With the recent release of the Australia-Indonesia Centre’s Research Report 2015, Research Director Professor Richard Price presents his reflections on the benefits of the AIC’s research collaboration to solidify positive trans-national relations between our two countries.

AIC Researh Report

Building stronger relations between Australians and Indonesians through research is at the core of the Australia-Indonesia Centre’s remit. However, being embedded within the intellectual framework of academia while addressing pragmatic stakeholders, including government, expectations that the Centre will contribute to tangible improvements in the bilateral relationship is a daunting but exciting prospect.

Highlighting a similar challenge faced in U.S. bilateral relationships, commentary by the MacArthur Foundation’s President, Robert Gallucci, offers some encouragement in the directions the AIC is taking. Says Gallucci:

Twenty years ago, Alexander George, in Bridging the Gap: Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy, made some good suggestions. First, he proposed interdisciplinary approaches—a common refrain in academe. But they are, in fact, hardly ever done. We talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Being really interdisciplinary is hard and requires deep engagement. The rub is that most academic experts are more interested in their theories than they are in interdisciplinary conversations or working together on problems.

Policy makers, by contrast, have to deal with actual problems. They would benefit from having multiple views of the same issue—and more so from seeing these views integrated—in order to see all the consequences and the likely interdependencies of a line of action.

The recently released 2015 Research Report of the Australia-Indonesia Centre demonstrates its take on bringing academic and government interests to address real world problems. Taking the preceding observations one step further, the report suggests that the Centre seeks to not only bridge the gap through collaborative and interdisciplinary research aimed at addressing complex problems, it seeks also to demonstrably improve relationships through the very act of having Australian and Indonesian researchers, policy makers and businesses working side by side. Walking the walk.

There is no better way to understand one another, to really appreciate our common and divergent world views, than to work together; not for the sake of working together, but for the sake of doing something that has application, utility and mutually treasured meaning.

The 2015 Research Report provides examples of the Centre’s investment research, yet it also shows how it is fostering enduring relationships that will have a life well beyond the Centre. Call it soft diplomacy, science diplomacy or applied bilateral research, the Report points towards a post-aid mindset in which the researchers and their stakeholders of both countries work on shared challenges for mutual benefit; in a partnership environment of co-ownership, co-funding and co-responsibility.

From working on non-communicable diseases to renewable energy, post farm-gate supply chains and inter-modal transport systems in port cities, the research outlined in the report highlights fresh approaches to cooperation applied to contemporary societal challenges in both Australia and Indonesia.

Read the valuable conclusions presented in the AIC’s Research Report 2015 here.