Special Research Environments and Spaces – ATC, Swinburne University of Technology

What makes a great research environment? What kinds of technological, social and physical factors support interdisciplinary collaborative research? This is the focus on the  EPSRC funded spires project. As part of my trip to Australia later in the year, and thanks to a little bit of extra dosh from spires, I will be visiting the Advanced Technologies Centre at Swinburne University, Melbourne.


It’s a pretty snazzy building, and the press release from it’s opening a couple of years ago makes some bold claims.

“Researchers from a mix of disciplines have moved in and will be conducting their work behind transparent walls. According to Dr Andrew Smith, Director of Swinburne’s Facilities and Services Group, this approach was taken to ensure that the university’s intensely technological endeavours were on show and not hidden in a back lot.

“It is about the university inviting the public to gaze in and participate for a moment in Swinburne’s long-standing love affair with the technology needs of industrial and post-industrial societies,” he said.

“Alongside the laboratory are social and teaching spaces, […] Interlinking the cluster of buildings is a series of hanging bridges, cobbled alleyways and landscaped lanes that give the feel of inner city Melbourne”

I’m hoping to visit the building for a couple of days in early August, have a look round and speak to a few people. It will be interesting to see how the building has bedded in and how effective it has been in creating a great research environment.

Although at the moment I’m still not particularly sure what a great research environment is, especially for social scientists? I’m thinking that a pub is a good starting point!



About digitalscholar

I am a sociologist with an interest in new technology. Previously I’ve worked on a number of projects at Lancaster University and the Open University looking at the use of new technologies and social media by researchers. I was also a social sciences teaching fellow at the foundation centre at Durham University teaching sociology and anthropology. I am now a senior lecturer at the University of West London's Institute for Teaching, Innovation and Learning where I oversee the foundation provision and support retention. I'm sure I'll still be interested in, and occasionally blog about, tech related things. I use this blog to post thoughts about using new technologies in my professional academic life and wider thoughts and links relating to technology more generally.
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2 Responses to Special Research Environments and Spaces – ATC, Swinburne University of Technology

  1. anacanhoto says:

    Your post made me a think of this paper: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03075079.2011.601811#.UbEFvqXse2M

    It argues that the key factor influencing research performance is culture. As your first paragraph mentions ‘social’, I thought you might find it relevant.

    Good luck with your research 🙂

  2. anacanhoto says:

    I came across another paper that might interest you – this one discusses how the various characteristics of writing retreats (including the physical aspects of the environment) contribute to academic writing productivity during and beyond the retreat itself. While it is focused on writing, the approach (and some of the findings) may be relevant for the project that you mention in this post. Link to the paper; http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03075079.2010.527934?journalCode=cshe20#.UbRXYKWkUWY

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