About The Australian Research Ecosystem

About the Project

This PhD dissertation began its life in early 2008 as an investigation of what the notion of a "Business Services Ecosystem". It set as its task to analyse how business services could be integrated into a cohesive and holistic collective that will be useful to the service providers and service users. The project was partly funded by the then newly-formed Smart Services CRC.

During this period, a review of the literature revealed that that “services ecosystem” was just one of many occasions when the term "ecosystem" was use to describe socio-technical environments. It was a semi-developed metaphor for a semi-developed idea that most people who used the term misapplied anyway.
Unfortunately funding by the CRC fell through (long story!) so I suddenly lost all interest in business services. The project was subsequently re-tooled into an investigation of "Socio-technical Ecosystems". The objective of this new direction was to establish a better, general conceptual framework "ecosystems thinking" that is based in empirical evidence. The hope is to mature is idea into something that can be properly applied and useful for a number of domains.

It is at about this period of time that the idea of a "network theory"-based approach became increasingly relevant. Natural ecosystems have many interesting network and topological features that might be useful for the study of socio-technical environments. A general framework would be helpful to set the record straight and make an interesting contribution to the research.

The new PhD project was confirmed in early 2009. But the opinion of the confirmation committee was divided on whether to focus on one case study or showcase the general framework through several smaller case studies. The most promising case study was one applied to the Australian research environment. I had already access to a wealth of data and most of the preliminary data and network analysis work had already been done.

In the meanwhile, a growing collaboration with the UQ business school highlighted the many possible application of network theory, especially in the area of innovation management. This raised the question of how closely related Australian research is to Australia's national innovation system.

The question led to an increasing focus on the many facets of higher education and how network analysis can bring them all together in one coherent picture. The general ecosystem framework gradually took a back seat as I started exploring applied research, university patents, research in the public discourse and so on.

But not to worry, the ecosystem principle makes an appearance (albeit it a modest one) when I discuss a sustainable framework for research. Ecosystem thinking for me is about finding meaningful solution to the paradox of wanting a self-organised system that is both resilient enough to withstand change and flexible enough to adapt to it. In research environment, just like in many others, this is not just an aim but a requirement for survival.

Due to work commitment, I had to put the dissertation on hold during 2010. I am now back working on it on a part time basis. It is due to be completed sometime in early 2012.

About the Author

Marco is a postgraduate student at the QUT Faculty of Science and Technology and is externally affiliated with the UQ Business School .

If you'd like to contact Marco or collaborate with him: marco.fahmi@gmail.com
If you'd like to know more about Marco (but can't be bothered writing him): Wikispaces profile
If you'd like to send some money his way (you don't need an excuse for that!): Curriculum vitae