Sinodinos signals the tax review of R&D is back on the agenda

La Trobe moves upmarket in Sydney


Pay rise does not please staff at University of Tasmania


and: shortlisted scientists in south and west Australia, plus other winners of the week


Cold hard facts

Senators will go anywhere to hear about higher education

In news that will make everybody want the weekend to be over there are Senate committee hearings into the government’s higher education legislation on Monday and Tuesday. The first day is at the Melbourne Airport ParkRoyal and the second at an unannounced venue in Wodonga.  CMM supposes the committee could have picked colder places – but flights to Antarctica are always so crowded.

Desirable address

La Trobe moves into new Sydney digs

Yesterday La Trobe launched its flash new Sydney CBD campus, on elegant Elizabeth Street facing Hyde Park. The $10m fit-out is set-up to serve 500 students in IT, business and health science, with postgraduate management specialisations expected next year.

The campus is also convenient to the University of Western Sydney’s city base, in fact they share the same 255 Elizabeth Street address.  What brings them together is private provider and service supplier Navitas, which also has an English college in the building.

Rabbits on the run

Next Friday “50 human rabbits will invade downtown Melbourne,” RMIT advises

The people wearing cardboard caricatures of bunny heads are an art display by Madrid collective mmmm which has an exhibit at RMIT’s gallery. You are warned.

Pay rise doesn’t please

At the University of Tasmania the union want a staff vote on industrial action

The University of Tasmania has awarded staff a pay rise “to placate not reward them” according to the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. The union is cross that enterprise bargaining has taken too long to get going and rejects management’s claim that the 1.5 per cent rise is intended to demonstrate, “the patience, understanding and continued excellence demonstrated by our staff during this period has been greatly appreciated,” (CMM yesterday).

“Our members have not been placated – in meetings last month there was unanimous support of a motion calling for industrial action if sufficient progress was not made,” NTEU state secretary Kelvin Michael says.

The pay rise is effectively an advance on any salary increase negotiated in the bargaining round.

The price of new ideas

The government has put the R&D tax concession back on the agenda

Sometime between the dawn of time and the ARC funding the ark the government appointed Bill Ferris (Innovation Australia chair) Alan Finkel (Chief Scientist) and John Fraser (Treasury Secretary) to review the close-to-$3bn research and development tax incentive. They duly reported but the government filed their work under B for, bit tricky this one.

Until yesterday, when Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos mentioned the Three Fs on Sky News.

“What we’re doing with the R&D Tax Incentive is we’ve had a bit of an examination of that. I’ve asked for some further work to be done on how it’s working, to make sure it’s sustainable going forward.”

It is not often that work by this terrific a trio is described as “a bit of an examination” but at least Senator Sinodinos is talking about their review. The reference to “further work” to make sure the tax incentive “is sustainable” is especially interesting.

The Three Fs called for a $2m cap on refunds via the scheme’s tax offset. While this is intended to assist companies with products in early stages of development they warned “it may have unintended behavioural responses,” (CMM September 29 2016)

This was wildly unpopular among entrepreneurs as well as consultants, who are reported to make $190m a year advising on the scheme. But university research policy people, who would like to see some of the funding flow to their labs, loved it. In May (CMM May 11) the Australian Technology Network supported the review’s idea of a 20 per cent collaboration premium for work with “publicly funded research organisations. The Innovative Research Universities agreed, “(the government) has the report setting out how to revamp the Research and Development Tax Incentive. It needs to accept its conclusions and act.”

Whatever the minister decides, a vocal lobby will rain fire (and quite possibly brimstone) upon him – but it seems Senator Sinodinos is up for the heat, once he decides what “sustainablemeans.

Cameron has really arrived at Aston

Alec Cameron has made a big move in on-line business education

Professor Cameron moved from DVC at the University of Western Australia to run UK STEM, business and medicine focused Aston U in the UK a year back and has now launched a major online initiative.

The university is partnering with US education services provider Keypath to build business for online graduate business degrees.  Keypath will provide research, marketing, student recruitment and support for the initiative under a ten-year agreement. Fees for Aston online accounting and finance masters are now around A$ 26 000.

