Alliance Catalyst Fund
The Monash Warwick Alliance encourages the development of joint research and education collaboration with the aim of mutually beneficial growth in the research and teaching excellence of both institutions. The Alliance Research Catalyst Fund has been established with the specific intention to foster new initiatives with high potential that combine complementary aspects of each institution towards novel research outcomes.
Congratulations to the following recipients who have been awarded funding in this round:
Behavioural economics is an exciting discipline that blends psychological insights into human behaviour to explain economic decision-making. Research has led governments to create ‘nudges’ to help improve decision making by finding ways to tweak human behaviour in attempt to improve their welfare in a predictable, easy and cheap way. With evidence that using ‘nudge’ messages has been effective in reducing alcohol use, improving enrolment in paediatric weight management programs and improving hospital appointment attendance, an exciting pilot project between the University of Warwick and Monash University’s Melbourne Sexual Health Centre is being explored.
The project will take place in two parts. Firstly, to help improve STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) testing rates, the Central Clinical School at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre will run a pilot project to evaluate whether reframing SMS reminder messages impacts on the return-rates of a high-risk STI client group.
Secondly, with Warwick Business School expertise running events known as ‘nudgeathons’ (a 1-2 day event where individuals or teams solve problems using behavioural economic principals), skills and knowledge will be shared to explore how behaviour economics principals can help improve health outcomes.
The collaboration is a win-win for both institutions. The University of Warwick will extend their behavioural economics activities into a new area, as well as to partner with the largest and most research active public sexual health service in Australia. Monash University will benefit from access to world-experts applying behavioural economic principals. Together, the collaboration will complement each other in demonstrating the application of behavioural economics in sexual health, and ultimately provide new insights to improve patient outcomes.
Central Clinical School, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre
Department of Behavioural Science Group, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick
The inside of the human eye is divided into three sections called chambers. The chambers in front of the lens, named the Anterior and Posterior chambers, are filled with a clear watery fluid called the aqueous humor.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that is reported by the World Health Organisation to affect around 105 million people. In a normal eye the aqueous humor is continuously produced and drained. In glaucoma, structural changes in eye tissue restrict the outflow of aqueous humor from the anterior and posterior chambers causing the build up of pressure within the eye. Such increase in pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve which may lead to losses in the peripheral visual field. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause permanent blindness.
Studies of the movement of aqueous humor are rarely carried out experimentally due to the sensitive nature of the human eye to physical contact, which effectively rules out any invasive measurement techniques. Consequently, experimental studies involving the human eye are often carried out using donor eyes, in which the experimental conditions are difficult to control and are rarely available due to the difficulty in sourcing donor eyes.
With Alliance support, Dr Ean Hin Ooi, Monash University and Dr Isaac Kuo-Kang Liu, University of Warwick are leading a novel research team that combines different disciplines from science and engineering. They will seek to develop a scaled-up model of the anterior and posterior chambers of the eye which can be used to study the movement of aqueous humor under conditions that mimic healthy and glaucomatous eyes.
It is hoped that this study will facilitate the management of glaucoma by gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the formation and development of the disease. This could potentially lead to the development of better diagnostic approaches for glaucoma and improved ophthalmic drug delivery to treat the disease. These are likely to reduce an individual’s loss of health-related quality of life as well as the personal and societal economic burdens.
Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering, Monash University, Malaysia campus
Associate Professor (Reader), School of Engineering, University of Warwick
Dr Ahmed Eissa, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick
Professor Sarah Pink, Monash University, Emerging Technologies Research Lab (ETLab) and Professor Noortje Marres, University of Warwick, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (CIM), are bringing together the work of two world-leading research units in an innovative project that will produce novel interdisciplinary approaches in futures research, experimentation and impact.
Both groups have pioneered innovative research methodologies for anticipating technological, environmental and social futures. CIM champions an inventive approach to interdisciplinary research which configures new interfaces between fields by combining creative, computational and scientific methodologies. ETLab members pioneer new interdisciplinary methodologies, which combine social science with engineering, IT, design and creative practice to imagine and anticipate futures.
