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Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

1257th OGM and open lecture

pip pattison small  “The science of social networks”

  Professor Pip Pattison AO FASSA FRSN

  Deputy Vice Chancellor
  University of Sydney

Date: Wednesday 4 October 2017
Venue: Union University and Schools Club, Bent St, Sydney

We are social animals and what we think, feel and do is affected by the social networks in which we live work and play. In her talk, Professor Pattison shared with us some of the complexities associated with analysing the structure and dynamics of social networks; including how we can model networks and their consequences.

She began with a brief account of the theory of networks and then described ways we can model their behaviour. The approach construes global network structure as the outcome of dynamic, interactive processes occurring within local neighbourhoods of a network. She described a hierarchy of models and how they may be applied to real social networks using data obtained through various types of network sampling schemes. In particular, she addressed the problem of inferring the nature of the overall structure of a network from knowledge about fragments of the network.

Using several illustrative problems, she demonstrated how the models can be used to enrich our understanding of real network structures in a variety of contexts.  This included how they shape the processes taking place within them, such as the transmission of infectious diseases, and how the models can be used to guide strategies for preventing the spread of such diseases.

Professor Philippa (Pip) Pattison is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University in Sydney, responsible for the University’s strategy and vision for teaching and learning and students’ educational experience. A quantitative psychologist by background, Professor Pattison began her academic career at the University of Melbourne, and has previously served as president of Melbourne’s Academic Board and as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

The primary focus of Professor Pattison’s research is the development and application of mathematical and statistical models for social networks and network processes. Recent applications have included the transmission of infectious diseases, the evolution of the biotechnology industry in Australia, and community recovery following the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

Professor Pattison was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 1995. She was named on the Queen’s Birthday 2015 Honours List as an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to higher education, particularly through contributions to the study of social network modelling, analysis and theory, and to university leadership and administration.

1256th OGM and open lecture

Helen Mitchell  "Multisensory music:
  listening by ear and eye?"

   Dr Helen Mitchell
   Sydney Conservatorium of Music
   University of Sydney

Wednesday 6 September 2017, 6 for 6:30pm
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Listening is regarded as the most fundamental way to engage with music performance but this is challenged by a growing body of research which suggests that sight trumps sound. Music is now widely recognised as a multisensory experience, and the challenge for music education is to absorb and include these recent research findings in the music curriculum. This presentation deciphered the complex perceptual skills required for listening to music performers. It described how new experiential learning strategies in music education can prepare future music professionals as critical thinkers about music performance.

Dr Helen Mitchell has a multidisciplinary background in music, as a singer, music scholar and music performance researcher. Listeners’ perception of sound quality is central to Helen's music performance research. Her current work investigates how listeners recognise and describe individual performers’ sound identities, and how listeners ‘hear’ music performers to see to what extent audiences integrate audio and visual information to identify individual performers. 

Poggendorff Lecture 2017

"Applied remote sensing applications for Australian agricultural and horticultural industries"

Associate Professor Andrew Robson, University of New England

Poggendorff picture

Associate Professor Andrew Robson receiving the Poggendorff Medal from His
Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (ret'd.), Governor of NSW

Date: Tuesday 29 August 2017

Venue: Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000

 With increasing awareness of global food shortages and a downturn in mining exports, Australian agriculture is currently receiving unprecedented industry support and funding for the development and adoption of new technologies. At the forefront of this renaissance is agricultural remote sensing, predominantly due to the advent of drones or UAVs. Whilst the UAV technologies themselves still require much research and development, they have inadvertently increased focus on satellite based imaging platforms, a technology that has been evolving since the 1970’s. The University of New England (UNE) Agricultural Remote Sensing Team (ARST), stands at the forefront of research within this discipline having established formal collaborations across multiple agricultural industries, and offering support to many more. 

In this lecture, Associate Professor Andrew Robson, presented a brief theory of remote sensing with relevance to agriculture, including an overview of commercial satellites and associated costings. The presentation included a detailed discussion of applications currently being developed by ARST, in response to industry demand, ranging from the prediction of fruit size and yield at the individual tree level, the automated derivation and distribution of yield and nitrogen concentration maps to an entire industry and the generation of tools that support national biosecurity and post disaster monitoring.

Associate Professor Robson, founded the ARST, a theme of the UNE Precision Agriculture Research Group (PARG) in 2016 on the back of his long standing research career in agricultural remote sensing. He has been engaged in agricultural research since 1996, with the last 15 years developing spatial applications (remote sensing/ GIS) across a number of cropping and farming systems both nationally and internationally. This research has attracted funding from a wide range of industries including Peanut (ACIAR, GRDC, University of Florida), Grains (GRDC), Cotton (CCCCRC), Sugar (SRA/SRDC, WWF/ Coca Cola), Rice (RIRDC/ NSWDPI), Avocados, Mangoes, Macadamia, Banana (Horticulture Innovation Aust/ Federal DAF), Vegetables (Horticulture Innovation Aust), Pineapples (QDAF) and Pastures (CRC-SI/ MLA). Throughout his career, A/ Professor Robson has developed an extensive network of industry, research and commercial collaborators that are regularly engaged for the development and delivery of practical and adoptable outcomes.

