USyd appoints new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Professor Emma Johnston will be leaving UNSW to take up the post later this year.

The University of Sydney has announced Professor Emma Johnston as the incoming Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) starting July 2022. 

Johnston will replace Professor Duncan Ivison following his ten-year tenure in the position. Ivison’s term attracted heavy criticism for his refusal to negotiate with student protesters in 2020 on Medical Science cuts.  

Johnston is currently Dean of Science at UNSW specialising in marine science and conservation. She has also contributed extensively to The Conversation on a range of scientific and public policy topics, including praising the controversial Federal Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews in her previous capacity as Minister of Industry, Science and Technology. 

Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott emphasised Johnston’s talent for “building and maintaining multiple community and industry partnerships and engaging in high-level advocacy on a range of policy issues.”

“She is also a trusted advisor working across a range of government and industry bodies and our community will benefit from her strong commitment to collaborating and supporting quality research.” 

Johnston’s appointment signals a pivot towards deepening the University’s public-private partnerships, particularly within STEM disciplines. The appointment also aligns with the Morrison Government’s call to commercialise research into “high-tech innovations”. 

Whether she will follow her predecessor and the Australian Research Council’s criticism of Acting Minister for Education and Youth Stuart Roberts over his rejection of six peer-reviewed research projects as political interference remains to be seen. In an opinion piece published in The Conversation during the 2019 Federal Election, Johnston lamented the major parties for their low commitment to scientific research funding and called to invest 3 per cent of the federal budget to Research & Development. 

This development follows a number of reshuffles by the Vice-Chancellor with the recent selection of Annamarie Jagose as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost alongside the University of Queensland’s (UQ) Joanne Wright as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education). In her years at UQ, Wright attracted notoriety for banning “political proselytising” during student elections and her defence of UQ’s Ramsay-backed Western Civilisation program, as reported by Semper Floreat.