Research Edge

February 2016 - Issue 8
The trade-off: search results for personal information

The trade-off: search results for personal information

Do you know how much and what kind of personal information you are trading each time you search for results online?

Anisha Fernando is a PhD student from the School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences researching ways to manage the flow of personal data in web searches whilst empowering users.

Recently presenting at the annual Australian Internet Governance Forum in Melbourne, Anisha talked about Internet technology that is inclusive without being invasive.

“Privacy is something we expect and it’s something we don’t miss until we lose it,” she says.

“The context is changing and having accesses to data and control of it has evolved.

“Now it’s about understanding what are the instances in which we share data and when is it sensitive and when is it not.”

“I’m working to understand what people think about privacy and how do their privacy expectations match up with their values, because there seems to be a gap in how technology meets our expectations.”

“We need to know what privacy-centric values to embed in the design of technology,” Anisha says.

Supervised by Assoc. Prof. Helen Ashman at the University of South Australia, Anisha’s interests include privacy, personal data, search, personalisation and user experience.

The three-year project is funded by a 2012 grant from the .au Domain Association Foundation, held by Helen Ashman, Tina Du and Kirsten Wahlstrom at the School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences. This grant from the auDA Foundation enabled Anisha to work with internationally renowned researchers in personalisation - Prof Vincent Wade at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and Dr. Tim Brailsford at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus.

“These collaborative research visits were really interesting learning experiences in my PhD journey,” Anisha says.

“I broadened my knowledge about my research topic and methods, experienced different research cultures and learnt from different experts in my research area, given the interdisciplinary nature of my research.

“There’s a lot of work being done on people’s attitudes towards privacy in the US and with strong data protection legislation in Europe.

“But in Australia at present, there isn’t much work done on assessing expectations about privacy, particularly around search.

“So by looking at how personal data flows online and mapping the expectations that people have, I hope to bring these two disparate, but important aspects together,” says Anisha.

Anisha ran controlled experiments to look at how people search online followed by a recent survey online to capture people’s privacy expectations.

“From literature we know that there are different types of attitudes people have towards privacy,” Anisha says.

“Generally, there are three different types: people who are really concerned, people who are not so concerned and people who say they don’t mind sharing information if they benefit in some way.

“I ran a set of controlled experiments, exploring how people search using popular search terms like Grumpy Cat, Nelson Mandela and FIFA World Cup, and automated a search script that ran search queries using these search terms across commercial search engines like Google and privacy-enhanced search engines like DuckDuckGo.

“I looked at what data is actually transferred online, which of that information contains personal-identifiable information and which of those actually impact the relevance of those search results.

“We can infer that not all of the information that we transfer is necessary to get a search result that we are happy with,” says Anisha.

Anisha explains that clearing cookies, browser history or removing personally-identifiable data can still provide satisfactory search results without compromising your privacy.

“Cookies are set to identify a person,” Anisha says.

From a business point of view, there are commercial interests in identifying people. “For example if person x is searching for the lowest price on an airfare, it is highly likely commercial organisations know person x is searching for this.”

“So the next time you go back to that site, that cookie is sent back saying person x searched for this previously.”

“So, I’m trying to understand how people actually value their privacy, in what form and what kind of interventions in terms of technology design do we need to be aware of so that we have privacy embedded into the design.”

“It’s about looking at how privacy values can be embedded in the design of technology that competes with other values.”

“We want to share, we want it to be convenient, we don’t want to put too much effort in and still get the results we need.”

“It’s about exploring what are the ways we can balance those competing interests and values,” says Anisha.

An advocate for girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Anisha led the Adelaide Girl Geek Coffees chapter from 2013-2015.

“The core vision of this initiative, across Australia and international chapters, according to founder Miriam Hochwald is to create interpersonal support and a networking space to discuss the challenges facing girls and women in STEM and other related STEM topics.”

“Being a woman in technology, I've found having access to support for learning and development is valuable. By volunteering to lead a chapter, organise networking and mentoring events, and collaborate with industry and university partners, it was rewarding to see others have similar positive and enriching experiences through these interactions. This was a good way to get involved with and contribute to the local STEM community,” says Anisha.

To find out more about Anisha’s research on privacy and about participating in the project, visit the project website here.

