Thursday, 12 June 2014

Nurturing our region’s research leaders

Each year a small group of agricultural research leaders collaborating in ACIAR projects has the opportunity to take part in a six-week program in Australia to help them make the transition from being researchers to research managers.

"John Dillon Fellowships give mid-career researchers a great opportunity to build their skills in research management, agricultural policy and communication. They're exposed to Australian agriculture across a range of best-practice organisations and make valuable links with research leaders," said ACIAR's CEO Dr Nick Austin.

The Fellowships, part of the Australian Government’s Australia Awards program, are named after Professor John Dillon, one of Australia’s leading agricultural economists who was a strong advocate of international agricultural research. By all accounts, the program is resulting in long-lasting benefits.

ACIAR recently produced a short film about the Fellowships featuring the Fellows of 2014, along with a number of short films about individual Fellows (links included in text below).

Making the transition to research manager
While in Australia, the Fellows took part in leadership training at Mt Eliza Business School, along with a program on research communication. They also visited agricultural research agencies in either South Australia or Western Australia, and travelled to other states to meet with research collaborators and others with similar research interests.

In Canberra the Fellows were honoured to meet with Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP at Parliament House (pictured above, centre), and also visited key research agencies.

"We learnt many things, but the most important thing for me was my stay at Mt Eliza to learn about leadership skills," said Dr Nguyen Viet Hung, Deputy Head of the Centre for Public Health and Ecosystem Research, Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, and a researcher with the International Livestock Research Institute. "We gained a systematic view on how to lead a research group in the context of developing countries, but also working with the agricultural sector."

Dillons meet the Dillons
The 2014 Fellows were the first group to meet with the family of the late John Dillon. This happened as a result of a serendipitous conversation where a group of ACIAR’s cyclists discovered that their favourite barista is in fact Dillon’s grandson, Patrick Dillon.

The Fellows met with Patrick and his father Mike early one morning at ‘Sly-Fox’ Coffee, which sits aside a Canberra bike path. Ms Matilda Hamago from the Coffee Industry Cooperation PNG provided Patrick with an appropriate gift of coffee, grown by smallholder women farmers. The meeting was captured in a TV story run on ABC TV. 

Lasting benefits
The Fellowship program is producing long-lasting benefits not only for the individuals involved, but also for their agencies.

Gideon (centre) with Lilis and Malavanh  on the Murrimbidgee
River, NSW.
"The John Dillon Fellowship has changed my perception of who I am and I know myself better through this course. This will help me face my challenges and work with other people to achieve my objectives," said Mr Gideon Pama, Manager of Freshwater Aquaculture, National Fisheries Authority, Papua New Guinea.

There are now 93 John Dillon Fellows from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Botswana, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Africa, Vanuatu and Vietnam. The bond formed within the group of like-minded professionals from different countries is both strong and enduring.

“We’ve come from different developing countries which have different experiences and different cultures with high diversity; for the future I can hopefully have a good collaboration with the other Fellows,” said Dr Lilis Sadiyah, Research Group Leader, Research Centre for Fisheries Management and Conservation, Jakarta, Indonesia. 
Hassan (2nd from right) during a visit to an Australian dairy
with Fellows Hung and Zhang, and researcher Dr David McGill.

Many of the Fellows plan to pass on what they've learned to their team members on their return.  "Mostly in developing countries we are targeting the technical side, there’s no system that talks about communication skills and leadership skills. This is really a tremendous and amazing program. Once I go back I will train my whole team who work alongside me," said Dr Hassan Warriach, Project Manager, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan.

The other 2014 Fellows are Dr Malavanh Chittavong, Vice Head of Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos, Dr Rina Laksmi Hendrati, Researcher, Centre for Forest Biotechnology and Tree Improvement, Indonesia, Ms Maria Lilia Vega, Research Project Coordinator, Visayas State University, Philippines and Dr Yingjun Zhang Dean of Grassland Science Department, China Agricultural University.

Applications sought for 2015 scholarship
Applications are now being sought for the 2015 John Dillon Fellowship Program.  Each year ACIAR funds 10 Fellows to visit Australia for a period of 5-6 weeks in February/March 2015. Applicants, who must be associated with ACIAR bilateral projects that are either active or have been completed in the last two years, are encouraged to read the Fellowship guidelines. Applications close 31 August 2014.

Film links
2014 John Dillon Fellowship
Matilda Hamago, PNG
Dr Nguyen Viet Hung, Vietnam
Gideon Pama, PNG
Dr Lilis Sadiyah, Indonesia
Pakistan dairy project (Dr Hassan Warriach)
Lao fish ways project (Dr Malavanh Chittavong)

More information:
Blog about Lilis: Australia Awards: Ensuring there are plenty more fish in the sea
Blog about Matilda: Celebrating International Women's Day 2014
By Mandy Gyles (ACIAR Communications). Films produced by Richard Snashall

1 comment:

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