High cost of communicating research revealed

From $13 000 at Notre Dame to $82 000 at Monash

plus money talks: enterprise bargaining gets serious in WA

John Dewar’s predictions for universities 4.0

and Charles Sturt U’s great comms win

But what does it mean?

“Great day to be at UQCCR today for SPH RhD conference,” insider-only tweet yesterday. Science communication at its best.

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Less axe than invitation

QUT to axe deadwood from payroll” the Brisbane Courier Mail warned yesterday Less axe, more invitation to older staff to take voluntary retirement and leave on what VC Peter Coaldrake described “as the best of terms.” That’s “described” very much in the past tense, the proposal was made in May! “Lifting and sharpening of our institutional performance will require even more focus on the regeneration and capability-building of our academic workforce, and also will translate directly into higher performance expectations of individual academic staff,” Professor Coaldrake told the QUT community then. Word is 100 staff are now expected to take up the ATO approved scheme but no one will be pushed.

The gap between three and four

La Trobe VC John Dewar warns the higher education community must prepare for university 4.0. No, its not about AI taking over teaching but the transformation of the mark three institution, which is “concerned with optimising its own self-interest.” In a recent CEDA speech Professor Dewar points to four attributes that will change the existing model. First, universities will offer a seamless web of course delivery, in-person, on-line and a blend of both. Second they will provide a range of qualifications, from full degrees to quick qualifications accrediting people for changing industries. Third, career building for students will become important, with universities providing advice on finding work and short courses to help stay in it. Finally universities will engage with industry and broker relationships between students and entrepreneurs, researchers and funders.

“The trajectory I’ve described won’t be easy – we have a lot of infrastructure and a lot of industry frameworks that we will have to navigate our way through to become University 4.0 … some universities will succeed really well, and others won’t,” Professor Dewar says.

 

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Bargaining get down to dosh

At last, union and managements at WA universities are arguing over money. For months the two sides have manoeuvred about conditions, which is as interesting as tacking in a 12-metre yacht race. But now cash is on the enterprise bargaining agenda. According to the state branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, Edith Cowan and Curtin managements are offering wage rises under inflation. ECU 3.75 per cent over four years, with the first rise in January ’18. Curtin U has put 3.5 over four on the table. The union is asking for 3.75 per cent per annum for years. (CMM April 1).

According to the NTEU, Curtin management say the low pay offer is necessary “to assist the university rebuild its underlying operational surplus to 5 per cent. ECU management say that their offer is necessary to protect jobs, “but refuse to give any assurance that jobs will not be lost if the offer is accepted.”

Edith Cowan management tells CMM it is offering 3.75 per cent, with 1.5 per cent being paid in January 2018 and again in January and 0.75 per cent in 2020. According to ECU, it “has taken into consideration the 4% pay increase in July this year, which was delivered after the nominal expiry date of our current agreement. When considered together these will deliver increases of 7.75% during the four years between June 2016 and June 2020.”

Curtin U states it is offering 3.5 per cent over 2017-2019. The university adds, “Curtin staff received a 4% pay rise at the end of June this year. “This pay rise is significantly above increases currently being provided across the Western Australian economy. As the pay rise occurred mid-year the benefit will be split between the 2016 and 2017 years, meaning staff will receive 2% more total pay in 2017 than in 2016. … Curtin University academic staff are some of the highest paid in Australia. Depending on academic levels, salaries rank between the second and fifth highest in Australia. “

Murdoch U and UWA managements have not made offers but you can bet the boat that they will both make the same sort of offer. In the last bargaining round the NTEU rolled right over the universities which gave away national-precedent setting pay rises, Curtin coughed up 4 per cent pa. This time the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association is helping WA managements, making for a cross-university management approach, to match the NTEU’s all of state strategy.

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Courses for the real world

Charles Sturt U students have made it an 11th straight win in the International Advertising Association “Big Idea Challenge“. It’s also the seventh consecutive year when CSU had two teams in the final (CMM October 24). The competition involves student creative and comms teams pitching campaigns for a real client, this year charity United Way Australia. For decades CSU has had a big rep for producing media and marketing grads with strong real-world skills – this is why.

Publishing costs

Research drives university income and status but what does it cost to produce the work that is published in books and papers that help with earning the grants and racing up the rankings? Good question which water scientist and data entrepreneur Nick Marsh decided to answer. Dr Marsh crunched the numbers on research for  publications and found that the average cost of each one in 2014 was $45 000. Unless, of course, it was published by a Monash U academic, the cost per publication there was $82 000.

