Research Edge

October 2016 - Issue 11
Sowing the seed for improved farming techniques

Linguistics researcher recognised with national award

Dr Fiona O’Neill has been awarded the 2016 Michael Clyne prize for the best postgraduate research thesis in Australia in the area of immigrant bilingualism and language contact. Michael Clyne (1939 – 2010) was a highly regarded scholar in the field of linguistics both in Australia and internationally. His research contributed to understandings of how language is critical to the ways in which people can participate and belong in society.

This prestigious award is jointly administered by the Australian Linguistics Society (ALS) and the Applied Linguistics Association of Australia (ALAA). Fiona has been awarded a $1,000 cash prize and $500 towards travel costs to present her research at the ALAA/ALS conference in December this year at Monash University.

Fiona’s research explored how multilingual French-speaking professionals from a range of professions make sense of and manage their experience of moving between their languages and cultures in their social and professional lives. Her research has been recognised for its innovative methodology and theorisation, and it has contributed to the first fine-grained account of how multilingual professionals experience, manage and draw on their intercultural experience, not only to manage the challenges, but to create opportunities for how they live and work.

As a recipient of a UniSA Vice Chancellor and President’s scholarship, she was able to study in French at the Sorbonne for a month during her PhD. Interview data in both French and English were collected from her participants, and their multilingual narratives about their experience of relocating to live and work in Australia were analysed taking a dialogical approach.

This approach focused not only on what, but also how and why the participants’ narratives were constructed in certain ways. In particular, her research focused on the processes these people invoke to manage the limiting effects of social discourses around what it means to be both multilingual and migrant in Australia.

Fiona’s research findings highlight the intersubjectivity of such people’s multilingual experience, in particular how as professionals they must constantly interpret how others are making sense of them, how they manage assumptions and stereotypes in interactions that are often sustained by monolingual and monocultural attitudes in the workplace and beyond, and how they develop their linguistic and cultural repertoires to find ways of participating and belonging socially and professionally on their own terms.

Having taught English to overseas professionals for over ten years, and majoring in applied linguistics and French at UniSA, Fiona is interested in how language and culture matter in both profound and practical ways for such people.

“Today’s globalised, interconnected world is characterised by human mobility on a grand scale, and increasingly many people find themselves working and communicating with others beyond their primary language and culture, in highly complex contexts of linguistic and cultural diversity.”

“From job interviews and working in diverse teams, to ‘small talk’ at work, I’m aware of the powerful role of language for professionals who relocate to live and work in an environment dominated by English, as they find themselves not only learning vocabulary and grammar, but also learning how and who to be and belong in a new language and culture.”

“I think my PhD experience, in particular the quality of my supervision by Dr Jonathon Crichton and Professor Tony Liddicoat, really contributed to this outcome. Having both of my supervisors being senior members of the Research Centre for Languages and Cultures, and being able to participate in the life and work of this Centre with researchers recognised both nationally and internationally in their field, while undertaking my doctoral studies, certainly made the difference”.

Fiona continues to be an active member of the Research Centre for Languages and Cultures where she works with colleagues on research projects that explore how people engage with diversity in social, professional and educational settings.

She is currently working with industry partners in the residential aged care sector on a project funded by an Innovative Practice Grant from SafeWork SA. One of the outcomes of the project is to develop, in collaboration with the aged care providers and industry bodies, an innovative training resource for the communication of safety and care for professionals working together in highly diverse teams with clients who themselves come from diverse linguistic, cultural and faith-based backgrounds.

Enabling creativity and innovation in the workforce

Enabling creativity and innovation in the workforce

Innovation is often understood as the conscious effort of bringing new ideas together in a way that creates a valuable outcome or impact and can be thought of as the progress made through the generation of new ideas, products or services that meet new requirements or social needs.

It has been identified as a key driver of organisational productivity and growth and an essential capability to cope with the frequent changes in the situational and economic pressures of a modern business environment.