This project consolidates the expertise and experience of both research units to advance an innovative research agenda: to create an interdisciplinary interface for developing new methodologies for futures research which advance beyond existing predictive techniques. It will respond to enduring societal challenges: how emerging technologies, including Artificial Intelligence and Automated Decision Making, will participate in human futures; and how future environments will be shared with machines and other non-humans in ethical, sustainable and equitable ways.
Professor, Department of Design, Monash University
Centre Director, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (CIM), University of Warwick
Dr Cagatay Turkay (from September 2019), Associate Professor, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (CIM), University of Warwick
Food insecurity - the limited or uncertain availability of individuals’ and households’ physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious and culturally relevant food - is a complex, persistent and multidimensional issue. Despite abundant food and relative wealth, food insecurity is increasingly experienced in high-income countries. Household food security is not consistently or robustly measured in Australia or the UK, but conservative estimates indicate that over 4% of Australians and 8% of people residing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, are living in a food insecure household.
It is well-documented that those experiencing food insecurity compromise on quantity and nutritional quality of food, go without food, experience anxiety, stress and social isolation. Food insecurity impacts the physical, social and emotional health of the population across the lifespan and specifically the development and educational attainment of children and adolescents, making it a serious public health issue. There are multiple influencing and interrelated factors that contribute to food insecurity. The major predictor of food insecurity however is low income for purchasing food and other commodities in a household.
The responsibility for ensuring food security at any government level is at best limited and this challenge is intensified due to the associated factors listed above cutting across multiple government departments. In Australia and the UK the dominant response has been to provide people with emergency food relief through the charitable sector, for example via food banks. There has been an unprecedented expansion of the charitable food sector in response to an increased usage of food banks. However, charity does not address the causes of food security and is powerless to prevent households from falling into food insecurity or help them escape it.
Through the Monash Warwick Alliance Dr Sue Kleve and Dr Martine Barons will focus on engaging with policymakers, experts by experience and front-line workers to ensure every aspect of the causal pathways for food insecurity is taken into account properly within the statistical modelling. They will do this both in Cardinia Shire, Victoria and Warwickshire, UK to compare and contrast the systems and experiences. The eventual aim is to build an integrated food security decision support system for addressing food security at national and local levels. The system will combine various sources of data (on income, housing, employment and food costs) to produce a robust and transparent way in order to provide a score for each potential policy change. This will enable Governments to make evidence-based policy decisions that will address the source of food insecurity.
Dr Sue Kleve
Lecturer, Dept of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food, Monash University
Director of the Applied Statistics & Risk Unit, University of Warwick
To survive in hostile environments, some bacteria produce a dormant and resilient cell form called a spore which can survive for many years in unfavourable environments. However, our understanding of how this process occurs is limited.
Spores of pathogenic bacteria are the vehicles of disease transmission and initiation, and once ingested or inhaled can cause catastrophic infectious diseases. The human pathogen Clostridium difficile is one such spore-forming pathogen that causes severe gut disease and diarrhoea in humans and animals that have been treated with antibiotics.
The rate of human C. difficile infection (CDI) has increased almost exponentially over the last decade with many new strain types emerging. Notably, in 2013 the Centers for Disease Control USA classified C. difficile as the most important antibiotic resistance threat to healthcare.
Strategies to prevent or reduce spore production from pathogenic spore-forming bacteria such as Clostridium species would be invaluable for infection control and treatment purposes.
Professor Dena Lyras, Monash University and Professor David Roper, University of Warwick are joining forces to share research and expertise in a study which will contribute to our understanding of the metabolically important sporulation process and how antibiotic usage changes this fundamental bacterial process following recent discoveries in this area.
These research outcomes will have substantial national and international impact including yielding a deeper understanding of the long-lasting detrimental impact of antibiotic use. The future outcomes of this work will provide economic benefits, reduce environmental microbial contamination promoting better health of animals and humans.
