Independence assured says new Medical Journal of Australia editor

Plus the NTEU likes Labor and Canberra Institute Tech blazes export trail to India

What, only 40?

“One staff member claims she is a member of about 40 committees – and it is unlikely that she holds the record,” University of Sydney’s current discussion paper on values.

UniMelb great minds

Hard Numbers Men

The Australian Mathematical Society has presented Andrew Hassell (ANU) with the Gavin Brown Best Paper Prize, (named for the late University of Sydney VC) for his paper, “Ergodic billiards that are not quantum unique ergodic which is here. The society will also honour Scott Morrison, also ANU, with the AusMS Medal, for distinguished research by a mathematician under 40. Dr Morrisson’s name always comes up when people discuss quantum symmetries and subfactor theory, which probably happens a lot on the mathsoverflow site he founded.

Is this a first?

James Cook University reports research from it coral reef studies centre without mentioning Nemo. CMM suspects this is because the work is on rabbit fish, not clown fish but is puzzled why there is no Watership Down reference.

Solidarity forever

It appears the National Tertiary Education Union is expanding its embrace to include Labor. At the last election the comrades coughed up for campaigns they ran to help Greens candidates, notably Adam Bandt in the seat of Melbourne but now the union has all but endorsed the Labor higher education policy, “which does provide an alternative vision and commitment to restoring funding, a more stable and sustainable funding environment and measures to support students to succeed not just enrol in university.”

ANU Sept 15

No orders for the doctor

Nick Talley from the University of Newcastle has stepped up as editor in chief of the Medical Journal of Australia. He succeeds Stephen Leeder who left after questioning the decision to outsource production to journal giant RELX (the conglomerate formerly know as Reed Elsevier). CMM asked whether Professor Talley was bothered by this and got the following response. “The evolution of the print industry in Australia has seen many organisations make the decision to outsource printing and production work while retaining editorial control, including internationally respected journal the Lancet, which is also published by Elsevier. The MJA has retained editorial independence and as editor I have been assured of editorial independence. I am therefore satisfied that the MJA‘s editorial and academic integrity is secure.” Keeping that way is up to him.

Headline of the day

Comes from the University of Tasmania.  “700 scientists converge on Hobart to exam ore deposits.” Inspirational.

ORCID set to bloom

CMM is a fan of the Open Researcher and Contributor Identifier so thanks to Natasha Simons from the Australian National Data Service for alerting him to its goal of signing up 10 000 new researchers in Open Access Week, which is in mid October. Unique ORCID identifiers ensure researchers can identify themselves and connect their names to their work. In a world of bodgy publishers and IP theft ORCID is also essential to asserting the quality of open access journals against for-profit claims that the only way of securing scholarly integrity is pay to publish, or read.

Inspired Iran

Flinders Dean of Medicine Michael Kidd says Australia could learn from Iran’s “world-renowned” public health system. CMM was set to scoff, what with Iran being a combination of theocracy and kleptocracy (the Revolutionary Guards run a chunk of the economy), neither of which are associated with fair and efficient social services. However World Bank stats show Iran on par or ahead of us on a range of public health indicators. In 2013-14 Australia’s death rate was six per 1000 people and Iran’s five. Even so, Professor Kidd’s is an unexpected comparison, based on his admiration for the Iranian public health system, which has chancellors of medical science at each university in charge of clinical services at public hospitals and primary care clinics. Gosh CMM can think of a couple of deans of medicine who will think that is a splendid idea, until they look at other stats. Iran’s spends 6.7 per cent of GDP on health compared to Australia’s 9.4 per cent. And life expectancy at birth here is now 82 years, compared to 74 there.

ANU Sep 15 5

Those who can, teach

Science and maths teachers are in intensive care at the University of Canberra for a week of briefings on improving practise. Speakers include, naturally, Chief Scientist Ian “everywhere” Chubb plus all sorts of teacher education academics. Good on the classroom teachers who are giving up a week of their holidays to attend – but aren’t they likely to be the ones who need help least?

“Curses Professor Klamm!”

“What ever is wrong Dean Galater?” “Why, that damned vice chancellor he’s on to us!”

CMM suspects they’re right. Here’s what University of Sydney VC Michael Spence says about the power of process, in the university discussion paper on campus culture.

“Many of our systems do not reflect our core values. They have understandably developed as “control” systems designed to reduce risk in particular areas of activity. However, the effect of the whole is to punish courage and creativity, to show inadequate respect for our staff, and to make navigating the university more dependent than it ought to be on arcane knowledge of our own processes, and therefore less inclusive, open and engaged. As we work to redesign our systems, particularly our administrative systems, we need constantly to be asking how any new proposal measures up to our professed values and how it enables the culture change that we are seeking.”

Decisions days at Swinburne

Swinburne U staff vote from today on the enterprise agreement jointly proposed by management and the National Tertiary Education Union. This is the second ballot (the first was over-turned by the courts) in a hotly disputed negotiation that began sometime in the 17th century.

Research reality TV

Forget the oversize losing weight or competitive chat-ups between the young and shameless, for really real reality TV somebody should sign Jon File’s (from L H Martin) research strategy scenario. It was on in Singapore yesterday at the Australasian Research Management Society conference, where 25 participants played the roles of managers at a research-not-especially-intensive-university which has to respond to changes in funding, “from a simple system of government subsidies for each peer-reviewed publication to a major emphasis on competitive research funding in ten national priority fields.” No, it isn’t The Biggest Bachelor (CMM thinks that’s right) but imagine the research impact factor!

Opportunities in India

There is an enormous opportunity emerging in India to train the hundreds of thousand of voced teachers needed to expand the country’s skilled workforce but TAFE does not seem all that interested in getting Australia’s share. Perhaps India’s notorious education bureaucracy is putting public providers off, but that can’t be right – it should make TAFE officials feel right at home. It certainly isn’t daunting Canberra Institute of TAFE chief Leanne Cover who is visiting Kerala and Gujarat to talk up CIT’s training capacity in “spatial information” surveying and forensic science. CMM hears that before his elevation to portfolio minister Simon Birmingham had a sales mission scheduled for year’s end. Here’s hoping he has passed the file to his successor in voced, Luke Hartsuyker.

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