UniSA PhD student Wesley McTernan

Smart oil based drug formulations win Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship

Tahnee Dening’s research into improving the oral absorption of antipsychotic medications for schizophrenic patients has won her an Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship. The internationally competitive, merit-based scholarship funded by the Australian Government will support Tahnee’s PhD research at Lundbeck, a global pharmaceutical company in Denmark. The Minister for International Education, Richard Colbeck awarded Tahnee and 30 other recipients at an official dinner held at the National Museum of Australia in a recent trip to Canberra.

“We visited Parliament House and watched Question Time before a meet and greet with the Minister for International Education and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,” Tahnee says.

“We had some photos taken, and had a group chat with Mr Turnbull for 5 or 10 minutes – he was very charismatic and friendly.

“The Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham also randomly popped down to say hello, after hearing our voices in the courtyard,” says Tahnee.

Tahnee, a PhD student with the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences is working on the development of smart oil-based tablets/capsules for poorly water-soluble antipsychotic drugs.

The majority of antipsychotic drugs are poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract after oral dosing as a tablet or capsule due to their low solubility in the watery gastrointestinal environment, and Tahnee’s research therefore aims to increase their absorption and effectiveness to improve the treatment of schizophrenia.

“Several drugs show improved oral absorption when they are taken with food, which led scientists to understand that the fats and oils from food can help dissolve poorly water-soluble drugs, therefore enabling a greater extent of absorption and increased treatment efficacy,” Tahnee says.

“We can take this knowledge and develop tablet or capsule formulations which contain drug dissolved in pharmaceutical grade oils – these formulations then “mimic” the natural food effect and increase the absorption of the drug.

“Because antipsychotic drugs are poorly absorbed orally, if we can increase their oral absorption, we can also increase their effectiveness. The main issue with some of the antipsychotic drugs, however, is that they show this “food effect”, where they must be taken with food by the patient to allow enough drug to be absorbed and be effective at controlling the patient’s symptoms.

“Schizophrenic patients are notoriously non-compliant with their medication use.

“If the patient sometimes takes the drug with food, sometimes takes it without food – this can make it hard to achieve the correct dose, and can result in either under dosing (lack of efficacy) or over dosing (risk of side effects).

“If we can take away the need for these patients to take their medicine with food, their treatment will likely be more effective as they can take it with food, or without food, and get the same level of (optimised) drug absorption and efficacy/symptom control every time.”

Presently she is working on developing various smart oil-based formulations and undertaking studies to characterise these formulations and investigate how they impact drug dissolution and the processes of lipid digestion within the gastrointestinal tract.

Tahnee will have developed and optimised the smart hybrid oil-based formulations before heading to Lundbeck, Denmark to test in animals in November 2016.

“Whilst we can gain an idea of how the formulations might work when dosed orally by doing various studies in the lab, the gold standard is to obviously test them in animals.

“This gives us real data showing that these formulations either do or don’t work.

“The in vivo studies in rats will form the major and most significant part of my Endeavour programme at Lundbeck.

“Here, we will orally dose a number of the developed formulations to rats, and measure the concentration of drug in the blood over time.

“Importantly, we can investigate a number of different formulations, and this allows us a really amazing opportunity to compare and understand why each formulation performs as it does.

“We also dose pure drug and commercial product, which serve as control groups for us to compare against.

“From the blood samples, we can measure the extent of drug absorption, but we can also look more specifically at other parameters too – how quickly or slowly is the drug absorbed, what is the maximum concentration that is reached in the blood?

“If promising results are obtained, then we can consider patenting and progressing the formulations for potential commercial application and use in humans,” says Tahnee.

By designing smart oil-based formulations with certain performance characteristics Tahnee says the potential for using these formulations with other drugs is also promising.

“It is estimated that approximately 70% of all new drug candidates coming out of drug discovery pipelines may be considered as poorly water-soluble (as well as 40-70% of all current drug products on the market) – and these drugs therefore pose significant oral delivery challenges,” Tahnee says.

“If we can develop new oral formulations for these drugs which increase their absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, then we can potentially “save” a number of these abandoned new molecules which may end up being highly effective drugs for various diseases.

Tahnee’s interest in pharmaceutical science stemmed from enjoying chemistry in high school.

Graduating from Kangaroo Inn Area School, in South Australia’s Limestone region, Tahnee went on to complete a double degree in Pharmacy (Honours) and Pharmaceutical Science at UniSA.

