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Plenary Speakers

Associate Professor Sondoss Elsawah
University of New South Wales, Canberra

The critical systems thinking capability gap: Reflections for future research and education?

Assoc Prof Sondoss ElsawahSondoss Elsawah is the Director of the Capability Systems Centre, a boundary organisation with the mission to connect science, engineering, policy, and industry to address complex societal problems. She is also an Associate Professor of Engineering at University of New South Wales Canberra. Sondoss’ career has been driven by the vision to advance and accelerate the science of knowledge integration and interdisciplinary problem-solving as key mechanism to drive innovative solutions to systemic problems and transformative change. To realise this vision, Sondoss has targeted her contributions towards progressing the field’s three pillars of research, practice, and education.

Her research program focuses on the design and application of collaborative and model-based problem solving approaches to support decision making in complex and multi-stakeholder decision contexts. She has applied her research program in many critical and high impact application areas, such as sustainable development, national security, and emerging technologies. Examples include the design of decision support systems to inform the Australian Government on the acquisition of large-scale Defence investments.

Sondoss is a passionate educator who loves to stretch the mental models of her students to think in systems which extend beyond narrowly-defined and technically focused boundaries to more holistic view of the social, cultural, and ethical aspects. Her outstanding research and teaching have been recognised with several awards, including the Dorothy Green Award for Research Excellence. She is a Fellow of the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australian and NZ and the Peter Cullen Trust for leadership in bridging science-policy gap. Sondoss is a mother of two beautiful children who continuously challenge her own mental model and personify the future generations as a key stakeholder for any societal problem and its solution.

Dr Simon Barry
CSIRO, Canberra

Dr Simon BarrySimon Barry is the Digital Lead for the Environment business unit at CSIRO and is focussed on driving innovation in the use of digital technologies to ensure Australia can navigate the challenges and opportunities the future presents as well as address the impacts and legacies of past actions. He is passionate about the opportunity that digital technologies present to transform the way we understand and manage our environment and natural resources. As Digital Lead he is committed to accelerating the uptake of new digital technologies across data collection, transmission, analysis and decision making as well as contributing to the the debate about what Australia’s Environmental digital infrastructure could and should be.

He has an extensive history using digital technologies and modelling and simulation to solve significant Australian challenges.  He has held significant senior roles at CSIRO over the previous 17 years including being Science and Deputy Director of Data61 and being the Research Director of the Analytics and Decision Sciences Program in Data61.  Before this he was Senior Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Canberra which pioneered the use of quantitative methods in complex decision making.  He has also worked at the Australian National University, the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

He has led significant innovation in the use of modelling and simulation across a range of major projects.  Analytics projects include The New Atlas of Australian Birds which won a Eureka award in 2003 and the National Scale Land Use of Australia which was identified as an essential statistical asset for Australia.  Modelling projects include significant work developing quantitative methods in biosecurity risk analysis, such as pioneering the science that underpins the International Maritime Organisations risk guidelines in the recently ratified International ballast water convention, as well as designing the Australia port surveillance system for honeybee pests.  He also led the risk component of the Bioregional Assessment project, a pioneering project which assessed cumulative risks from conventional and non-conventional coal development across a number of major drainage basements in Australia.

He is an Honorary Professor at the ANU and outside of work keeps busy tending his bees, orchids, and fish as well as cooking for family and friends.