Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

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A place to call home

In Blog,Ideas on October 25, 2009 by Jim Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

What do international students usually consider after deciding on the course and establishing the reputation of the university that they would go to? I reckon that they will consider whether the university community is safe and pleasant.

Even if I was an outsider, I would have ranked Murdoch University as one of one of the best university communities here in Australia. There are a number of things that make Murdoch a very special place to live and study. And here is my list:

  • Quenda sanctuary: A university doubling as a wildlife sanctuary is an excellent marketing characteristic as it shows the commitment of the institution to environmental issues. I’m glad that Murdoch University is one of such Uni. It aims to be a refuge for these small urban dwellers. A signage somewhere in the Uni describes Quendas as “small bandicoots with small muscular bodies and strong legs for digging.” My first encounter with these little furry creatures was just outside our trailer office. I thought it was a big rat but its nose was too pointy to be one. It is supposed to be a nocturnal animal but I guess the human invasion modified the lifestyle of some of them. I found this one coming out from under the Asian Food whether it is foraging left-over food or calls the Asian Food base as his home, I’m not sure.
  • Quenda

  • Asian Food: International and local students and staff troop this food shop every high noon. The queues could stretch as long as 8 meters during peak hours during the sem. I’m a rice eater so this is an obvious choice and yes, it is conveniently located just outside our trailer office. I also heard that it has a Facebook fan page (and there’s one who set-up a hate page)?!  🙂
  • Bush Court: Where all the action happens—from protest actions, exhibit, markets among others. Although this is way too small from the university field back in my university back home, it is a pleasant place to unwind.
  • Chinese Garden: Small garden near the Education and Humanities buildings. There are ducks that sometimes hang around there. This is the first place that I fell in love with here at the Uni
  • Vet School: Murdoch University is the only school that offers veterinary science in Western Australia. As of this writing, it is the uni’s most popular course offered. The school also boast of being the “first course in Australia to be awarded accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association AVMA.” This is especially good for graduates who also want to take their practice in North America.
  • Anatomy Museum: If you’re into bones (whether it is the TV series or the literal one), then this place is for you. You’ll find different displays of bones of different animal species. So, whether you will be reviewing for your anatomy class or just a curious George, head on to the anatomy museum at the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences.
  • Emu bone

  • Farm: if there’s a vet school, yes there is a farm around the corner. The farm is located around 100 metres walk South of Murdoch College. It caters to There is a farm at the uni and it primarily caters to dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, goat, pigs, alpaca and horses. More information on the services that they offer here.
  • Leading Vet Hospital: It follows that if the Uni is one of the leading vet school in the country, it also has a good hospital to complement it. The School boasts of the state-of-the-art facilities in the hospital including internationally renowned vet faculty staff.
  • Graduate Centre: Despite the plans to abolish this centre, I guess this is one of the most important ‘hubs’ for international graduate students. The centre is obviously undermanned but it has delivered despite some stressful phase to some graduate students, including me. I’m a bit ambivalent on the plan to abolish this centre but one uni official assured graduate students that the new one will be better and there will be “a specific team for supporting HDR students.” Whether they will deliver, let’s wait and see.
  • Training Learning Centre: Everybody needs some TLC. Yes, any new student should acquaint him/herself of the services rendered by the TLC—whether it is academic or just trying to get some study management skills. This is the place to go. Whether you like to hone up on your lecture on statistics, English grammar, managing time among others, the Training Learning Centre is the place to go. Joining their program is as easy as just signing the paper on their bulletin board. The ever accommodating staff and lecturers are a big bonus.

And my list could go on and on but that’s all for now folks.

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This is an entry for the Murdoch University Blogging Competition. If you like this post, please vote for me here.

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Communication, is it more skills than science?

In Blog,DevCom,Ideas on April 16, 2009 by Jim

Back when I was working for an international organisation, I often hear my colleagues trying to tone down the importance of communications staff in most projects. Whether this is driven by economics or something else is everybody’s guess.

Communicating with people might require some skills but is communication management, in general, a ‘common sense’ skills? Paolo Mefalopulos makes a good point as to why there’s a need for communication professionals to step in a number of interventions especially development ones.

