24 October 2016

This comedy cast may be having a laugh, but they take their subject very seriously.

Research integrity is at the heart of Purely Academic, a staged reading to be performed by University of Queensland staff at the Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio next month.

UQ Research Integrity Manager Dr Sue O’Brien said the entertaining tale rang potentially true as a handbook of research pitfalls to avoid including plagiarism, conflict of interest, and misuse of research quality measures, to name a few.

“The use of dark and wry comedy allows us to laugh but also causes us to engage with the story and then consider whether the issues raised are in fact a laughing matter and how we would react when faced with similar dilemmas,” Dr O’Brien said.

Purely Academic is believable and relevant, funny and kind of horrifying at the same time.”

Set in the 1990s, the story follows a brazen computer scientist who is breaking all the ethical boundaries while stirring up professional and personal clashes and, even though it’s purely fictional, it offers an opportunity to bring people together to discuss critical university values in a fun setting.

Dr O’Brien has already used excerpts from the play to teach concepts from the Australian Code for Responsible Conduct of Research to UQ staff.

“Almost all of our training in the Research Integrity Office uses real-life scenarios,” she said.

“Presenting to a wider audience is a fantastic way to engage the University community and get people talking about culture and behaviours we think are acceptable or not.”

The play was written by Director of the UQ Research Computing Centre Professor David Abramson about four years ago, and it was performed at the University of Oxford in 2013.

It was a passion project that he felt he needed to write, despite having no playwriting experience.

Professor Abramson said after some peer-assisted editing, plenty of feedback and fine-tuning, the play emerged as an engaging tool for generating discussion on professional academic behaviour.

“Even when there aren’t black and white answers, clearly there are still things that are wrong or require further discussion,” Professor Abramson said.

“So here we have this academic who pushes every boundary and has all of these characteristics, and through him we are able to ask, what should have happened here, and just how should we behave as a professional academic these days.”

Only 130 tickets are available to the one-off performance, which features some of the University’s “large personalities” including Professor Fred D’Agostino, Dr Nick Hamilton, Professor John Drennan, Dr Sue O’Brien, Dr Amberyn Thomas, Helen Morgan, Raj Chabra, Professor Paul Alewood and Emeritus Professor Alan Lawson. It is directed by Dr Sarah Thomasson.

Purely Academic will stage as part of a conference called “Disruptive models of engineering education”, being run by Professor Jose Torero Cullen from the School of Civil Engineering.

What: Purely Academic – staged reading.

Where: Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio, Campbell Place, St Lucia.

When: Monday, 7 November. 5pm: canapes. 5:30pm reading.

Followed by pizza and discussion.

Book here.

Media: UQ Communications, 07 3346 0561, communications@uq.edu.au