Finkel backs Climate Change Authority Board

Jobs to go but a big win for Warrnambool

Howler for The Ages

UNE accepts union leader can stay on council

Howler for The Ages

By now Media Watch’s Mars edition will have a spot on The Age running the wrong Victoria University advertisement on the Grand Final performance of the Western Bulldogs, the version prepared for a Dogs’ defeat. VU sponsors the team and it is a big part of the university’s regional brand-build. But not to worry, it’s not as if that many people read The Age anymore – and the Herald Sun ran the right version.

Newspapers also got right the Bulldog’s recent advertisement celebrating VU’s spectacular entry into the Times Higher global top unis list.

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Huge win for Warrnambool

Deakin University has dropped its plan to abandon the Warrnambool campus but yesterday warned that unless “declining enrolments and increasing annual losses” are reversed it will be “increasingly unsustainable”. Vice Chancellor Jane den Hollander announced the decision to stay and invest in new courses also involved ending some degrees, believed to be mainly in business, arts and education and reducing staff, with a consultation process starting immediately.

The campus was marked for closure in March when Professor den Hollander told the Warrnambool community that despite pumping $42m into the campus for courses, student accommodation and university infrastructure, and enrolments there were down 42 per cent since 2011 (CMM March 21).

Back then Deakin announced the best hope of the campus continuing was another university taking it over. However while the most likely candidate, Federation University ultimately declined, the promise of a federal rescue package and local lobbying appear to have convinced Deakin management to have another go. While cutting some courses the university will continue to teach health, some  education, marine science, commerce and law at the southwest Victorian campus. Professor den Hollander also said a new agribusiness degree was being considered. As previously announced, all programmes to go will be taught out.

The proposal also involves selling property and rezoning parts of the campus, which the state government already supports. But the vice chancellor also made it clear that the university was looking to the community to step up in the attempt to make the campus viable.

“We look forward to the active support of local industry, education institutions and the community in general to help ensure the success of the proposed new campus model. Support will hopefully include provision of student work placements, internships and scholarships.”

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Location, location

The University of Wollongong has won the emerging park award from the Association of University Research Parks. (Please God, the ratings agencies do not hear about this.) It’s for UoW’s Innovation Campus, which will win any prize for research parks across the road from a beautiful beach.

Union leader continues on council at UNE

The University of New England has abandoned Federal Court action against campus National Tertiary Education Union president and university council member Margaret Sims.

Chancellor James Harris had argued that being president of the union in itself was a material interest which prevented Professor Sims from participating in many matters before council and that she accordingly could not receive complete meeting papers. Professor Sims rejected this and asked the court for a ruling that she should receive all papers and participate in meetings, except where she declared a material interest (CMM June 24).

Legal action is now abandoned, with the university, union and Professor Sims agreeing that a council member must declare a material interest where one exists and such an interest could be the university negotiating an enterprise bargain with the NTEU. However; “a material interest will not arise by the mere fact of a member of the UNE council also being an officer of the NTEU (and) “there is no inherent conflict” in Professor Sims being both.

The union and Professor Sims also acknowledged the university’s “positive effort:” to resolve the dispute and to create a means to deal with material interest issues that may arise. The university accepted that a material interest “will not arise by the mere fact of a member of the UNE Council also being an officer of the NTEU.”

So that’s honour satisfied all round, nevertheless this is a big win for the NTEU in ensuring that at UNE its members can sit where the decisions are made. While the university’s case depended on its own act other university managements’ were keen on the idea of a way to remove union members from their governing bodies.

Big ideas

Proposals for Round 19 CRCs are not due to May but Tony Peacock from the Cooperative Research Centres Association says possible bids already include, chronic disease, food wastage, advanced medical biotechnology; and several ideas covering data analytics in different industries.

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Finkel backs climate change colleagues

Chief Scientist and Climate Change Authority board member Alan Finkel has backed the authority’s report on how Australia is to meet internationally agreed emissions targets. While he does not explain the context of his remarks CCA board members Clive Hamilton (Charles Sturt U) and David Karolay (UniMelbourne) have dissented from the report. Dr Finkel said he did not speak for the board but endorsed the report, adding “my conversations with my colleagues in recent days have confirmed for me the value of (its) recommendations.”

Dr Finkel added the report was “not just deeply considered and evidence-based, but clever” and deserved a more considered response than “hasty judgements” in “clickbait headlines. “Reading a long report takes time, reflecting on it takes effort.”

This is a significant intervention which will upset activists in the climate science community however in speaking out Dr Finkel is signalling that he accepts policy processes occur in the context of politics.

“In a perfect world, we might have been asked how to transform the country to 24/7 near-zero emissions energy – as soon as possible.

But that’s beside the point. When you are asked for advice, you look at the question and you commit to the process if you believe that you can answer that question in a helpful way,” the chief scientist said.

For-profits still losing out

While the vast majority of for-profit training providers had nothing to do with VET FEE HELP rorting they were, and continue to be, unfairly tainted by the shonkery that went on. As Rod Camm from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training points out, it seems the new loans scheme is set, without any consultation with his members. “This is a poor public policy process, is very disappointing and gives me little confidence.” It’s going to be a while, quite a while, before any minister feels a need to invite private providers back to the policy table.

Free inquiry has to be free

Research rankings regularly report the rise of China’s universities with a poultice of prophecies that the PRC will soon challenge the USofA’s science status. But CMM suspects it isn’t going to happen, at least while the Chinese Government sticks its bib into what is happening on campus. Last week’s report by the US General Accountability Office on US universities with China campuses reveals;

“at several universities that lacked uncensored internet access, students and faculty told us that, as a result, they sometimes faced challenges teaching, conducting research, and completing coursework. Administrators, faculty, and students also cited examples of self-censorship, where certain sensitive political topics—such as Tiananmen Square or China’s relationship with Taiwan—were avoided in class, and of constraints faced by Chinese students in particular.”

Free inquiry doesn’t work when it’s not free.

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App of the day

University of Tasmania  MBA student and dairy farmer Ollie Roberts has created ThePasture.io, an app that integrates data on pasture with herd nutrition. A complementary product to predict milk production is in the works. Now if Mr Roberts could only work out a way to predict how much money big dairy will milk out of farmers.

Applause for parasites

A learned reader referred CMM to a proposed new scholarly awardThe Parasites, “celebrating rigorous secondary data analysis.” This is not a prize for artful dodgers who use other people’s data to save themselves the trouble of actually investigating anything but for scientists whose secondary analyses of data play “a key role in scientific ecosystems: conclusions that persist through substantial re-analysis are expected to be more credible; and analyses that extract more knowledge from under-utilised data make the practice of science more efficient.”

And for those of less trusting natures, parasites can also repeat experiments to validate results. As University of Sydney scientists Alex Holcomb and Matthew Todd suggested in 2012, “many research publications are … descriptions of the primary outcome the authors wish to reveal, often with insufficient supporting data for readers to validate the conclusions themselves,” (CMM February 7 2014).

But where will parasites find the data they need? Joseph Paul Cohen and Henry Z Lo can help. They are the founders of Academic Torrents, “which is designed to facilitate storage of all the data used in research, including datasets as well as publications.”

 

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