The University of New South Wales Science Advisory Council met for the first time last night. It wasn't really like a room full of baboons, but put 15 or so smart, opinionated, self-assured people from academia, media, government and industry in the one room and you get plenty of screeching and showing of teeth.
Led by Professor Mike Archer, Dean of Science at the university, we began to pick apart the science at University of New South Wales - marvelling at its breadth and impact now, and helping Mike plan for greater things in the future. Early days (in fact day one!), but good to be part of the troop.
At the Botanic Gardens Trust we are deliberately catholic, or is it peripatetic, in our university relationships. We have 30 or so post-graduate students at universities all around the country. Our scientists teach at almost as many universities (in fact it is of course closely related - if you lecture somewhere you attract students).
Dr Brett Summerell, Director Science and Public Programs, and I are meeting with the Science Deans of Universities Sydney and New South Wales to strengthen our local relationships, but we will always partner up with a university based on the quality of the people and the project.
Personally I'm an adjunct Professor at Sydney and now on this Science Advisory Council for New South Wales. So that's my declared conflict of interest. But then University of New England has been an absolute pleasure to work with in delivering a Biosystematics course with us, them and the Australian Museum. So we like them.
I've supervised a student with University of Melbourne, my old alma mater, and the University of Western Sydney are courting (very nicely) a link with Mount Annan Botanic Garden and our proposed new Centre for Plant Conservation & Research (Plant Bank). For that matter, Sydney is a key partner in the Plant Bank project already.
So lots of interests, but not really much conflict. If all our universities and science thrive, the Botanic Gardens will surely thrive.