Research and You

Host: Katherine Research Station
Written by Jodie Ward, Pastoral Production Extension Officer

Not wanting to put words in your mouth or anything, but I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you may be wondering what it is we get up to when we’re not running field days, workshops, or are seen out collecting data etc. Well, let me assure you that there is so much that needs to be done behind the scenes to make sure that we actually get out to go collect data! So I was hoping I could use today’s blog to explain how research prioritisation works to demonstrate what we’re doing when we’re out of sight.

As part of our work we get to travel to some beautiful parts of the world.

In each major beef producing region of Australia there are Beef Research Advisory Committees, which are made up of pastoralists, consultants, industry advisors, and service providers. These people volunteer their time to provide feedback to Department research organisations like ourselves and make sure we stay on track. For example, we all might be aware that there will be a ‘Terms of Reference’ being distributed from one of our funding bodies coming up in the near future, so we will call together our Beef Research Advisory Committee, and say ‘hey, we’ve got a few ideas for research projects we want to get started and that we think the funding body might be interested in helping us with, would you mind telling us if the results would be of interest to you or are we a bit off the mark?’ So they all get together we lay out all our ideas on the table.

The group will discuss the potential benefits the research results might bring, weigh up how much they think it will cost to run, and then go to a vote to see how many of the group are in favour of us pursuing the project idea. At this stage, projects live or die by the Beef Research Advisory Committee’s support. Typically, if an idea gets rejected it’s not because it’s bad, but because if we were to put all of our efforts into only a few applications there are others of a higher priority, we haven’t thought out all of the potential consequences, or we have failed to recognise other places where our stakeholders could get hold of that information.

Curious weaners investigating what data Whitney will be collecting on them that day.

From there, we fill out the project application template to the very best of our ability in accordance with the recommendations made by our Beef Research Advisory Committee. This process however is not as easy as it seems! Sometimes it takes weeks of toing and froing between ourselves and other industry collaborators to make sure we have a strong application and form collaborations between other research bodies such as universities or other state Departments before we submit the precious documents – here at Katherine Research Station, we adhere strongly to the 6P theory: Prior Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance.

And then we wait.

Sometimes patiently (although not very often).

For what happens after we submit our application is much like when you send in your resume to apply for a job – you work and work and work at it, but once it leaves your hands, it’s out of your control. The funding body usually then has a team of beef industry experts, that scrutinize every application, looking for inconsistencies, repetition of work that’s previously been explained, identify if there are any others doing similar work and suggest collaborations to ensure efficient use of levy dollars, and mostly to see if this proposed project will be able to add value to the beef industry.  Then, you get the email – did you pass, or did you fail? Perhaps you passed! Great because in one recent example, only 30 out of 145 proposals made it to the next stage!

From the Alice, to the Barkly and then north to the VRD and Roper River regions, we investigate them all!

But wait – that’s not all! Turns out what we put our hearts and souls into were only the preliminary round! Now we need to fill out a full application but this time, getting into even greater detail about how we will go about achieving the objectives we outlined earlier, and how we can be sure that we are going to succeed, while of course, addressing the concerns or questions that panel of industry experts. Again, the application gets submitted, and the waiting game continues…

Eventually we will find out if we were successful and if so, a start date is then determined.

So when you don’t see us out and about, it is likely that we are somewhere in the middle of the above process, working our tushies off trying to get our research hopes and dreams off the ground by convincing others that what we believe is important is of great importance to them as well.

This is where you, my friends, come in….

If you have an idea that you think should be researched that could be of great benefit to the northern beef industry, we need you to let us know. It doesn’t matter how small or large, we will take it to our Beef Industry Advisory Committee and try to get it funded. Sometimes (as you can tell from the above process) it may take a while. Sometimes it may seem as if it will never get funded and never be researched, but have faith, there are a number of different research project types allowing us to apply for a number of different buckets of money (Producer Demonstration Sites, full projects,  and more) – some of the best research projects have sat on the sidelines for a while until they were perfected enough that they became unstoppable and overwhelmingly influential.

So if you have ideas about what needs to be researched, please make sure you contact us.

My email is Jodie.ward@nt.gov.au

Thanks for reading everyone!

With data recording equipment set up, I was ready to call out “Send More Beef”! 

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