1 Overview

This document provides an overview of projects performed by or on behalf of the Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis (ACERA) and its successor the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA). ACERA was funded by the now Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the Department, DAWE) and the University of Melbourne. CEBRA is funded by the Department, New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (the Ministry, MPI) and the University of Melbourne.

CEBRA was instigated to support the Department’s move towards a risk-based approach to Biosecurity regulation. CEBRA supports the Department and the Ministry by developing biosecurity risk analysis tools and research findings that span the biosecurity continuum of pre-border, border, and post-border activities. CEBRA’s priorities are guided by the objectives set out in agreement with its funding partners. It has reviewed existing methods and developed new ones relevant to biosecurity, engaging the necessary skills from a range of external partners. Projects have involved contributors from government (Quote 1), universities, the CSIRO and the private sector with backgrounds ranging from ecology to veterinary science, human medicine, mathematics, statistics, economics and sociology.

CEBRA has collaborated extensively with end users in both DAWE and MPI to improve adoption of methods and to increase the impact of research outputs. Most CEBRA projects include scientists from the Department or the Ministry in the research and analysis, which enhances research outcomes and improves the uptake and outcomes of research and development. All CEBRA projects are collaborations between Department and Ministry staff and University of Melbourne staff or other external scientists. Researchers have prepared final reports for project sponsors, the great majority of which are freely available on CEBRA’s website, and made the research findings available to a wider audience by publishing in peer-reviewed international scientific journals. A complete list of journal articles since the inception of CEBRA can be found on the Centre’s website.

CEBRA’s work has spanned a vast array of regulatory activities, reflecting the responsibilities of the funding agencies and stakeholders. We have imposed a loose project classification to ease access. This classification shows the breadth of activity and impact, and that the focus of projects has evolved to meet contemporary technical and operational challenges and the highest risk priorities facing both agencies.

Quote 1: Karen Schneider — DAWE: ABARES & Animal Division (ret’d)

I have been involved with ACERA and CEBRA since 2008 in a number of capacities. Firstly, while at DAWE, I was a member of the independent Advisory Board and was able to contribute to the overall strategic direction and activities of the Centre, as well as serving as a link to other biosecurity research activities of DAWE. Second, as head of the Department’s Animal Division, I was a direct client of the centre, commissioning projects that helped us manage risk in multiple areas, including imports of biological materials, ornamental fish and ballast water. Then, as Executive Director of ABARES, I was involved in partnering with CEBRA, contributing ABARES expertise and understanding of the Department to leverage the implementation of CEBRA projects and maximise their impact. Now, I have joined CEBRA as a Principal Research Fellow and am seeing the organisation ‘from the other side’ where I can help to deliver targeted, policy-relevant research that can be used by the department to improve risk management outcomes.

Having observed CEBRA from these various perspectives I can attest to the high level of expertise that it brings to its projects, its willingness to genuinely engage with its clients to address their problems innovatively, and the stakeholder networks it has built to support its research outputs. CEBRA represents an excellent model of research engagement between government and the university sector. Its innovative model of co-production and shared governance of the research process has helped overcome some of the traditional barriers between government and academia. It has resulted in genuine partnerships between researchers and policy-makers and enhanced understanding of each other’s roles. CEBRA is focused on impact and the outcome has been sound evidence-based science that has underpinned pragmatic solutions to contemporary biosecurity policy problems.

The projects and reports listed under each of the nine research themes are grouped by their funding period: ACERA I (2006–2009), ACERA II (2009–2013) and CEBRA (2013–2021). For simplicity, and because the organizations mostly share core personnel, we shall only refer to CEBRA hereafter.

Figure 12.1 shows the number of reports published by ACERA/CEBRA each year, and the proportions of these that focus on each of seven biosecurity activities,1 ranging from anticipation of biosecurity risk through to recovery after an incursion or outbreak.


1. Schneider, K., Fraser, H., Dodd, A., Robinson, A. & Arndt, E. (2018). Evaluating the health of Australia’s biosecurity system - Phase One report. Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis, report 1607B.