Food for thought: a new approach to organising ag science

Ag science is marginalised by “centralised university governance,” with “once world leading faculties to be combined into other administratively tidy units,” former Uni Melbourne Dean of Agriculture Professor Lindsay Falvey argues.

What, like University of Melbourne breaking up the Faculty of Veterinary and Ag Sciences and merging the school of Ag and Food with the School of Ecosystems and Forest Science  in the Science Faculty? (Campus Morning Mail Nov 9 2022)

Could be, but while ag scientists may not like it, what is, is and Professor Falvey makes the case that there is an opportunity to, “pursue unrealised potential by building on the wider strengths of the applied and pure sciences in one entity.”

It is, he writes for the Academy of Technological Science and Engineering, “time for change” and that circumstances, “contain the seeds for a new coordinated approach that offers savings and increased impact.”

Queensland institutions are already having a go, with the Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation. And there are opportunities in Victoria,  with a state government commitment to agriculture research, CSIRO cooperating with La Trobe U and Uni Melbourne connecting pure and applied ag sciences.

“Past attempts at such coordination have suffered from institutional rivalry and the absence of a coherent State plan. Now, the opportunity to enhance the efficiency of research and education in Victoria is real,” he suggests.

As for  teaching, funding makes it difficult to integrate UG courses but the main game is in PG ed and research, “both of which offer clear benefits from a coordinated focus under an umbrella facility.”

All easier proposed than produced. Professor Falvey, accepts that, “university funding mechanisms, entrenched attitudes, organisations’ salary differentials and fears of loss are but some of the objections that are bound to be raised.”

But it is the right time to start, “higher-level objective investigation … to inform a conceptual plan that spans improved delivery impact and efficiency and addresses newly emerging needs.”



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