Creativity and innovation are important as they specifically enable workers to produce more without working harder, or longer. Therefore, the effectiveness with which organisations translate their workforce’s innovation ‘potential’ into ‘performance’ has a direct impact on productivity.

Creativity and innovation are core to engineering work and key capabilities for the development of future science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforces. There is a pressing need for a greater scientific understanding of the conditions that support sustainable, repeatable innovation in engineering firms so activities that target improvements can be reliably targeted and implemented.

“Being creative involves extra work, it’s easier to do things the way they’ve always been done to maintain the status quo. Previous research has shown whilst innovation drives higher organisational performance, high performing organisations aren’t necessarily innovative. Applying the traditional high performance workforce practices is not sufficient to reliably improve innovation.”

Natalie Francis’ PhD aimed to further understand the workforce and people practices that enable innovation within engineering organisations, including catalysing factors. Her research took a scientific approach by using international benchmarks, to reliably assess workforce characteristics associated with creativity and innovation.

The use of internationally benchmarked items specific to innovation enabled participating organisations competing in the global supply chain to understand how they measured against global workforce standards. Eleven engineering organisations were examined over a twelve month period to identify what specifically led to higher creativity and innovation in engineers.

The assessment methods that Natalie applied in her research have been recognised by the Australian Psychological Society, in that she was shortlisted as a finalist at the national Workplace Excellence Awards last year.

“My research found a climate of continuous learning combined with time pressure appears fundamentally important for creative accomplishment in an engineering workforce. A work climate of continuous learning directly supported creativity, and perceived time pressure had an amplification effect on creativity. Continuous learning climates allow engineers to build, adapt, and recombine knowledge to generate creative solutions and adding time pressure appears to have a focusing effect for the learning.”

“This suggests creativity can flourish with moderate levels of complex work under pressure when the work climate supports informal and formal continuous learning opportunities. One of the primary implications from this study is that organisational agility and responsiveness can act to enable not only quicker solutions, but also better, more innovative solutions. Time pressure is not just making things quicker, it is also making the solutions better quality.”

Natalie’s interest in innovation originated from her work in healthcare.

“I became interested in the idea of innovation initially through my work in health policy where I was working with health professionals on how new or more sustainable models of health care delivery could be created. Really great ideas came through from individual doctors or nurses but the challenge is to build and scale these ideas to achieve system level change.”

“Not all problems require creative or innovative solutions but when they do, should we be approaching these differently? As a practitioner and researcher, understanding what evidence existed around innovation was a logical first step, which eventually led to my PhD.”

“As I researched how new ideas were developed, creativity became an important area to understand. In particular the cognitive processes related to idea generation and refinement, and the role of the work environment as an enabler, catalyser or impediment to creativity in the workforce.”

“My research was unique because it looked at how new ideas could be generated that were relevant to workers specific job roles, for example that computer scientists were not just feeling like they were being creative or producing creative work, but were actually generating new ideas about computing.”

“For an idea to be creative it must be novel AND useful. Whilst people may generate novel ideas, usefulness is harder so measuring ideas that are related to peoples work is really important to determine the creative effort.”

Having now completed her PhD, Natalie is currently working as a consultant for IBM and their organisational clients.

“In terms of my career I now get to blend research and practice in my current role with IBM where I develop cognitive models that underpin all types of behaviour. I focus on using predictive HR analytics to help achieve better business outcomes.”

“I’ll definitely keep publishing and applying robust evidence based solutions in practice.”

UniSA Research Themes PhD Scholarships

Are you interested in tackling a grand challenge towards your research degree? Interested in working across disciplines and engaging with industry and community partners?

The University of South Australia is offering thematically-based PhD scholarships commencing in 2017. These scholarships align with the university’s Research Themes of:

  • An Age Friendly World
  • Transforming Industries
  • Scarce Resources
  • Cancer
  • Healthy Futures
  • Transforming Societies

Visit the Research Themes PhD scholarships webpage to find out more about eligibility, application requirements and the latest opportunities.

