Passports set in stone

A Learned Reader reports the University of Queensland antiquities museum is presenting an exhibit titled, “Why citizenship?”. Federal parliamentarians should form an orderly queue.

Some days too far away for ARC announcements

The Australian Research Council appears intent on encouraging the virtue of patience among people sweating on Discovery Programme, Discovery Early Career Research Awards and Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant announcements.

A learned reader reports the ARC’s original date was sometime in September but at the end of that month it changed to sometime in October. And on Monday, “with hundreds of academics eagerly refreshing the ARC page for promising news,” the announcement date became  “November”.

Yesterday the ARC responded; “the dates provided on our website are anticipated dates which the ARC updates on a regular basis. The ARC aims to deliver funding outcomes within the shortest timeframe possible, noting that the importance is placed on a robust and fair process.”

Or as the LR suggests it “renders the very notion of an announcement date as pointless.”

Robinson to leave Universities Australia

Belinda Robinson will leave Universities Australia when her contract expires in October 2018. The six- year veteran of some of the most strident struggles in university funding policy announced her distant departure yesterday. UA says it, “will begin the search for a new chief executive following Belinda Robinson’s decision not to renew her contract.”

CMM understands a UA plenary was advised over a year ago that Ms Robinson planned to go in 2018, and that she confirmed her decision at this week’s meeting.

Last night the organisation’s president Margaret Gardner praised Ms Robinson’s performance.

“Amongst her many achievements, Ms Robinson has advocated successfully against three rounds of major funding cuts to the sector and a proposal to introduce a cap on tax-deductable self-education expenses for those wishing to invest in their own future. She led the world’s first whole-of-sector approach to addressing sexual assault and sexual harassment in student communities, oversaw the development of the sector’s Indigenous strategy and, most recently, the reversal of unhelpful changes proposed to visa conditions,” Professor Gardner said.

Curiously Professor Gardner did not mention Ms Robinson’s greatest achievement to date, albeit in a losing cause – ensuring the public support of all vice chancellors, bar one, for Christopher Pyne’s plan to deregulate undergraduate fees.

As to what will occupy Ms Robinson for her last 12-months policy watchers suggest another argument with government over funding will start before Christmas.

Murdoch U moves to make a deal with staff

Murdoch University management says it is responding to staff feedback and addressing their concerns in changes to its enterprise bargaining position, announced late yesterday. Provost Andrew Taggart says management, “has made significant adjustments to our proposals,” including:

# dropping its plan to make misconduct that could lead to disciplinary action or termination a matter of university policy and leaving it in the enterprise agreement

# guaranteeing all academic staff have a minimum of 10 per cent of workload for research, leadership, administration and/or service. “This recognises that academic staff contribute to the life of the university in a range of ways beyond teaching”

“ committing to notifying staff of forecasted teaching workloads no later than 30 days before the start of next session

Professor Taggart says the next meeting with the National Tertiary Education Union is on Friday and that “this step takes us one step closer to concluding an agreement that works for our staff and that secures our university’s future.”

World music

Anna Reid is elected for a five-year term at the Beijing based Global Music Education League, established in September. Professor Reid is head of school at the University of Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music.

Research metrics: the measure is money

Thunderous applause did not drown out discussion of the detail in yesterday’s Australian Research Council announcement of impact and engagement metrics. Commentators suggested that the plan was an unhappy combination of the government’s push for research focused on the needs of “businesses and families” and the research lobbies determination to spend as much money as they want on what they want.

“The ARC is in a holding pattern with this, it will not go far,” an observer with decades of research policy expertise told CMM. “If the government wants to improve university-industry collaboration it needs to change research and development funding,” the expert argues, pointing to the government’s failure to address the Fraser, Finkel Ferris review of the R&D tax incentive delivered to the industry minister before last, before last.

But yesterday discussion of research engagement and impact was in the context of overall university funding cuts now that it is clear the government’s savings legislation is without Senate support. The day started with mocking tabloid coverage of humanities research without economic impact. Education Minister Simon Birmingham then told Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young on Adelaide radio, “you might love esoteric little papers, but we actually think that it is important that billions of taxpayer dollars going into research deliver things that are of benefit to taxpayers. Now, that does include better healthcare services, better education services, as well as improved areas in terms of commercialisation and jobs growth.”

