Fair dinkum we are great – just ask us

Well, that’s 930,000 votes gone

On ABC Radio’s AM yesterday “Christopher Pyne accused Labor of disrupting parliament with “undergraduate” and “ungentlemanly” behaviour.” Most students don’t care about politics but they know being compared to opposition MPs is not a compliment and the female majority of undergraduates might have wondered if Mr Pyne thinks all students are blokes. Which maybe why the minister amended his criticism in a doorstop where he said Labor “tried to disrupt the parliament to stop it from operating in a very ill mannered, rude and juvenile way.”  Um I think he meant Labor’s behaviour was ill mannered rather than what he said, which was Labor tried to stop parliament behaving badly. It was an error of punctuation anybody could make, even one of those ungentlemanly undergraduates the minister deplores.

Clear purpose in muddied metrics.

Voting closes today on the proposed enterprise agreement for the Australian Catholic University, which is jointly endorsed by management and the National Tertiary Education Union. But while the powerful are pleased I wonder whether rank and file researchers wanting more than the standard 40 per cent of the work week for a project will be if they get a call from their faculty’s Research Workload Review Panel, which will assess applications using ERA “data on sector performance” as a basis. ERA for 2015 is being assembled now but assuming it matches 2012 metrics it will be clearer than mud (but not by much) as a way of assessing individual past, let alone potential performance. However, as a way of ensuring people are denied research time so they focus on teaching it seems crystal clear. Perhaps the NTEU negotiators fought this one and lost or maybe they just didn’t see access to research time as a major issue for most of their members.

A new look JCU

At the start of December James Cook University VC Sandra Harding sent her proposed restructure out to campus consultation, saying she hoped to pit it to Council in February. Which is what happened. The university announced last night that Council had signed off on a change which turns 15 schools into seven colleges organised into two divisions. The administration will also be reorganised, into four divisions. So how many jobs will go? Professor Harding is not saying, just as she did not say all last year – consistently stating that it is about the best organisation, not saving money. Good-oh, but a voluntary redundancy program was mentioned in December. There was no mention yesterday of how many volunteers there are or where they work, or worked.

All in the timing

It’s the stuff of techie nightmares – around 9.30 am yesterday the Murdoch University website went down, with the homepage running an error message and a class enrolment link which went nowhere. The best the university could manage was a tweet promising “the issue” “will be resolved shortly.” “Issues” happen but hopefully not just before semester starts. By 10.30 the homepage was up but the “class sign-ups” link wasn’t. Which did not make that the best time for the university to announce its new degree structures, especially given the link included was also broken. The sign-up page was working an hour later but as for the new degree framework, I will just have to assume it is as good as Murdoch claims.

Restating Hacker’s Law of Hospitals

“Arguing for science for the sake of science or scientists is like arguing hospitals are for drs and nurses,” Flinders University professor of global gastrointestinal health, Graeme Young, via Twitter.

Protecting creators

The much-anticipated Australian Law Reform Commission report on copyright and the digital economy is out.  The Commission acknowledges content creators must have incentives to produce the materials education relies on but educators “should not be hampered or stifled by overly prescriptive and confined exceptions.” Licences for “fair use” of copyright material should not be required, the ALRC concludes, if the purpose is for education and does not harm rights holders. Sounds like a big if to me.

The way they live now

Across the ditch University of Otago activists complain that the university is funding a rugby team with money better spent on the 250 staff who earn less than the local “living wage.” And in the United States the Obama administration has determined adjunct academic staff should be deemed to work 2.25 hours on student contact, class preparation, marking and so on, for every hour of teaching. The decision is part of the process for setting employment hours for the new universal health care system but the implications for pay and conditions are obvious. But don’t your breadth waiting for pay rises all round, even a commentator from the generally liberal Brookings Institute, Beth Akers is unimpressed. “Rather than creating a distortion in the labour market for professors through aggressive regulation, policy makers should take steps to ensure that this market can work efficiently on its own.  The composition and employment status of the teaching faculty at an institution should reflect the market demand, rather than the preferences of policy makers.”

Cryptic conflict

They don’t like giving too much away at the University of Western Australia. The campus NTEU says members have voted for industrial action and they will meet on Tuesday to discuss a time frame (and presumably what they will do, as well as when they will do it). So management responds it will try to minimise the impact on students of whatever it is. “We will continue to engage in good faith in order to have the matter resolved,” the university says – whatever that means.

Big on brazen

On Monday the Association of Medical Research Institutes published a brazen budget bid which was brazen, even by the brazen standards of the lab brigade. It was followed last night by an analysis of member research metrics over five years, which found “Australia’s medical research institutes outperform all other Australian research sectors, with a relative paper citation impact 40 per cent above the Australian average and 65 per cent above the world average.” Everybody clear on who should be immune from budget cuts?

Go for gold

The American Association for the Advancement of Sciences is giving open access a push, announcing a new peer-reviewed journal, Science Advances, which will be highly selective in what it publishes but utterly indiscriminate in its readers – it will be free. Yes the AASA is taking the gold open access route; authors will have to pay “a processing fee.” But given the Association is not for profit this is not the same as the commercial publishers’ gold approach – they use publicly funded researchers as a private profit centre.

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