Dr Marsh acknowledges his summary is, “superficial … it is not just total publications, but broader impact which incorporate the underlying quality and reputation of each journal that should count toward the university publication record.” CMM suspects that research offices will quickly find all sorts of evidence showing his methodology is wrong in their case, but not in those of their more expensive competitors. However in the land of the league table everybody is a critic and everybody is a reader.

Dr Marsh used the feds’ 2014 research income and total weighted publications data (which includes a factor of five weighting for books to distinguish the effort involved from journal articles and conference papers) to come up with a research input cost per publication. The University of Notre Dame is most cost effective, at $13k per publication, with Monash topping the table, followed by the universities of Melbourne, Queensland and WA at $80k per item. (Dr Marsh discounts the hugely expensive Charles Darwin U, suspecting a reporting error).

Among the research intensive Group of Eight, UniSydney and UNSW are most economic, at $64k. The Eight account for all the universities where a publication costs $60k plus, apart from the University of Tasmania, at $70k. The obvious explanation for this is that the more expensive the infrastructure the more expensive the publications – and as Dr Marsh acknowledges his exercise does not include impact. But this does not account for UniSyd and UNSW being so much more cost effective than their Victorian peers. Or why UTS produces publications for $7k less than RMIT.

“My friends and colleagues in academia are not going to thank me for this post,Dr Marsh writes. Can’t fault the bloke for realism.

Price list

Dr Marsh’s list of research costs for each publication by institution is:

Notre Dame, $13,063, Charles Sturt $15,240, MCD Uni Divinity $16,732, Bond $18,644, Federation U $18,728, Western Sydney $19,564, CQU $21,637, Swinburne $22,551, Uni Canberra $23,766, USC $26,972, Deakin $27,823, VU  $28,837, Griffith $29,392, UTS $29,603, USQ $30,276, ACU $31,185, SCU $31,589, Macquarie $31,606, ECU $31,804, RMIT $36,606, Wollongong $37,285, Murdoch $39,482, UNE $40,883, UniSA $44,685, QUT $46,743, Flinders $46,819, La Trobe $47,843, Curtin $54,119, Newcastle $57,252, James Cook $59,505, UNSW $64,240, UniSydney $64,808, UTas $70,835, ANU $75,004,UniAdelaide $77,083, UWA $80,395, UofQ $80,563, UniMelbourne $80,572, Monash $82,406 Charles Darwin $139,276

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Reynolds honoured

Professor Karen Reynolds from Flinders U has received Engineers Australia’s Dewhurst medal for biomedical engineering.

Simple solution

QUT hosts the final of the $325 000 Global Business Challenge today. Supported by UoQ, Griffith U and QUT, the challenge is for postgrads from “business and technical disciplines” to develop a practical solution to a real-world problem, improving the effectiveness and cost of healthcare for remote communities. The seven teams presenting are from the University of Melbourne, Memorial University (Newfoundland, Canada), Heinrich Heine U (Germany), QUT, the Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore) the University of Calgary and a multi-u English and Thai team.

Most of the proposals, here , strike CMM as expensive to build and over-engineered to deliver, some of them involve stethoscopes on the ground others tap into existing agencies. But the QUT team keeps it simple. Their prop is for an urine analysis app that allows analysis by remote clinicians using an aggregate set of patient data. “The solution will dramatically reduce the cost of condition testing as well as reducing avoidable hospital admissions via a self-service patient model.”

From CSIRO to ANU

Saul Cunningham is the new director of the ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society. The biodiversity expert joins the university from CSIRO. He replaces Steve Dowers who is stepping down after two terms as school head.

Man from Mars lands at UniSA

Bruce McColl, recently retired as chief marketing officer at Mars (as in bars), has joined the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia as an industry professor. Apparently Mr McColl “will bring global industry experience into the classroom, as well as advising post-graduate research students.” Mars is a long-time supporter of the Ehrenberg-Bass methodology, which considers marketing a science with laws that apply to all brands.

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Dolt of the day

Is CMM who referred yesterday to Tracy Winch when he meant Tracy Chalk, ex ANU now marketing head at the University of the West of Endgland. How did that happen, you ask? Stupidity CMM replies.

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