Professor, Department of Microbiology, Monash University
Professor, School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick
Beyond Autonomy: Understanding How New Social, Scientific and Technological Influences are Shaping the Future of Freedom
In today’s world, the modern concept of individual autonomy is increasingly at risk from a number of external factors including extremism, surveillance, big data and climate change. Yet a sense that we have been freed from past oppressions through the evolution of a government system in which law-abiding citizens are afforded a degree of freedom remains fundamental in shaping our individual and collective sense of who we are and what we wish to become, and to the collective identify of modern Western societies. As a result of these external pressures, we need to reconsider how we think about freedom.
To address this issue, researchers will bring together a cross-disciplinary group from the arts, humanities, social and economic sciences. The group will draw on expertise and knowledge from the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Global Terrorism Research Centre and Monash SoDa Labs, as well as from the Warwick Centre for Research in Philosophy, Literature and the Arts, and Centre of Cultural & Media Policy Studies. The project is the first of its kind to address philosophically the unprecedented and interconnected social, scientific and technological factors that have created the contemporary crisis of freedom, and to develop new understandings of freedom better adapted to the contemporary world.
The project will host two interdisciplinary workshops and involve the development of a new framework that will understand how expectations of liberation shape experiences of, and attitudes to, freedom across interrelated social, technological and scientific domains. They will also develop a new account of freedom that will be better adjusted to the complex environmental, technological and social realities that increasingly characterise twenty-first century Western society. These workshops aim to provide a rare opportunity for a broad range of scholars to discuss a question that cannot be contained within any single disciplinary framework.
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts, School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University
Reader, Faculty of Arts, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Warwick
Joint Research Development on Metal-Organic Frameworks Functionalised Silicon Anodes for Advanced Energy Storage
Working together to create a step change in higher performance and better safety electrochemical energy storage devices, Professor Matthew Hill, Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering, Monash University and Professor Chee Tong John Low, Associate Professor in WMG, Warwick University will bring together a team of experts to develop next generation of lithium-ion capacitor technology.
The project will research the synthesis and characterisation of MOF-silicon anode materials (Monash), and electrode manufacture, their integration and device testing (Warwick). The team will combine and integrate their technical expertise to solve the materials and manufacturing challenges of electrochemical energy storage devices, enable the team to deepen their knowledge and extend collaboration beyond boundaries.
Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering, Monash University
Associate Professor, Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick
Dr.Anh Dao, Research Fellow, University of Warwick
Sustainable development is a key research and education priority for both Monash and Warwick. While this research theme is spearheaded through Monash’s Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) and Warwick’s Institute of Global Sustainable Development (IGSD), it is a transdisciplinary endeavour that cuts across many disciplines and research themes, and critically involves partnerships with government, industry and communities.
Professor Rob Raven, Deputy Director (Research), MSDI and Professor João Porto de Albuquerque, Director, IGSD, are united in their common goal to develop a roadmap to establishing a research platform that addresses key challenges of planetary health, and builds on existing strengths.
The researchers will be conducting a pilot project to explore together the social and physical factors that impact the health and livelihoods of vulnerable communities. The intention is that this will pave the way to a large scale, action research program in Indonesia.
The Citarum River is the longest and largest river in West Java, Indonesia and arguably the dirtiest river in the world. It is vital for 25 million people, who daily depend on it for agriculture, water and electricity. It is also the source of water for the Jatiluhur Reservoir, Indonesia’s largest reservoir (3 billion cubic meters of storage capacity), that supplies water for Bandung and Jakarta, as well as irrigating 400,000 hectares of rice fields, and is the source of energy for three hydroelectric power stations serving three cities.
Informed by in-country engagement and pilot research outcomes and insights, the project will serve to advance thinking on specific challenges of vulnerable communities, the role of transdisciplinary research in in sustainable development of vulnerable communities, and inform the development of a large, research alliance between Warwick, Monash and partners in Indonesia for the next 10-20 years.
Deputy Director (Research), Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), Monash University
Director, Institute of Global Sustainable Development (IGSD), University of Warwick
Dr Reni Suwarso, Director, Centre of Political Science, Universitas Indonesia