The  $3  billion  Cooperative  Research  Centres  Program,  established  in  1990,  has  been  hailed  as Australia’s  most  innovative  and  ambitious  applied  research  and  development  scheme  in  the  last  decade. There  are  presently  67  Cooperative  Research  Centres  (CRCs)  which  include  various  combinations  of university, public sector and industrial research institutions and groups from all around Australia.

Communication  is  essential  for  maintaining  relationships  and  cooperation  within  CRCs.Communication  is  also  important  for  reinforcing  participant  identification  with  CRCs,  yet  little  research into communication in Cooperative Research Centres has occurred prior to this paper.

A  survey  of  communication  professionals  from  Cooperative  Research  Centres  was  conducted  to determine the constraints and opportunities for communication which exist internally in CRCs.

The findings of this survey indicate that the fundamental idea of a CRC, the very objectives it is trying to  achieve,  are  being  undermined, or  at  least  made  very  difficult  to  realise,  by  the  competing  structures which are imposed upon it.

Competing structures

Although the  many competing structures identified  will  be  discussed  in  this  paper,  two  of  the  major competing  structures  are  outlined  to  illustrate  this  point.  Firstly,  a  major  problem  identified  from  the survey  was  the  number  of  distinct  scientific  disciplines  involved  in  these  enterprises.  There  were  often tensions  between  social  scientists  and  traditional  physical  scientists  and  the  different  backgrounds  of scientists often meant that they had very different objectives for the CRC and the accompanying research.

The  second  competing  structure  involved  the  participating organisations of  the  CRC.  Since  CRCs  are made  up  of  universities,  federal  and  state-funded  scientific  institutions  and  industry,  many  of  these participants  are  in  direct  financial  competition  with  each  other.  Other  CRCs  have  participants  who  are competing for  external grants and  see  themselves in direct competition with the  CRC.  Commitment from participants  can  be  very  patchy  especially  when  the  participants  are  in  competition  with  the  CRC  for funding, for example, from the Research and Development Corporations.

Perceived nature of the CRC

Another constraint undermining the fundamental idea of cooperation in these organisations is the  way the CRC is perceived by members of the organisation. The survey asked recipients to rate their CRC on a scale  from  1  to  10  where  1  and  10  were  described  as  organisations  with  extremely  different  attributes.These  attributes ranged from cooperation and  identification with participating organisations, to  the public profile of the organisation.

The ratings given by respondents varied  enormously and  indicate that  members of  these  organisations have  very  different  conceptions  of  what  a  CRC  should  be.  Most  respondents  were  happy  with  the  rating they had given their organisation but acknowledged that they were bound by the constraints imposed from both  the  organisations  described.  A  few  respondents  were  unhappy  with  the  rating  they  gave  their  CRC,feeling that the CRC was too focussed at one end of the spectrum and should adopt some of the attributes of the other organisation described in order to operate more effectively.

Future research in this area will also be discussed in this paper.
 

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PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Cooperative research centres
How cooperative and with whom?

Michelle Riedlinger   University of Queensland

Jeff Pittam  

The  $3  billion  Cooperative  Research  Centres  Program,  established  in  1990,  has  been  hailed  as Australia’s  most  innovative  and  ambitious  applied  research  and  development  scheme  in  the  last  decade. There  are  presently  67  Cooperative  Research  Centres  (CRCs)  which  include  various  combinations  of university, public sector and industrial research institutions and groups from all around Australia.

Communication  is  essential  for  maintaining  relationships  and  cooperation  within  CRCs.Communication  is  also  important  for  reinforcing  participant  identification  with  CRCs,  yet  little  research into communication in Cooperative Research Centres has occurred prior to this paper.

A  survey  of  communication  professionals  from  Cooperative  Research  Centres  was  conducted  to determine the constraints and opportunities for communication which exist internally in CRCs.

The findings of this survey indicate that the fundamental idea of a CRC, the very objectives it is trying to  achieve,  are  being  undermined, or  at  least  made  very  difficult  to  realise,  by  the  competing  structures which are imposed upon it.

Competing structures

Although the  many competing structures identified  will  be  discussed  in  this  paper,  two  of  the  major competing  structures  are  outlined  to  illustrate  this  point.  Firstly,  a  major  problem  identified  from  the survey  was  the  number  of  distinct  scientific  disciplines  involved  in  these  enterprises.  There  were  often tensions  between  social  scientists  and  traditional  physical  scientists  and  the  different  backgrounds  of scientists often meant that they had very different objectives for the CRC and the accompanying research.

The  second  competing  structure  involved  the  participating organisations of  the  CRC.  Since  CRCs  are made  up  of  universities,  federal  and  state-funded  scientific  institutions  and  industry,  many  of  these participants  are  in  direct  financial  competition  with  each  other.  Other  CRCs  have  participants  who  are competing for  external grants and  see  themselves in direct competition with the  CRC.  Commitment from participants  can  be  very  patchy  especially  when  the  participants  are  in  competition  with  the  CRC  for funding, for example, from the Research and Development Corporations.

Perceived nature of the CRC

Another constraint undermining the fundamental idea of cooperation in these organisations is the  way the CRC is perceived by members of the organisation. The survey asked recipients to rate their CRC on a scale  from  1  to  10  where  1  and  10  were  described  as  organisations  with  extremely  different  attributes.These  attributes ranged from cooperation and  identification with participating organisations, to  the public profile of the organisation.

The ratings given by respondents varied  enormously and  indicate that  members of  these  organisations have  very  different  conceptions  of  what  a  CRC  should  be.  Most  respondents  were  happy  with  the  rating they had given their organisation but acknowledged that they were bound by the constraints imposed from both  the  organisations  described.  A  few  respondents  were  unhappy  with  the  rating  they  gave  their  CRC,feeling that the CRC was too focussed at one end of the spectrum and should adopt some of the attributes of the other organisation described in order to operate more effectively.

Future research in this area will also be discussed in this paper.
 

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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