“After graduating in 2012, I spent the next year working at the Repatriation General Hospital in Daw Park as an Intern Pharmacist,” Tahnee says.

“Then I came back to UniSA to do my PhD under the supervision of Prof Clive Prestidge at the Ian Wark Research Institute after getting my general registration as a Pharmacist.”

Tahnee says the Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship gives her the opportunity to conduct world-class studies at Lundbeck, increasing her experience and knowledge for the future.

Although she is not sure if she will stay in academia or work in industry, Tahnee hopes to have a career in research.

“The programme at Lundbeck will give me some experience in the pharmaceutical industry and hopefully help me decide which direction I’d like to go in.” says Tahnee.

“I’ve been at UniSA since leaving high school, so my current plan is to probably head overseas for a couple of years post-PhD and get some experience (and travel!).

“When I come back to Australia, I’d love to apply for a National Health and Medical Research Council or Australian Research Council fellowship.

“My supervisors, Prof Clive Prestidge, Dr Shasha Rao and Dr Nicky Thomas have all been a wonderful support to me during my PhD so far, and I would never have gotten this Endeavour scholarship without their help!

“The two days in Canberra was fantastic and the other scholarship winners were amazing and intelligent individuals.

“I think we are really lucky and I have made some lifelong friends because of it.”

Applications for the 2017 round of Endeavour Scholarships opens in April 2016 – click here to find out how you can apply.

Erin McGillick

Start working on your Maurice de Rohan application

The Maurice de Rohan International Scholarship offers Australian PhD students the opportunity to gain an international perspective and improve their thesis through research, data collection or work with institutional or industry partners in the UK or USA.

The scholarship, worth $17,500, covers associated expenses and provides a living allowance for your time overseas.

2015 recipient Ms Ivana Stankov, a School of Health Sciences PhD student, travelled to the United States to enhance her research into the complex relationship between the built environment, people and their health. Further details about her experience and how she has benefited from the scholarship are available here.

Applications for the 2016 scholarship close on 15 April and require some preparation, so make sure that you thoroughly read the requirements and allow enough time to apply.

Visit the Maurice de Rohan International Scholarship webpage for further details on eligibility and how to apply.

Lanoi Maloiy

Turn your research into a start up with Venture Catalyst funding

Does your research have commercial potential?

Do you have a great idea or an existing company that needs a financial injection to turn into Adelaide's next start up?

Come along to the Venture Catalyst Pitching and Information Session to maximise your chance of becoming our next Venture Catalyst winner and recipient of up to $50,000 seed funding.

Venture Catalyst is a UniSA initiative to transform business ideas into reality. It is open to all entrepreneurs, provided at least one UniSA student is part of the team.

If you have an idea for a start-up and need cash injection, a team, brilliant advice or dedicated workspace, come along to find out more. It is also a great opportunity to develop your entrepreneurial skills and kick start your business idea!

In this information/pitching session, you can:

  • Learn about the start-up network in Adelaide
  • Hear from previous Venture Catalyst winners
  • Learn how the Venture Catalyst Seed Fund can help turn your ideas into reality
  • Be able to pitch your idea to the audience and maybe form a team!
  • Network amongst like-minded entrepreneurs
Information session date: Friday 18 March
Time: 5-8pm (presentation & information, pitching & networking sessions)
Location: Innovation & Collaboration Centre – Catherine Helen Spence building – UniSA City West Campus

For more information on the Venture Catalyst Seed Fund visit

To register for the information session click here.

Refresh your training in Animal Ethics

The University, along with other institutions in the City East precinct, is hosting a training day in Animal Ethics on Thursday 14 April 2016.

The morning session is for all staff and research degree students who are or will be using animals for research or teaching, and have not attended an animal ethics course in South Australia in the last five years. First-time animal users are expected to attend this course at the earliest opportunity.

The afternoon session is aimed at experienced researchers – for example those who are named as primary applicants or co-applicants on funding applications, or are group/team leaders, or have responsibility for the conduct of projects and/or supervision and training of other applicants. Primary applicants and co-applicants are required to complete a refresher course every three years.

Register online for either or both courses before 11 April 2016

Time:8:30am - 1pmThe Use of Animals in Science, Ethical Considerations
  2pm - 4pm Animal Ethics Professional Development (Refresher Course)
Location: Bonython Hall, University of Adelaide
Enquiries: please contact the UniSA Animal Ethics Committee:

Travel with the Lady Anita Smith Overseas Study Sponsorship

Are you interested in up to $15,000 of support towards your research project?