He noted the suggestion of a renowned Latin American communication scholar, Luis Ramiro Beltran, to rename communication specialists as ‘communicologist’. Mefalopulos said that this will be a good distinction from other professions and highlights the importance of being a communication specialist. He noted that there is a trend for organisations to hire a media-related professional for a communication management job, however, managing development communication intervention requires a number of professional skills.

He lists the following knowledge, competencies and skills that a good ‘communicologist’ should posses:

  • deeper knowledge of the theoretical body of knowledge on communication and its various branches such as political communication, mass communication, communication research, participatory communication [and development communication among others]
  • able to apply communication effectively in all sorts of situations the communicologist should be familiar with the basic principles of a number of other discipline, namely anthropology, ethnography, sociology, political economy, adult education and participatory approaches.
  • [communicologists involved in development initiatives should also be familiar or have basic knowledge in agriculture, computer science and economics].
  • the communicologist would need to be familiar with the development field and the project cycle, in order to conduct assessments and develop strategy that from their inceptions use communication to engage stakeholders and define objectives, thus making the planning and implementation more effective and sustainable.
  • the communicologist should have the right attitude, one of the rarest commodities to be found in many specialists. S/he should be ready and willing to listen, listen and then listen again, before even trying to understand, assess and propose solutions. S/he should have a high degree of empathy towards the stakeholders groups involved in the process of change. S/he should be willing to use two-way communication to build trust, achieve mutual understanding, mediate and seek consensus on issues that need to be improved.

In this age, communication has evolved from being just a tool of information but to a tool for development.

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RP animal health communication

In Current Events,DevCom,Ideas on December 16, 2008 by Jim Tagged: , , , ,

(Partially lifted from my other blog)

A recent ebola outbreak among hogs was recently reported in the Philippines. An ebola virus was confirmed in a subsequent laboratory test in the US and no further outbreaks were reported. Other quarantined animals were confirmed negative of the virus.

‘Fortunately,’ the ebola outbreak among hogs in the Philippines was caused by the low pathogenic ebola reston strain, which does not affect humans. When it was first detected in the US in 1989, it fatally affected monkeys. The suspected monkeys that introduced the virus came from the Philippines. Investigations led to discovery of other outbreaks in the Philippines, which reported it between 1989 and 1990.

The US had a subsequent outbreak in 1996 and it was again traced to monkeys imported from the Philippines. These outbreaks prompted studies to investigate the zoonotic nature of the strain, which was later disproved.

In the current ebola outbreak, Philippine animal health authorities took a while to release the news although it is certain that investigations were continuing after the outbreak was confirmed and strict biosecurity measures in the farms and province reportedly affected were properly imposed.

The Philippine government recently confirmed the ebola outbreak among hogs almost a little more than a month after it was detected. It immediately stopped pig meat exports “as a precautionary measure.” Philippine authorities assured the public that the ebola virus in pigs was not fatal to humans. The Philippine animal and public health authorities again urged the public to buy only government certified meat. Further tests in other farms showed negative results confirming that the ebola outbreak among hogs was an isolated incident.

burning-fmd-infected-animals

Philippine Agriculture officials assured affected farmers of aid and claimed that it will seek international assistance to finally investigate the reservoir of the virus in the country. It has invited international animal health experts and veterinarians to investigate. A Bloomberg report said that international health experts are positive about the recent hog ebola outbreaks will finally lead scientists “to ‘elusive reservoir’ of virus.”

The Philippine’s Department of Agriculture (DA) where the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) is a line agency has a communications unit, the Agriculture and Fisheries and Information Services (AFIS). The AFIS serves a number of bureaus and agencies under the Department (Ministry to other countries), some of which do not have a communications unit of its own. The AFIS assists the bureaus and agencies in drafting of communication strategies or message development on crops, fisheries, livestock among others.

The AFIS manpower and resources, however, is very limited. Priority is given to crops, which makes half of the country’s agriculture sector while livestock is around 12%. Having previously worked for BAI, I noticed that AFIS seems to have a large media relations role for the whole department and also has a big role as such for each bureau, agency or regional field unit of the DA.

Most Filipino animal health authorities would likely preempt public opinion if they hear terms which they feel would result to feeding images such as scenes from the movie Outbreak. The ebola virus causes haemmorhagic ebola fever, which is fatal for humans. This is one crisis that any politicians or health (both public and animal) authorities would not like to have.

