Carr warns: innovation isn’t just for hipsters

plus lesson learned at UoQ education school

cash injection for Monash medical research

and SAGE starts across campus

Life and art

University of Queensland research computing centre head David Abramson’s play about research ethics, Purely Academic is being performed on campus next month as part of an engineering conference. In a real-life drama yesterday a Brisbane jury found former UoQ researcher Caroline Barwood guilty of research fraud.

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Innovation as protection

No one will ever mistake Kim Carr for a hipster, which is good given Labor’s innovation, industry, science and research spokesman thinks the government has the innovation agenda wrong. “To be effective, innovation policy also needs the support of people in the outer suburbs, regional cities, and rural areas,” the senator said, in a speech to Science and Technology Australia yesterday. He suggested that “for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, technological change is the cause of inequality. It is destroying more jobs than it creates.” In arguing voters are suspicious he has a point, which is why Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Greg Hunt never fails to talk about the jobs innovation will generate.

But it’s not that Senator Carr isn’t keen on innovation, it’s just that programmes should not “be directed chiefly to start-up businesses run by hipsters spruiking the latest mobile phone app.”

“A successful innovation system requires a suite of measures that also address the plight of older businesses that actually generate jobs. Innovation is not something that happens online or on your phone. It happens in the factory and the office, the universities and the labs,” Senator Carr says.

Which all sounds more like industry policy with an employment emphasis rather than creating new industries that disrupt and displace old ones.

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Curtin rising

The Curtin University med school is a step closer to starting. The feds approved the school in mid’15 (CMM May 18 2015) and the Australian Medical Council has just decided the school’s students will graduate with a medical degree from an accredited provider. Curtin is now waiting on the Medical Board of Australia to decide (expected next month) if graduates will be eligible for registration as medical practitioners.

Lesson learned

Not everybody in the University of Queensland’s School of Education is especially impressed with management’s focus on improving student satisfaction, despite its top research rankings in ERA (CMM yesterday). Here’s what a staff member tells CMM “forget about world-standard research outputs, what we need to focus on are our selfish and self-absorbed 20 year old clients, who don’t even know what the word pedagogy means let alone be able to identify good pedagogical practice. What they do know how to do is criticise academics’ clothing and speaking styles, and complain when assignments require critical thinking, or when the academic staff who teach them do not treat them as indulged and privileged teenagers, but engage with them as adults and prospective teachers. My customer satisfaction scores went from a lowly 2.9 to a high of 4.6 through changing my approach: don’t make them think, give them one to one individual assistance on assignments, praise all responses no matter how incorrect, no expectations that students will come to any classes, and pass everyone. I was congratulated by the head of school for this excellent result.”

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The pulse of research

The Australian Research Council funded hub for the study of legumes is open. Based at the University of Sydney and with eight partners it will focus on productivity, profitability and sustainability. The centre has $3.97m and five years to spend it.

Cash injections

The feds are funding 14 medical projects with $7.4m “to address barriers to industry growth,” via the MTP Connect research developer. QUT has money to establish a biofabrication research centre, “utilising 3D digital scanning, modelling and advanced manufacturing technologies.” Flinders U is funded to scope a national programme for cooperation between medical device researchers and industry. The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering has money for an industry-mentoring programme for PhD students.

Monash U has two projects supported, a local base for a Canadian project on commercialising regenerative medical products and therapies and a partnership with CSIRO to upgrade the latter’s protein production platform.

Monash will also lead the Victorian Government’s $4m Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, announced yesterday.

Trusted TAFE

What a coincidence! The day after the feds produced stats showing TAFE teaching popular courses for far less in fees than private providers the Andrews Government in Victoria announce $10m for “specialised teaching equipment … like 3D Laser Cutting Machines, equipment for nursing and pathology labs and high-tech panel saws.” Good-o, but just now TAFE could announce lessons will only be available painted  on cave walls and the system would still be more trusted than the for-profits.

Cap looks like fitting

A learned reader reminds CMM that submissions in response to the Ferris-Finkel-Fraser review of the R&D tax incentive are due on Friday. Among a bunch of stuff the Three Fs particularly proposed capping the refund of R&D expenditure at $2m. This was expected to generate howls out of outrage but to date the disputations are discrete. Perhaps the industry is saving its breath, with Innovation, Industry and Science Minister Greg Hunt indicating last month that while he was not signing off on anything he could see a case for the cap, ( CMM September 29).

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SAGE across campus

Marnie Hughes Warrington from ANU wants the SAGE gender equity in science programme extended to other disciplines (CMM yesterday). This strikes University of South Australia DVC R Tanya Monro as an excellent idea, not least because her university is doing it already. “While it’s likely the assessment process will focus on our self-reporting and data related to the STEM areas, we’re deliberately doing it across all disciplines for the very simple reason that it’s not only an issue in STEM. What worries me even more is where we have subject areas with predominantly women at undergraduate levels that have professorial level staff who are predominantly male,” she says.

La Trobe University also endorses a university approach to SAGE, which it says adopted in March.

Friendless for-profits

The private training provider lobby backs VET student funding reform and distinguishes its members from the villains who rorted the benighted VET FEE HELP loan system. But the Australian Council for Private Education and Training warns that its members are unfairly treated under legislation for a new loan system now before the Senate.

“The approach taken in the bill is anti-competitive and significantly disadvantages quality private providers. Quality providers invest significantly in educational infrastructure and support and such changes, with no time to plan for implementation, shows a complete lack of understanding of commercial imperatives. Providers with no adverse audit history, quality outcomes and high-level relationships with industry have been unfairly disadvantaged. Their business planning has been significantly disrupted and are unable to market or engage with students with any confidence,” ACPET asserts in its submission to the Senate committee considering the bill.

The chances of senators paying attention are not strong, demonstrated by the government’s release yesterday of figures that presented private provider courses as much more expensive than TAFE. Last night ACPET CEO Rod Camm responded that this is “an obfuscation,” that the private sector figures are distorted by the rogues and that “public providers have most of their costs paid direct by the taxpayer, where private providers don’t.” Fair enough, but just now this is probably too fine a point to interest anybody in parliament.

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