The Poggendorff Medal

Walter Poggendorff was a biologist and plant breeder with a particular interest in the breeding of rice.  In 1928, the Yanco Rice Research Station was established by the NSW Department of Agriculture with approximately 670 acres just south of Leeton on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River.  A brilliant young biologist, Walter Poggendorff was transferred there as an assistant plant breeder.

Poggendorff’s early accomplishments included recognizing the need to quarantine imported rice and producing strains of rice that were able to offer growers late, mid-season, early and very early short-grain varieties.  He also developed similar long-grain strains but these were not required by the market until much later.  Poggendorff is recognised as one of the major figures in establishing the Australian rice industry, developing high-yield crops for Australian conditions and maintaining controls on imports to limit the introduction of serious diseases.  Poggendorff’s work was not confined to rice – in the 1930s and 1940s, he worked with peaches, apricots, pears, almonds, grapes and rock melons.  Later, he became Chief of the Division of Plant Industry in the NSW Department of Agriculture.

When he died in 1981, he made a bequest to the Royal Society of NSW to fund a lecture.

RSNSW/SMSA Joint Lecture Series: Is the Enlightenment dead?

Susannah Fullerton   Lecture 1:  “Samuel Pepys, His Library
   and the Enlightenment”
  Susannah Fullerton
  Author, lecturer and literary tour leader

Date and time: 4 September 2017, drinks at 6pm, for 6.30-7.30pm

Venue: All sessions will be held at the Mitchell Theatre, Level 1, Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, 280 Pitt St., Sydney

Cost: $15 for Fellows/Members, $20 for friends (per lecture)

Register for Lecture 1 here:

This series of five talks, co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, brings together the two oldest institutions in NSW dedicated to education, the discussion of ideas, and discovery. The series is expected to initiate a period of interactive events and activities to the mutual benefit of both societies. The lectures will be presented by an outstanding group of experts in the field, with the topics chosen to represent a broad overview of the Enlightenment from its beginnings as the public recognized and discussed the meanings of change from a long period of mythology and dogma, to grasping reality and what that meant to them and their lives, to its impact on our society today.

The Enlightenment was founded on reasoned discourse and scientific enquiry, connecting with the idea of human equality and the rights of the individual. It was a powerful influence through disruptive revolutions in the 18th century on European and American societies. But what influence did it have on our Australian society, and the institutions entrusted to inform the population of new ideas and discovery? On a more concerning note, to what extent is Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz correct in his view that “Global Deflation is reversing international progress through rejection of the principles of the Enlightenment”?

These five Lectures will capture the beginnings of the Enlightenment, its immediate impact on Colonial Australia, and two portals of the Enlightenment and their adaptation to changes around them over 200 years. The series will conclude with an interactive Sophistry, taking the theme of the series, and discussing this in the context of contemporary Australian life.

Samuel pepysIn this first lecture Susannah Fullerton will discuss the life and diaries of Samuel Pepys and what they tell us about The Enlightenment. Susannah Fullerton is Sydney’s best known speaker on famous authors and their works. She has spoken at literary conferences around the world, and is regularly sought as an entertaining and informative speaker at fund-raising events, conference dinners, schools, libraries, universities, bookshops and clubs.

Susannah Fullerton, OAM, FRSN, has been President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia for the past 21 years. She is Sydney's best known lecturer on famous authors and their works. She is also Patron of the Rudyard Kipling Society of Australia. Susannah leads popular literary tours for Australians Studying Abroad to the UK, France, Italy and the USA. She is the author of several books about Jane Austen and also of Brief Encounters: Literary Travellers in Australia, and has written and recorded two audio CDs. 

Other lectures in the series:

Lecture 2: “The Freedom to Use Ones Own Intelligence: the Enlightenment and the growth of the Australian Nation" by Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN on 6 November 2017

Lecture 3: “Learning, Adaptation and the Enlightenment: The Museum” by Kim Mckay AO, Director and CEO Australian Museum,on 1 February 2018

Lecture 4: “Learning, Adaptation and the Enlightenment: The Library” by Paul Brunton OAM Emeritus Curator, State Library of NSW, on 1 March 2018

Lecture 5:  Sophistry: “Global Deflation : The Enlightenment has Failed!” by Scientia Professor George Paxinos AM, on 5 April 2018

Royal Society events

The Royal Society of NSW organizes a number of events in Sydney throughout the year.  These include Ordinary General Meetings (OGMs) held on the first Wednesday of the month (there is no meeting in January).  Society business is conducted, new Fellows and Members are inducted, and reports from Council are given to the membership.  This is followed by a talk and optional dinner.  Drinks are served before the meeting.  There is a small charge to attend the meeting and talk, and to cover refreshments.  The dinner is a separate charge, and must be booked in advance.  All OGMs are open to members of the public.

The first OGM in February has speakers drawn from the Royal Society Scholarship winners, and the December OGM hears from the winner of the Jak Kelly award, before an informal Christmas party.  The April event is our black-tie Annual Dinner and Distinguished Fellow lecture.

Other events are held in collaboration with other groups, including:

  • The Four Societies lecture (with the Australian Institute of Energy, the Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia [Sydney Division] and the Australian Nuclear Association)
  • The Forum (with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia)
  • The Dirac lecture (with UNSW Australia and the Australian Institute of Physics)
  • The Liversidge Medal lecture (with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute)
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