FDI’s research continues to evolve but remains focused on three general topics:
- The Indian Ocean Region and the opportunities for Australia over the next 20 years.
- The possibility of a global food and water crisis and its impact on Australia between now and 2050.
- The development of northern Australia, especially in relation to what needs to be done to improve the quality of its soils.
These areas of research are discussed below.
FDI’s research also has four key characteristics that have not changed significantly over recent years.
Firstly, we attempt to make judgements about the future. This is a form of intelligence analysis, noting that much of the future is grey and that often there are different options that need to be further tested with new information before a final judgement can be made. This also calls for analysts to be flexible and to be prepared to admit that earlier judgements may be wrong.
Secondly, we will continue to identify those who should receive our product, noting that they have the authority, responsibility and interest to use the research we produce. This includes a wide range of people in government, the public service, private institutions, business entities, academia and the media. A recent example was that we identified every politician – federal, state and territory – as well as every shire president and town mayor to ensure that they received our product relating to the future of northern Australia. We presently have over 3,000 people who receive our product directly and I anticipate growing this number by a further 1,500 next year.
Thirdly, our work is essentially journalistic in style. This is done to attract as many readers as possible and to avoid complex, academic and scientific style papers. We also keep our papers short with the longest being not more than 4,000 words. We also start our papers with a list of key judgements so that the busy reader can quickly decide if this is a paper that he or she should read.
Fourthly, we use a wide range of researchers who continue to develop an intelligence analysis technique while capitalising on their detailed knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. They include FDI staff who not only write papers, but also identify authors, do the scoping studies for what we want to publish and edit and oversee their production. Other authors include academics, university interns, subject matter specialists and members of Australian and overseas research institutes. FDI conducts workshops and hosts meetings of such people.
FDI seeks to publish three papers a week. On Tuesday and Thursday, either a Strategic Analysis Paper or Interview or Associate Paper will be published, while on Wednesday a Strategic Weekly Analysis will be produced. This will include several short, current intelligence type papers on areas of research.
Areas of Research
The Indian Ocean Region
The Indian Ocean region includes its littoral states and the impact on the region of major outside powers.
The continuing primary theme of the Indian Ocean Research Programme in 2017 will be the identification and analysis of the major challenges over the next ten years, and implications for Australia, that are likely to confront the six key Indian Ocean states: Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
The study will examine the overall national characteristics of these countries, assess the objectives of their foreign policy towards Australia, and Australia’s response, and analyse their national plans and strategic objectives for the future (to the extent that they exist), including the ability to implement such plans and achieve those objectives. Various supporting papers examining relevant issues, such as governance, internal political developments, economic, social and demographic issues in the selected countries will also be published.
The six countries will be divided into three groups of two countries: Part One will cover India and Pakistan; Part Two, Indonesia and South Africa; and Part Three, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Part One is provisionally scheduled for publication in mid-2017.
Northern Australia and Land Care
The primary theme for the Northern Australia and Land Care Research Programme in 2017 will be research that considers the reason, impact and means of dealing with the degeneration of Australia’s landscape and, in particular, its soil.
In accordance with FDI’s overall strategy, this programme’s research concentrates on the future outlook of such research and seeks to ensure that its product is disseminated to those who have the interest, responsibility and authority to use it.
The Land Care component of the programme links with General Jeffery’s appointment as the National Soil Advocate by the Prime Minister. FDI will be closely associated with Soils for Life, a Canberra-based not-for-profit research institute, chaired by General Jeffery, which will oversee the 100-case study farms that will highlight progressive farming and science-based developments. The Land Care component of this programme will report on outcomes of this project and thus consider the state of soils throughout Australia.
Noting that our understanding of soil is an ongoing process, with new research being conducted nationally and internationally, the intention is to review past publications over the next 12 months with the intention of publishing a Landmark Study early in 2018 to bring together all aspects of these considerations.
In addition to Strategic Analysis Papers, FDI will interview a number of researchers, farmers and pastoralists and policy makers. FDI Associates who have a particular interest in this topic may also be asked to provide papers.
The impact that soils, through the process of plant photosynthesis, can play in climate mitigation will also be considered and reported.
With regard to Northern Australia, noting that the Land Care component of this programme’s research is equally significant to Northern Australia as it is elsewhere, research will concentrate on issues that determine future opportunities for this region as well as the challenges for achieving such opportunities. In particular, the social and economic development of northern Australia over the next 20 years, the impact of climate change and the significance of a growing relationship with China, South Asia and Indonesia will be considered.
The Global Food and Water Crises
The Global Food and Water Crises Research Programme will continue to evaluate the likelihood of a global food and water crisis developing by 2050. In doing so, it will consider how such a crisis might eventuate, what will cause it to happen, how it might affect Australia and what role Australia might play in averting or ameliorating such a crisis.
A Landmark Study that examines the food and water security situation in the Middle East will be published in early 2017 while a further study, reviewing the Indian Sub-Continent, will be published later in the year.
Chinese food and water security will also be a major focus for 2017. The study will examine social and environmental factors that affect Chinese food and water security, such as demographics, climate change, pollution and state development. As Australia is a major supplier of agricultural products to China, these factors will inevitably have an impact on Australia’s own food and water security.
FDI will regularly examine and report on its publication programme and advise recipients of its product of any changes that might occur. It will also issue a quarterly update of its publication programme.
Anyone who wishes to contribute or make recommendations is most welcome to do so, noting that we may be accessed directly or through social media, including Twitter and Facebook.