Avoiding the parent trap

The ARC acknowledges kids take time

Fred’s parting present

There is still no enterprise agreement at the University of New South Wales, but that isn’t stopping pay rises. Yesterday VC Fred Hilmer (yes, he is still there) announced a 3 per cent hike in two tranches for 2015. I’m guessing this is signed off by incoming vice chancellor Ian Jacobs, who takes over in a fortnight.

Offensive defence, unless it’s the other way around

Now why would Labor and the Greens want to send Minister Pyne’s higher education package off to another Senate committee (as reported by Andrew Trounson in The Australian yesterday)? Yes, it would give senators Kim Carr and Lee Rhiannon an opportunity to express outrage at the government’s inane advertising selling the proposed fee hike – but stunts aside, what’s the point if the Senate is set to vote the Pyne package down for a second time? If, however, crossbenchers are being convinced, or worn down, by the persistent Mr Pyne another round of hearings might be enough to keep crucial senators on the nay side. But this could have the reverse effect, with the government bringing the bill on if it thinks it has a chance. Or if it just wants to take the existing deal off the table with 2015 budget planning underway. Whatever the opposition is up to, Mr Pyne’s office and that of Senate education committee chair Bridget McKenzie yesterday said they had not heard anything formal from Labor or the Greens about a new inquiry.

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Meanwhile Greens education spokesman Lea Rhiannon wants one million present and future students as well as “allies” of public education to send Senate crossbenchers a postcard urging them to vote against the Pyne package. Well sort of, “fill in your details below and we’ll write, print and post your cards,” the senator’s site states. Perhaps this will sway senators but even if not it is another pitch to establish the Greens, instead of Labor, as the activist opposition on student issues. Last night Senator Rhiannon said 2000 people had already let senators know what they think

Geek is good

According to the Courier Mail yesterday Chief Scientist Ian Chubb thinks TV shows such as Big Bang Theory can encourage an interest in science among the young. I wonder which character in the show he thinks is a good role model for aspiring young scientists, Howard the lecherous engineer or Sheldon the genius physicist with Aspergers? It can’t be Penny the only sane person on the show – she aspires to acting.

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Except for all the others

Kyle Siler and colleagues writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences point to problems with peer-review as a way of picking papers to publish. They examined the citation rates for articles variously published or rejected by three “elite medical journals” but published elsewhere and found the flash journals rejected the 14 most popular of the 800 articles in their sample. “This finding raises concerns regarding whether peer review is ill-suited to recognise and gestate the most impactful ideas and research,” they write. However they also conclude peer reviewers generally make good decisions and “add value,” making them the worse way of selection research to publish, except for all the others.

Not so simple, Simon

The VET Advisory Board is holding capital city consultations on the training packages and accredited courses discussion paper, commissioned by Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, who lost training in the December 23 reshuffle. I wonder if new training minister, South Australian senator Simon Birmingham will attend the Adelaide meetings on February 2. If he is not confused by the complexity of the VET sector by then he will be if he does. But at least it would mean Chris Pyne does not have to attend – ah, now I understand why Senator Birmingham has training in his title

Escaping the parent trap

Last year the National Health and Medical Research Council spoke sternly to some in the research institute sector for their indifference to work opportunities for young scientists whose careers are interrupted by childcare. Now the Australian Research Council is making opportunities marginally more available for people with young children through changes to terms of the Discovery Early Career Researchers Award programme, which opens tomorrow. Until now DECRA applicants had to have completed a PhD no more than five years previous but the ARC is extending this for family primary care givers to a maximum of two years each for two children. If an applicant takes less than two years off per child they can still claim the maximum extension for each. It may not be a solution to de facto discrimination against supporting parents, but it’s certainly a start.

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Investment opportunity

The push to make degrees for financial planners mandatory and for them to pass a practice exam is gathering pace, again (CMM, yesterday). Australian Securities and Investment Commission chair Greg Medcraft said in the AFR that degrees and a national exam are needed to restore trust and establish professional standing. Just like they were necessary after scandals in the last decade. To help make it happen academics who teach financial planning should surely speak up – but no one is. Just like last time.

What post docs are doing

Margaret Hardy, a post doc research fellow at the University of Queensland, is researching the backgrounds, working conditions and career paths of her peers and wants post docs to complete a survey, here. With many post docs doomed to the half academic life of casualisation the responses will reveal a great deal about the way universities treat highly skilled but often under-paid labour.

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Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au