Guest Blogger: Australia & The USA: So Far, Yet So Close? (Part One)

[As part of our efforts to interact with Research Administration personnel across the world, BloggingORA will occasionally feature posts written by colleagues at other institutions.  Today’s Guest Bloggers are our first authors to hail from outside of the United States, specifically Australia: Julie Ward, from The University of New South Wales; Bryony Wakefield, from The University of Melbourne; and Sue O’Brien, from The University of Queensland.]

Part One of Three

A small contingent of Australians attended the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) annual meeting in Washington, DC, in November 2012.  Though we have all worked in research management for some time, the three of us had not previously met, as we all reside in different states along the east coast, working in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Not only was NCURA a great platform to meet fellow Australians and international colleagues, but it also sparked many a conversation regarding the similarities and differences between Australia and the USA – in both everyday life and our working lives.  Consequently, we thought being guest bloggers for JHSPH would be a great way to share our Aussie perspective.

We’ll start with the similarities:  The USA and Australia have roughly the same land size; are both English speaking nations; use the term ‘$’ for currency; are democratic nations with multi-cultural populations; have major resources in agriculture and mining; and have numerous plants and animals that are unique to our nations. And, both were once settled by the English and used to exile convicts from England!

Then there are the differences, some minor, some more significant:  In Australia, we drive on the left hand side of the road (which we say is the ‘right’ side!) and use the metric rather than imperial measuring system. The US is a republic whilst Australia is a constitutional monarchy, and voting is compulsory in all Australian local, state & federal elections. Whilst our countries are roughly the same size, our populations are dramatically different. In America, there are over 313 million people, in Australia a mere 23 million people – that’s around the population of the State of New York! Due to our geographic locations in opposing hemispheres, we have opposite seasons. And, unlike in the USA, Australians for the most part reside in coastal regions with vast tracts of the ‘centre’ (as we call it) almost completely uninhabited.

Despite these differences, we share much mutual ground in our working lives in the higher education sector, as we found out at NCURA. We each take pride in our higher education systems and have equivalent national funding streams (though very different independent funding streams). Both nations also produce world class researchers and research. And behind the scenes at our Universities is ‘us,’ the research administrators.

As research administrators in both countries, we are all seeking to achieve the same outcomes: best practice in pre and post award administration, strong governance and integrity in policies and procedures, accurate financial and government reporting, adherence to legal and ethical requirements and of course, whole-heartedly supporting and promoting our researchers and their research.

[Stay Tuned For Parts Two And Three!]