the reputation of the School. Over the next 5-10 years, we are likely to see significant staff turnover with the impending retirement of some of the School's most distinguished scientists. Performance benchmarks within RSES are exceptionally high and these standards will only be maintained or enhanced if we can attract scientists of outstanding promise to the RSES. To this end, we have embarked upon a recruitment process to attract high-calibre early career individuals to the School. The aim is to renew our staffing profile and to give our new recruits the freedom and opportunity to establish their research activities within the School to enable a smooth transition during this phase of anticipated staff turnover.

This year has been a demanding one in many ways. I have had to rapidly familiarize myself with new names, faces and activities of not only RSES colleagues, but also of the major players within the University and the broader Australian science and policy landscape. In addition, one of my priorities is to consolidate all of the research and teaching activities of the recently merged School so that all staff are co-located within the Jaeger complex rather than being separately housed in two major sites across the ANU campus. The Vice-Chancellor has provided funding for a new 3-storey building that will enable co-location of colleagues and students from Building 47, provide significant teaching space, house much of the School's administrative functions, and that will also provide a clear front entrance to the School for the first time in its history. Progressing to preliminary sketch plans and through the various subsequent design and approval stages has been a major activity during 2010. Tangible evidence of progress was achieved at the end of 2010 with demolition of the former Old Hospital Building (B Block) and preparation of the site for excavation and construction early in 2011. The new building is scheduled for completion by the end of 2011 with occupancy in time for the beginning of the 2012 academic year. Construction of an environmentally sustainable, attractive and modern building will significantly enhance the Jaeger complex, and will benefit the full range of School activities.

Other significant developments have started in 2010, and will continue into 2011. We have embarked upon a curriculum review with the intention of developing an undergraduate Earth science program with a stronger emphasis on quantitative skills and with broader scientific underpinning in addition to the excellent Earth science training that we already provide. We are also continuing to involve more academic staff in the undergraduate program, which is helping to spread teaching loads across the merged School and is exposing our students to a wider range of people and their expertise. Colleagues are also working hard to diversify their sources of research funding, which is providing more opportunities to carry out world-leading research and is supporting the training of PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. In 2011, we also intend to engage more actively with our alumni as we head toward the School's 40th anniversary celebrations in 2013.

In closing, I extend my thanks to all RSES colleagues for their efforts during 2010. Much hard work has gone into the many outstanding successes that have been earned and enjoyed this year. I am also grateful for the assistance provided to me by so many during my first year as Director of RSES. I look forward to seeing the School progress from strength to strength during the term of my Directorship.

Prof. Andrew P. Roberts
Director, RSES