It pays to have laid out plans in cases of risk and crisis communication. However, in my work as a communications officer for a foreign assisted project in BAI, it is very frustrating to realise that there is no such plan in place. Risk and crisis communication, let alone animal health comunication, is a reactive activity for the Department (of Agriculture). This attitude towards risk and crisis communication and, by and large, animal health communication, puts a dent to the whole reputation of the Department.

Public trust when betrayed in any crisis will jeopardize any activity that are aimed at minimizing the impact of a potentially damaging crisis such as animal disease outbreaks. The Department has certainly opened up itself to criticisms that it is capable of covering up cases especially if it is ‘just an epizootic disease.’ No report, no crisis?

The Department has been a recipient of a number of technical assistance from foreign governments to non-government organizations. These assistance range from veterinary capacity, biosecurity, laboratory management, including communications, however, it seems that the communications part was not a priority that they still fall into the trap of tripping in an impending crisis.

The Department has had a number of reports regarding programs on the control of significant outbreaks (from FMD to suspected HPAI ) in the Philippines with, probably, lessons learned as a significant section in these reports. However, the current action of the Department to this crisis shows that these reports were merely submitted for formality’s sake. The training received by staff might have gone down the drain as the top level management has yet to act on the recommendations, especially animal health communication, that is institutionalize it in the national programs and follow it as they will follow biosecurity guidelines.

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Latest updates (4th Fortnightly/4th Monthly)

In Fortnightly,Ideas,Monthly,Updates on April 23, 2007 by Jim

I owe all of you big time as I missed on my fortnightly (I think 2 or 3) and monthly (one) updates.

Following are the development on my side.

Research/work Progress

The KAP survey data have been re-encoded making it possible for a more detailed analysis. I’ve submitted a first draft to Subhash for his comments and I’ll make a copy of the report available to all ASAP. I’m still doing some cleaning of the data analysis and graph/table presentation but the major results are already included in the draft report I’ve submitted.

I’m satisfied with the data that I have and the results that we’ve achieved.

Literature Review

I got sidetracked by the KAP survey data encoding and report writing that I set aside writing the review of litereature. However, I was thinking much about the research proposal.

After much contemplation, a few research and comments solicitations, I’ve realized that my goal to establish an animal health communication theory is not possible. A former supervisor and professor commented that theory building in communication should transcend message sectors such as agriculture. Another one noted that what I should focus on is building a theory in communication strategy for animal health.

I was close to considering these as setbacks but I think I’m still on track about establishing the importance of communication in animal health programs. It might just a matter of how I logically defend my thesis but I think for now I would have to drop the goal of establishing an animal health communication theory.

Given the comments, I’m looking at a possible strategy of documenting how GMS countries, specifically Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, initiate and implement communications programs on animal health specifically on TADs control. I will also review communication strategies and communication theories to relate findings on the GMS countries. What is needed at this point is establishing that there is a difference in communicating animal health as opposed to public health communication. This would entail long debate and I believe I can defend my strategy/thesis.

Subhash assured me that there is some funding for communication activities for the first one year extension of the project. I’m racing against time to draft a communication plan for the following year that would contribute to my research goals.

AB-CRC

I’ve received the scholarship documentation from AB-CRC by email, first, then by post. I’ve returned the papers/forms that needed to be returned like the acceptance letter and finance form. I’ve also sent you the professional development plan. I’ve put in a, hopefully, manageable and logical plan for the first year. I do hope that you’ll all find time to look into it and suggest other things that you deem I should take for the first year.  

Visa Developments

I’ve previoulsy informed all of you of the favorable assessment of my pre-visa requirements. The Australian Embassy, however, cautioned me not to make final arrangements as the visa application is not yet complete. I’m just awaiting the issuance of the electronic certificate of enrollment from Murdoch University then we (my family and I) will proceed to medical examination.

After submitting the eCOE, medical exam results, OSHC proof of payment (again), passports, it would be another waiting game as to when they will return the visa with or without the visa stamp. But I’m quite confident that, at this point, it will be a favorable one.

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In Ideas,Updates on February 21, 2007 by Jim

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