Research projects gain $1.4million in grants

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Research projects gain $1.4million in grants


Published on 7 July 2015

The University of the Sunshine Coast has won competitive grants valued at more than $1.4million for three major research projects aimed at improving workplace safety, encouraging safer driving practices and boosting koala conservation.

Federal Minister for Education and Training Christopher Pyne today announced the USC projects were among 252 research projects nationally that gained almost $87 million through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Projects scheme.

USC’s Professor Paul Salmon and Dr Natassia Goode are leading a project that received $497,600 to assess how reporting systems can be used to reduce workplace injury that currently affects more than 600,000 Australian workers a year at a cost of about $60billion.

“We intend to develop, implement and test a process for translating incident reporting system outputs into appropriate and effective injury countermeasures, and then evaluate the safety effects of adopting the new incident reporting and learning cycle,” he said.

The research team will focus on the outdoor education sector and will work with Australian Camps Association, The Outdoor Education Group, Outdoor Council of Australia, Sport And Recreation Victoria and Victorian YMCA Accommodation Services.

USC microbiologists Peter Timms and Adam Polkinghorne are leading research that gained $488,235 to develop a vaccine against koala retrovirus – a disease that infects more than 95 percent of koalas and has been strongly linked to lymphoma and leukaemia.

Their partners are the Endeavour Veterinary Ecology Pty Ltd, Zoos South Australia, the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Worldwide Ltd, Friends of the Koala and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organisation.

And $438,000 has gone to a research project, led by USC’s Dr Bridie Scott-Parker, that aims to develop a best-practice model to enable professional instructors to teach higher-order skills, such as hazard perception, to young learner drivers.

“Australian young drivers aged 17-25 comprise 13 percent of the population but 22 percent of road deaths,” she said. “More effective teaching models are expected to reduce young drivers’ crash risk when they drive unsupervised.”

Dr Scott-Parker will work with researchers at Transport and Road Safety Research at the University of NSW, CARRS-Q at QUT, the United States National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads, RACQ, Australian Driver Trainers Association Queensland, Easyas Driver Training Australia and Rightway Driving.

Meanwhile, USC Engineering academic Dr Helen Fairweather and Professor of Geography Roy Sidle are contributing to a QUT-led research project that gained $397,000 to create a more effective way of assessing the quality of waterways using drifting, rather that stationary, monitoring devices.

The University of the Sunshine Coast’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research Professor Roland De Marco said USC was one of Australia’s most successful aspirational universities in this round of funding.

“For a small regional university like USC to win three major projects in a single round is an outstanding outcome,” he said. “USC has excellent researchers undertaking excellent research and the ARC is backing us.”

— Terry Walsh

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