The Lady Anita Smith Overseas Study Sponsorship provides opportunities for research degree students who are conducting research on aerospace-related topics to travel overseas to a university or company for further research.

The sponsorship will provide funding towards:

  • Gaining industry or academic experience at an institution or company of their choice where the work performed will enhance and form an integral part of the PhD program
  • Travel overseas for a period between 3 and 12 months
  • A stipend to assist with living expenses and travel costs

Travel to conferences to present a refereed conference paper may also be included.

The sponsorship is available to Australian PhD students who are normally in their second or early third year of candidacy (or an equivalent period part-time). For further information on eligibility and how to apply visit the sponsorship’s webpage

For enquiries regarding the sponsorship contact

Applications close on 1 March 2016 so act quickly!

Managing your research data

Effective data management is an essential part of every research project. Funding bodies are also placing more emphasis in this area by requesting data management information in grant applications.

The Library is offering seminars that provide an introduction to Research Data Management, discuss Data Management Planning and the support available at UniSA in more detail. Researchers, research support staff, research degree students and anyone else interested in Research Data Management should attend these seminars.

The 1 hour seminar will cover:

  • An introduction to Research Data Management
  • What to include in a grant application
  • An introduction to Data Management Planning and how to create a plan
  • The support tools and services available at UniSA and from external support agencies such as the Australian National Data Services (ANDS)

Seminars are being held at the following locations:

Campus Date Time
Whyalla 17 February 3.30-4.30pm
Mawson Lakes 19 February 9.30-10.30am
City East 25 February 9.30-10.30am
City West 11 April 12-1pm
Magill 8 April 9.30-10.30am

Register online to attend this useful seminar.

Video conferencing is available for the Whyalla, Mawson Lakes and City East campuses. Recordings of the seminars at the City East, City West and Magill campuses will be available.

Choosing the right journal for your research

Sharing your research with the world is key to the progress of your discipline and career. But with so many publications available, how can you be sure you can trust a particular journal?

Think. Check. Submit is a campaign to help researchers identify trusted journals for their research. It involves a simple checklist that you can use to assess the credentials of a journal or publisher.

Visit the Think. Check. Submit website to access the checklist along with some handy FAQs on publishing your research.

Free NVivo updates now available

NVivo is a software package which helps you access, manage, shape and analyse detailed qualitative data.

Online NVivo workshops are available to UniSA students and staff at no cost. More information about the workshops, including how to register, is available here.

To help you accomplish more in your research, NVivo 11 has been released for Windows and Mac users. Find out more about these updates for Windows and Mac

If you would like to upgrade to an NVivo Plus licence to access these updates please contact the IT Helpdesk on 08 8302 5000 or

Update for Supervisors


Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCiD) is a free, internationally recognised, non-profit registry system. It allows you to:

  • create a profile with a unique, digital persistent identifier to easily distinguish yourself from other researchers
  • showcase your research publications
  • integrate your ResearcherID and Scopus profiles together

ORCiDs are increasingly being used by funding bodies and journal publishers as a way to identify researchers. You may be required to add your ORCiD when submitting papers with some publishers or applying for certain grants.

To learn more about ORCiD and how it can benefit you click here

Fee relief and completion scholarships

A reminder that applications for these scholarships close on 28 February

Find out more about fee relief and completion scholarships

Update for Administrators

Candidature workshops

Graduate Research – Candidature are offering training sessions for staff that are involved with research degree students. The session provides information to assist a student during their candidature and covers:

  • funding opportunities
  • forms required for processing variations
  • reviews of progress
  • scholarship and thesis examination process
  • the Research Student Administration system in Medici.

Due to the large number of changes affecting a student’s candidature, all staff involved with research degree students are recommended to attend a session.

Date Time Location
1 March 2016 9.30am - 12.00pm City West, GK2-13
10 March 2016 9.30am - 12.00pm City West, GK2-13
15 March 2016 2.00pm - 4.30pm City West, GK2-13

Contact to register your interest

Fee relief and completion scholarships

A reminder that applications for these scholarships close on 28 February

Find out more about fee relief and completion scholarships

Demi Gao

Quick facts

> Orientation for new students will be held on Tuesday 23 February - register now

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