Science quality: Excellence recognised in latest gradings

Excellence in science and research in the public sector is measured in part by how we are judged by outsiders.

In NSW DPI, just over half of our 89 research scientists are classified as Principal Research Scientists (PRS), which is the highest classification awarded to scientists in the NSW public service.

Research scientists are assessed every three years and in the 2006 assessment round, chaired by Professor Derek Anderson, former deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, 18 DPI scientists were confirmed as worthy of the PRS classification.

At the PRS level, scientists must be assessed as having an outstanding record of achievement in scientific research, extensive research experience and a continuing national and/or international reputation.

They must also be regarded as having a significant influence on a field of science.

In this round, five scientists entered the ranks of PRS for the first time. They are:

  • Dr Graeme Eamens, virologist, Menangle
  • Dr David Jordan, microbiologist, Wollongbar
  • Dr Mark Conyers, soil scientist, Wagga Wagga
  • Dr Steven Montgomery, fisheries scientist, Cronulla
  • Dr Carolyn Raymond, forestry scientist, Tumut

The assessments are made by a high-level committee comprising senior academics from outside the NSW public service as well as senior DPI and other government scientists.

The committee commented that Dr Raymond had established “an international reputation in the field of wood and fibre properties and their influence on the quality of manufactured timber products.

Her “research output closely matches the corporate objective of maximising the recovered financial value of investment in the NSW forest estate.”

Dr Eamens’ research on infectious diseases in pigs and ruminant livestock, vaccine development and breakdown and diagnostic improvements represented “key areas of departmental interest”.

He also had earned “an international reputation for his diagnostic work on Johne’s disease”.

Dr Jordan is recognised for research into the microbiological quality of sheep and beef carcasses, and on management of food safety risks for the Australian red meat industry. He is also regarded “both nationally and internationally as an expert in the field of antimicrobial resistance.”

Dr Conyers' research into soil acidity and fertility led him to be acknowledged as “an expert of international standing”. He had proven an “ability to integrate various pieces of evidence into a coherently synthetic response to a major issue relating to agricultural management practices.”

The committee said Dr Montgomery was a valued scientist within the department who had made significant contributions in the area of wild fisheries research, supervised junior scientists and post-graduate students and attracted external grant funding.

Research scientists are assessed by the academic committee every three years and are required to demonstrate on-going scientific excellence to remain on the classification.

Other scientists to be confirmed as continuing as Principal Research Scientists were: Drs Kevin Atkins, John Nell, Ian Percival, Gary Griffith, Robert Herd, Murray Fletcher, Robert Mensah, Neal Fogarty, John Ayres, Steve Djordjevic, Peter Kirkland, Paul Arthur and Greg Lodge.