ACEMS Engagement to Impact

The Centre’s contributions from research and engagement advance the mathematical sciences, and extend beyond academia, benefiting a diversity of stakeholders. We realise an impact with and for collaborators, end users, and in key collaborative domains, both in the short term and over longer time horizons. ACEMS’ research and engagement deliver a range of economic, environmental, social, and cultural benefits and impact for a wide range of beneficiaries, both in and beyond Australia.

The value of the Centre’s high-quality research and research outcomes – at the frontiers of the mathematical sciences – is amplified and extended via our research translation.

The Centre’s strategic approach to research translation and impact:

  • is summarised via our pathways to impact, and
  • involves knowledge transfer and research translation mechanisms outlined below.

ACEMS’ Pathways to Impact

The Centre’s knowledge transfer extends across and beyond research, enabled by:

  • A robust and hyperconnected research pipeline, from the purely theoretical and fundamental curiosity-driven frontier research in the mathematical sciences, through to the applied research harnessing frontier knowledge and methods for realising an impact;
  • Strong engagement and collaborations across and beyond ACEMS nodes, disciplines, and the research sector, enabling transdisciplinary approaches to problem solving; and
  • Multi-directional knowledge transfer, creating a virtuous cycle, for mutual benefit.

Figure 1: The research pipeline in the mathematical sciences.

For the purposes of this discussion, ACEMS views impact in the context of a research pipeline (see Figure 1), where all but the last position of the pipeline represents a specific research community. Each community accesses the output of the preceding community and influences their research agenda by posing questions of importance; in this way the communication is very much bidirectional. All research communities engage with industry, government and other end users to different degrees. As a generalisation, the volume of that engagement with end-users increases along the pipeline.

Within this framework, the theoretical research community outputs new fundamental mathematical and statistical results. The applied mathematics and statistics research communities translate these fundamental results into methodologies for applied problems. Applied researchers in other fields then apply these proven methodologies to gain insights about systems, relationships and other events of interest in these fields.

Figure 1 is of course a simplification. Individual researchers might simultaneously be part of multiple research communities, and thus the environment is more akin to a network. In this network, researchers move between communities, and at times work on theoretical, methodological or applied problems. This serves to enhance communication in both directions between communities.
There are three main points where translation occurs within the system. They are:

  • Translation within the mathematical sciences;
  • Translation to other disciplines in science, engineering, social science, economics, medical science and other `client’ disciplines; and
  • Translation to end-users such as business, industry and government.

The first of these recognises (i) that ACEMS has a fundamental aim of building bridges within the mathematical sciences, between mathematics, statistics, mathematical physics and machine learning; (ii) that ACEMS has a fundamental aim of encouraging collaboration across the whole spectrum from theory to methods and computing, to applied practice; and (iii) ACEMS is part of a wider mathematical sciences field.

The second of these recognises that mathematics and statistics are foundational supports for many other fields, and translation of ACEMS outputs to researchers in these fields will not only grow capability and innovation in this wider community, but also reach the very wide range of end-users who engage with these fields.

The third of these is the more traditional view of ‘impact’ and acknowledges that ACEMS researchers in both applied and theoretical fields engage directly with business, industry and government to develop new methods and insights directly influenced and fuelled by ‘real-world’ challenges.

Knowledge Transfer Mechanisms

The Centre strategically builds relationships and embeds knowledge for use outside academia, including by collaborators. It achieves this via:

  • ACEMS members (including research students, researchers, and stakeholder engagement, media, and outreach staff) engaging with other researchers and external stakeholders (for example, at Meet-and-Greets, Research Planning sessions, and the ACEMS Annual Retreat);
  • Internal mechanisms, such as the Centre’s Industry Affiliate Program (IAP), Industry Collaboration Support Scheme (ICSS), joint workshops, and industry networking support, as illustrated below in Figure 2;
  • Research industry briefings, post-research project reports and engagement activities, researcher/industry co-locations, academia/industry co-supervision of students, student internships (for example, AMSI’s APR.Intern), and vacation research education schemes; and
  • Events organised with or for external stakeholders, including the ACEMS Annual Retreat, public seminars, public workshops, speaking engagements, networking and media.

Figure 2: Some of the Centre’s collaboration and knowledge transfer mechanisms

Research Translation Mechanisms

The Centre’s research translation mechanisms include:

  • Research outputs made accessible via channels and in forms adapted for greater utility for our external stakeholders, including collaborators and end users. For example, read more about our R Packages and Services. Read more about the diversity of channels we use to share our research outputs, and the different forms these outputs are adapted to, in our media and events sections.
  • Knowledge transfer facilitated by ACEMS members (and other stakeholders), including to help our stakeholders develop capabilities, inform decision-making, improve productivity, and realise improvements.  This is in part enabled via our various engagement activities.
  • Innovation and commercialisation, including new and improved products, methods, and processes, licensing for open source and commercial use, and supporting new ventures.

In this way, new knowledge, concepts, methodologies, intellectual property, and understandings generated from ACEMS research and experimental developments are shared widely, both within ACEMS’ disciplines, and beyond our disciplines and the research sector, the latter including to collaborators, end users, and other beneficiaries, both across and beyond Australia.

Ron Sandland, chairman of ACEMs

Figure 3: Intended career destinations for Australian PhD students.
*Data: McCarthy, P. X., and Wienk, M. (2019). Advancing Australia’s Knowledge Economy: Who are the top PhD employers?

The Centre also supports the development of research engagement, translation and impact capabilities of ACEMS members – from research students onwards – via a range of mentoring, training, and education. Furthermore, it is crucial that these development opportunities continue to prepare members for careers both in and beyond academia. This approach is supported by data from a 2018 nationwide survey and the resulting report, “Advancing Australia’s Knowledge Economy: Who are the top PhD employers?”, published in 2019. Figure 3 is a graphic based on data from the report; it shows just over half of PhD students aspire to a career outside academia, confirming the importance of preparing our graduates for a range of career options.