$50K to kick start your start-up!

$50K to kick start your start-up!

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

Venture Catalyst is a seed fund for students, alumni and entrepreneurs who are looking for financial assistance to turn their business ideas into reality.

This is a great opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills and make an impact in South Australia through new commercial ventures.

To date, Venture Catalyst has awarded $300,000 funding to six companies:

  • Jemsoft (an idea around intelligent security system for retail premises)
  • Voxiebox (3D Holographic display that allows users to view and interact with 3D objects, animations and data without having to wear special glasses)
  • myEvidence (an idea to increase efficiency of police work using technology)
  • Vinnovate (an innovative new container closure aimed specifically at the wine industry)
  • TCPinpoint (cloud based software management tool for retail tenancies in shopping centres)
  • ecoJet Engineering (an idea for a gas turbine engine with the potential to be carbon neutral and keep homes running completely off the grid)

Applications are currently open, but will close on 4 November 2016.

Potential applicants are also encouraged to attend the Business Planning for Startups session being held on 18 October.

To find out more about Venture Catalyst and the business planning seminar visit this webpage

Data Science Fellowship

The Data Incubator is an intensive eight week Fellowship that prepares Masters students, PhD students, and postdocs in STEM and social science fields seeking industry careers as data scientists. The program is supported by sponsorships from hundreds of employers across multiple industries.

It is completed either in person in New York City, Washington DC, the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States or online. The next program (in person and online) will be take place from 3 January 2017 to 24 February 2017.

If you have already obtained a Masters or PhD or are within one year of graduating you can apply for a Fellowship. The program welcomes applications from international students both within and outside the United States.

To learn more about the Data Incubator Fellowship, including application requirements, visit this webpage

Publishing your research and what editors want

How do you gain the edge in publishing your research? Do you understand what journal editors want?

Register now for the Publishing your research and what editors want workshop.

The workshop will include:

  • A keynote address by an editor from Elsevier (a major international publishing company)
  • Speakers on copyright, open access publishing, the Research Outputs Repository (ROR) and Collection of Research Outputs (CRO)
  • A panel of Early Career Researchers and PhD students giving their personal experiences with publishing and their top tips
  • Question and answers opportunities
  • Lunch and networking
  • Writing – just do it! Bring your ideas and write the abstract - a practical workshop by Dr Cassandra Loeser and Dr Monica Behrend

When: Tuesday 15 November, 10am to 3pm

Where: Bradley Forum, City West campus

To register: Students | Staff

2016 Asia-Pacific Three Minute Thesis Competition

Three Minute Thesis® (3MT) requires PhD students to explain their research topic to a non-specialist audience, using a single slide, in only three minutes.

Credit to Mr Joel Fuller from the School of Health Sciences who represented UniSA at the Asia-Pacific 3MT Final on 30 September 2016. Following his success at the university’s competition in August, Joel was selected to compete against other respective finalists from fifty institutions across the Asia-Pacific region. Despite being unsuccessful on this occasion, Joel performed well against a strong field of candidates and used this opportunity to further refine his research communication skills.

You can find out more about 3MT and UniSA’s Grand Final here.

2016 EMBL Australia Postgraduate Symposium

Are you studying research in the life sciences discipline? Interested in attending a conference?

The 2016 EMBL Australia Postgraduate Symposium brings together students from a broad range of disciplines around Australia and this year’s theme is ‘Unravelling Nature’s Secrets, using science to see beyond’.

The symposium is a great opportunity to hear world-class speakers, meet other students and present your work, all in an informal and stimulating environment. All levels of research students: Honours, Masters and PhD are welcome to attend.

Dates:Wednesday 16 November – Friday 18 November 2016

Venue:South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Adelaide, SA

Registrations close on 28 October so register now to secure your place

For more information visit the EMBL Australia Postgraduate Symposium website

Emily Johnston

Quick facts

> A warm welcome to our new commencing research students – online resources from orientation are available here

footer angle