No sale for journal publishers

Germans lead the open access charge

Last year a group of German universities jacked up at the prices for-profit publisher Elsevier was demanding for journals. With talks stalled in February the publisher allowed academics continuing access, on the assumption a deal would be done  (CMM February 16). But there is still nothing doing, with more institutions joining the boycott.

A peak body representing universities with big research budgets wants a new agreement that provides journal publishers like Elsevier with a licence to print somewhat less money than now and to improve open access via a group-licence. According to Elsevier, it is happy to negotiate on terms, and “help Germany to transition to 100 per cent open access in a sustainable way.”  CMM suspects that means gold OA, under which journals are free to read but institutions pay to have researchers’ articles included.

Whatever occurs will likely be an improvement on the  Australian situation, where the new Australian Research Council policy on open access is the same as the old one. ARC funded research in journals must be available to all a year after publication ( CMM July 4).

Dolt of the day: Is CMM who yesterday reported Renee Kohler Ryan has moved up from assistant dean to dean of the school of philosophy and theology at ACU. In fact she is at Notre Dame Australia in Sydney.

Heads Up

Wins of the working week

 Some 22 University of Queensland staff are newly accredited fellows of the UK Higher Education Academy. The HEA accredited four UoQ principal fellows; Julie Duck (HASS), Sarah-Roberts Thompson (Health and Behavioural Sciences), Lydia Kavanagh (Engineering, Architecture and IT) and Gilliam Hallam (university library).

The Council of International Students Australia has elected its new management team. Bijay Sapkota from the University of Sydney is national president and Ahmed Ademoglu from Curtin U is VP.

University of New South Wales computational chemist Sean Smith will become director of the National Computational Infrastructure in January.

Damien Maher from Southern Cross U has won the Cronin Award for Early Achievement from the Coastal and Estuarine Research FederationDr Maher holds an ARC DECRA fellowship and works on carbon biogeochemistry.

The University of New South Wales has appointed Darren Goodsir to a senior position in social/digital media. The former editor—in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald is joined by M&C Saatchi director Amir Mireskandari.


South and West Science awards shortlisted

The South Australian science excellence shortlists are out

scientist of the year: Anton van den Hegel (UniAdelaide), Bronwyn Gillanders (UniAdelaide), Sharad Kumar (UniSA), James Paton (UniAdelaide), Mike Bull (Flinders U)

PhD research excellence: Joel Fuller (UniSA), Hannah Wardill (UniAdelaide), Lee-anne Chapple (UniAdelaide)

tertiary STEM educator of the year: Mario Ricci (UniAdelaide), Claudio Szabo (UniAdelaide), Maurizio Costabile (UniSA)

research collaboration: UniAdelaide, Australian Centre for Visual Technologies and LBT Innovations for developing an intelligent medical device. South Australian Early Childhood Data Project for public data for public good. BP, CSIRO, South Australian Research and Development Iinstitute, UniAdelaide, Flinders U for Great Australian Bight Research Programme

STEM professional: Leah Cosgrove (CSIRO), Duncan Taylor (Forensic Science SA), Emilio De Stefano, (De Stefano and Co)

UWA and Curtin lead in the shortlist for the WA Premier’s science awards

Scientist of the year: Ravinder Anand (CSIRO), Donna Cross (Telethon Kids Institute), Zheng-Xiang Li (Curtin U), David Mackey (UWA), Harvey Millar (UWA), Una Ryan (Murdoch U), Christobel Saunders (UWA).

Early Career Scientist of the Year: Asha Bowen (Telethon Kids Institute), Wensu Chen (Curtin U), Jun Li (Curtin U), Anais Pages (CSIRO), Daviod Gozzard (UWA), Patrick Hayes (UWA), Jessica Kretzmann (UWA), Ryan Urquhart (Curtin U),

Science engagement initiative of the year: 60 second science (Telethon Kids Institute), CoderDojo WA (Fogarty Foundation), Old ways, new ways – Aboriginal Science Outreach Programme (Edith Cowan U), Traveling geologist (Curtin U),