By lunchtime Universities Australia’s Belinda Robinson was saying it is, “disappointing to see media reports that seek to diminish the research endeavour when there is so much there for every Australian to be proud of. The research funding system involves extensive peer review, such that 80 per cent of applicants are not funded. This means that only the very best research is funded.”

Both were positioning themselves for the next funding fight, which will start before Christmas. With no chance of securing savings in the Senate the government has two ways of cutting higher education spending, capping money for student load (which universities use to cross-subsidise research) and a direct cut to research allocations. The government needs to demonstrate that it is working to make research economically relevant but before this kicks-in there is spending that can be stopped. The universities must show that every funded project is a gem. They have until the mid year economic forecast, expected in December, to makes their cases.

Monash creates its own news site (but outsources the announcement)

Monash U has launched Lens, a “content publishing site … sharing stories about the people, research and innovations of Australia’s largest university.” In creating its own content to build brand awareness and reach Monash U joins the University of Melbourne, which has its own research comms product, Pursuit.

Lens content includes opinion pieces, videos, podcasts and social media feeds across a range of topics such as politics and society, science, technology, business and economy, and more,” Monash says.

According to chief marketing officer Fabian Marrone, “the digitisation of the news industry has seen enormous changes not just to traditional newsrooms but also to the way organisations communicate with their audiences.”

Perhaps Monash talent is so busy researching and writing is the reason the university had to outsource the launch of Lens to an external comms agency.


School resourcing board appointed

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has announced the National School Resourcing Board, recommended in the 2011 Gonski Review. Members with strong higher education connections are; Michael Chaney (chair) who is chancellor of UWA. Denise Bradley (deputy chair) is a former VC of the University of South Australia and chair of the review of higher education which made the compelling case for demand driven funding. Natalie Brown is from the University of Tasmania’s Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment. Australian Catholic U VC Greg Craven joins the board. Stephen Lamb is a professor of research in education at Victoria University. Ken Smith, is CEO of the Australian and New Zealand School of Government and Alison Taylor is a former NSW chief demographer.

Union says Victoria University is targeting an official, not so replies VU

Despite Victoria University’s unequivocal denial that it is not targeting out union officials, the National Tertiary Education Union claims that branch president Paul Adams is uniquely singled-out for compulsory retrenchment. On Tuesday in an open letter to VC Peter Dawkins the union stated, ”it is highly unusual that the president of the NTEU VU Branch was the only staff member targeted for a forced redundancy in the whole of the College of Arts and Education, and is possibly the only person in all the university to have been targeted in this way in the current change processes.”

However VU management yesterday rejected this;

No staff members have been deliberately targeted for a forced redundancy in the College of Arts and Education, nor in any other college or department of Victoria University. Following a significant decline in student interest, VU has done what it has done in previous years – discontinued non-viable courses. Several courses in the culture, communications and creative writing discipline group within the College of Arts and Education fell into this area.

“All staff in affected areas have undergone a process of identifying suitable mitigation options spanning most of 2017.  The process was scrutinised on at least two occasions by the Fair Work Commission, who found that the university’s processes were consistent with VU’s industrial relations obligations.”

Last night the NTEU said it stood by its claim.

A club that wouldn’t need a journal publisher as a member

The blockchain can replace journals, RMIT’s Jason Potts and colleagues argue in a new article (in a journal).* “A journal is a self-constituted group, endeavouring to create new knowledge. In this sense, a journal is a club,” they write. And members of a research club can communicate with each other via blockchains.

But learning more about Potts and pals’ club concept isn’t that easy. Their ideas appear in this week’s issue of Prometheus, a journal published by Taylor and Francis. If you can’t access the article via your institution T&F will give you 24 hours access for $42.

Fortunately in April 2016 the authors placed a pre-press copy here, where they concluded; “it is foreseeable that an author could distribute a work through whatever means they feel is appropriate (for instance a university repository) and be assured that it possesses identifiers that prove the knowledge club (journal) has accepted the work. Those same identifiers could be used for searching, effectively bundling club knowledge outputs from across a distributed system. ” “The journal itself,” they proposed, “may not be necessary, reducing or eliminating production costs altogether.”

# Jason Potts, John Hartley (Curtin U), Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U), Cameron Neylon (Curtin) and Ellie Rennie (RMIT), “A journal is a club: a new economic model for scholarly publishing,” Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation