PREFACE

1994 was the Year of the Architects. Plans for the refurbishments to the Anderson Stuart Building took shape as architects seemingly became as common as students. The `architects' of the Post-graduate Medical Programme also became increasingly active. For some staff, redesigning lifestyles in response to the University's voluntary early retirement scheme became paramount. Plans for a research institute involving the research staff in the building were drafted. 1995 will be a year of change, as these plans start to take effect.

Retirements and resignations

As a part of a plan to reduce staffing levels across the University, all staff in the Department of Physiology were offered the opportunity to apply for voluntary early retirement. The scheme rewarded with lump-sum benefits those whose offers were accepted, and was timed to enable potential retirees to enjoy these benefits prior to detrimental changes in the tax laws. Four applications were approved: Nancy Kos vacated the secretary's position; Kevin Knowles left the mechanical workshop; Oetojo left the electronics workshop; and perhaps most consequentially, Barry Gow vacated his associate chair (see Other News, final chapter in this report). These took effect from 1 December, and were followed by a further resignation by Virginia Klomp who moved from our classroom staff, to a more senior position in another Department, and by John Tebbit who opted to leave our computing staff for an adventurous business partnership. We wish all these former colleagues well in their new ventures. As of this writing, only one of the vacated positions has been refilled, making the reduction in staff the most significant in many years, but only a continuation of a long-term downward progression over many years. It is instructive to compare general staff levels over the past 20 years:

Section                     1975      1995
Administrative                2        2
Animal house                  1        1
Attendant                     1        0
Classroom                     4        2
Computing                     0        2
Electronic workshop           3        0.5
Glass-washing                 1        0
Mechanical workshop           4        0.6
Photographic                  1        0
Research technical            3        2
Secretarial                   2        1
Student liasion               0        1
Typing                        2        0

Total                        24       11.1

These changes have occurred during a period in which the Department's total teaching commitment has increased progressively, and the academic staff has grown by about 20%. The only growth in support staff has been in computing, for which demand continues to grow, and without which the other losses could not have been tolerated.

It is unlikely that Barry Gow will be replaced in the short term, if only because space to accommodate a new staff member will not be available (for reasons discussed below).

Refurbishment

Refurbishment of the Anderson Stuart Building will begin in 1995. At least $20M will be spent over a period that may be 10 years or longer. An overview of the plan was included in the 1993 Annual Report. As of this writing, the plans for Stage 1 of the grand plan are nearly complete. Stage one will include:

These losses are an essential part of the plan, for without some vacant space to start with, the progressive move of parts of the Department into refurbished space, and the refurbishment of vacated spaces cannot begin. Two other essential elements are the move of Prosthetic Dentistry to the Dental Hospital, and the temporary reduction in the number of students doing practical physiology in medicine that will occur in 1996, as the old degree is phased out, and before the postgraduate degree comes on line.

The refurbished areas should be constructed to a high standard, with air-conditioning, fume cupboards, modern electrical and communication services. Not remarkable features except in a 100-year old building.

That these plans may translate to reality beginning with moves in July, and in earnest when examinations are complete in December, for completion in September 1996, is greeted with a mixture of joy and trepidation. Particularly those who will move to new laboratories are looking forward to purpose-built facilities, but the question of how possible it will be to maintain research productivity while such major works are proceeding around us is a serious concern. And if we survive stage 1 we can `look forward' to stages 2 and onwards!

Post Graduate Degree

The `architects' of the postgraduate medical degree continued the planning in 1994, and the future role of the Department in the programme is beginning to be defined. Training for problem based learning tutors is likely to begin in 1995. Most members of the Department have been involved in planning to some degree, but the efforts of Ann Sefton, in her position as Sub-Dean (Curriculum) stand out. The future of the Department rests very much in her hands. It is interesting to note that two staff members now have important roles in the Faculty, for David Cook is also a Sub-Dean (Research). A tradition that began with Michael Taylor and John Young of Physiology staff making significant contributions to Faculty and University administration appears to be in the making. While this ensures the Department is well represented in the University, the effective loss of staff who are still on the Department's budget aggravates the problems with staff levels and the Departmental budget.

Institute

A group of 30 senior researchers in the Departments of Physiology and Anatomy & Histology has planned a research institute to further encourage collaborative research and to seek funding additional to that from conventional sources. The aim is not to assist researchers who fail to obtain NHMRC grants, for the most important criterion for membership is holding an NHMRC grant, but rather it is to ensure that grantholders are insulated from reductions in funding. The institute, which may be unique in the way it is composed of academic staff of university departments, is to be called the Sydney Institute for Biomedical Research. Its constitution, drafted in 1994, should be adopted by the University soon. The poll to elect members to the first Board of Directors has been held, and planning for fund-raising is about to begin. An inaugural Report for the Institute will appear in 1995. We wish this important initiative the success its members strive for.

Science Faculty

1994 was not a successful year in planning our future in the Faculty of Science. The quota for the Bachelor of Medical Science programme remains at 100, despite previously promised adjustments as the Medicine intake was phased out. Proposals to reintroduce courses in the Bachelor of Science stream were rejected. New proposals have been submitted as of this report, and while there is some reason for more optimism on this occasion, the fundamental problem, that the Department is not funded through the Faculty of Science devolved unit, remains a serious impediment.

Headship

David Allen is at present on study leave in Sweden. Consequentially his term as Head of Department was cut short. We owe David thanks for his efforts especially during the year of the architects. The present appointment of Head of Department is until the end of 1995.

Congratulations

Congratulations to Margot Day, from David Cook's Lab, and Krystel Huxlin, from Ann Sefton's Lab, who have both accepted a C.J. Martin Fellowship. It is especially pleasing that one of David Allen's former BSc(Med) students, Stuart Turvey, was recently awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Our hearty congratulations to Stuart.

Dave Davey
Head of Department
April 1995