Mark Burgman, ACERA - Part 2 - 'Australia's biosecurity arrangements into the future'

Uploaded by Abaresoutlook2011 on 18.04.2011


I'm going to concentrate just on this one topic becasue, like risk/return
pathways and a few other topics, it's a topic that has worked in this relationship
Any relationship is going to generate outcomes
that one side thinks is valuable and the other side thinks is boring or irrelevant, so
we hope that a certain significant proportion of our
work has really useful outcomes. It's the nature of research
- we can't tell where it's going to head, we can't tell what it's going to produce. If we could it wouldn't really
be research. That's what makes it exciting. This is one that's worked:
primarily the brainchild of Mike Nunn and Jeff Grossell - on the DAFF
side. On our side, Aidan Lyon gets to play in this field and get to do a little
bit. There's a very group of people in DAFF
- these are their names - who contribute substantially and who have
a focus and an interest on the gathering of bio-security
intelligence - and I'm going to talk about three particular arms. Intelligence software
professional networks and foresight.
The idea is to gather information that allows the Department to look over the horizon
to identify things that aren't yet in the newspapers, that haven't really bothered people
to a level in the general public or even in parts of industry - but
allow us to detect, intervene and remediate problems
before they become serious issues. This is a way of
providing even greater leverage - even better bang for our buck
when we come to managing risks. Now, there are a bunch of tools that
have been developed for this; and they're variously developed in different disciplines to different
extents. It's one of the interesting things about risk analysis; different disciplines
sort of get onto something and make it run - and it's part of the job to
keep looking between disciplines for advances, ideas
developments that you port across to other areas. That's one of the advantages of this
having an outside group assisting an organisation like that.
Intelligence software ... best developed
for human diseases and animal diseases. Um, you may
remember in the newspapers a few months back, Google claimed to have
detected the outbreak of an influenza epidemic a couple of
weeks before the epidemiologists detected
it - whose job it was to detect these things - were able to detect the, er
um, outbreak of these diseases. That's the sort of thing we're thinking about. There is
software that we have designed that is crawling across your website as we
speak. It's inside your phone right now, looking around, seeing what
it can find. I'm sure it'll make you feel comfortable. And I'm sure we're not alone
in doing this; in fact I know we're not. These web crawlers and related bits of
software are looking for relevant information. The problem isn't
finding information. There is a huge amount of electronically available information out there
accessible in different ways. The idea is to find it
and to apply an appropriate filter that generates a signal
that is relevant and that you can act on. If you want to avoid
overlooking things that matter and you want to avoid flagging things
that don't matter ... so it's like epidemiology - it's a bit little trying to
minimise your false positive and your false negative rates when you come with a disease
diagnosis. It's about trying to maximise information content
of this stuff that comes towards you. And that's been a lot of
fun. There's a bunch of packages you can pull off the shelf. As I said, they're well
developed for human and animal diseases. They're not well developed
for marine ecosystems and marine pests and diseases and fisheries. They're not well
developed for plants - for plant pests, for crops and related things.
And so, we had to get our hands dirty writing
software - and we recruited an enthusiast - Jeff Grossell - who is
a, er, very keyed in younger person in
- he's maybe not that young - I'm not sure actually - in, um
the marine area and DAFF. And Aidan Lyon who has a mixture of mathematics and philosophy
- and these two together have created a system that you can get onto. At the moment
it's called - although that's gonna change. If you've got your iPhone you can
key in and go have a look right now. Go looking for diseases of the marine environment
and you'll find some. It provides an updated list. It allows you
the most interesting thing - it allows you to tune the filters so that
the signals that you get are relevant to your workplace and your understanding of the problems.
This is part of a larger fabric of what we call foresight. I'm going to come to
that as a third point. So the software? There's a bunch of these things
- Google flu trends, G-Fen, ProMed, HealthNav, EpiSpider, um ...
such things ... that have ... somewhat similar architecture
They have different features, they do things in slightly different ways. Some are free
and some are not. Some are developed by governments, some are developed by hospitals
some are developed by groups of enthusiasts ...
universites and so on. We've explored these, as has DAFF,
through other consultancies - and in the animal health area
has decided on a platform and a template for doing this work and they are some very
good people in DAFF who are doing this now. On the marine pests and plant
diseases side, DAFF has written its own material - and now I suppose
is at the forefront of this kind of initiative.
And could continue to be so if it continues to invest in this area.
... Um, bio-security intelligence is the second
strand of what we're calling overall the Foresight Project, or the Bio-Security Intelligence Project.
We have professional networks - and if you talk
to some of our older colleagues they'll say, 'I don't need a
software package, I can ring up Bill and Bill will just tell me, cos Bill knows his
stuff and Bill's antenna is up.' And that's probably right
Expert professionals, when they're
appropriately questioned do have relevant information and is not accessible to all
They're efficient in accessing it. They go to meetings, they talk to people, they read documents ...
they're aware of what's going on around and they often detect problems
well before the newspapers or government or
official bodies find them. So they
disseminate it along professional networks - and if you're professional network is efficient
you'll learn about those things. Well, if this is really as valuable
as we - superficially at least - think it is, we ought to understand it
... project is about mapping the professional networks that inform us about
a particular important set of diseases and pests, so we know
who are the lynchpins, who are the gateways to information
- who provides it, who are the information sources, who are the information sinks.
We want to know if some one individual in your organisation gets sick and takes
a month off are you blind for a month ... from diseases and pests that might
arrive on your doorstep that you could have intervened and acted on had this person
been present. The sensitivity of those networks to the participant
and building in redundancy into those networks and
fact encouraging the right kinds of information flows in those networks are very
achievable social goals. So, this work involves
social scientists and psychologists from the University of Melbourne. Professor Pip Patterson and
Eric Quantain from Switzerland are working with us to
map the social networks that govern the information flows about pests and
diseases. We will learn about those structures and then broaden that
understanding and, er ... we don't know what we'll find yet. We're
on a project of discovery. Um, lastly ...
foresight. Foresight is about providing
a mindset that allows you to understand the signals that
you receive. One of the things that we've learned from risk analysis
in general is that someone can tell you something critical and if you don't get it you just
don't get it. Think about launching a rocket that has a leaky
O-Ring. When we look backwards through time we can say, 'Oh, if we'd just listened to him.'
That engineer, ... that consultancy, who was telling us in very plain language
there's a problem - if you launch this rocket when it's too cold
in which we could have avoided a disaster. We simply didn't
have the right mindset to understand
what it is we were being told. That's what foresight is about. It's about
having a mindset that allows an organisation to have a mindset
that allows it to anticipate - to see and understand and act appropriately
on emerging threats and diseases. It's also - it's a kind of a
philosophical abstraction and it works
around facilitated workshops that provide a common
way of thinking about emerging threats, diseases, problems ...
of various kinds in an organisation. They could be structural, they could be
biological - there's no limit to what this kind of work
can do. Bunch of tools that go with this? Some of you will be
familiar with scenario planning - it's one of those tools. That's more widely
disseminated in business. Hindcasting, backcasting are other
tools that are sometimes used in various places. The whole body of these
tools is called foresight. And this is a group of people who have been participating
in a foresight workshop. A bunch of vets mainly in this instance.
It was led by a fellow by the name of ... Sohail Immatula, who
is quite a skilled facilitator in foresight work - but there are a number of these people around who
also do this work. Um ... those last
three slides give you a snapshot of some of the work we're doing, what it hopes to
achieve and ... I would love to be able to give the same kind of
detail about all these other things. Don't have the time. If you want to talk to me
about them I'd love to at any time. Thank you very much.