Make a wish for research infrastructure

plus UNSW’s constructive MOOC

and why innovation takes more than anybody’s skill set

Guitar man

CSU VC Andy Vann was on Twitter yesterday playing a rock riff to celebrate the university’s foundation day. And CMM was despairing of a VC to take up the musical mantle of Stephen “renaissance prince” Parker, who had a band while running Uni Canberra called the Hip Replacements.

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Greater than the skills of its parts

Australia’s “mixed” track record in innovation is largely due to “a lack of access to the appropriate mix of technical and non-technical skills, which include entrepreneurial, business, operational, marketing and commercialisation skills, “ according to a new report from the Australian Council of Learned Academies, released this morning.

“Australia rates relatively highly on assessment of skills inputs – notably general investments in education and the number of graduates in STEM based programs and research. However it ranks relatively poorly in relation to the sophistication of how organisations use these skills.” ACOLA announces.

The solution is individuals with skills that reach beyond occupational competencies (CMM’s phrase, not ACOLA’s) working in teams. The core of the report presents case studies of 19 organisations with holistic innovation cultures.

And so, ACOLA says “joint and coordinated actions is needed by government, education and industry to address and overcome inhibitors in the Australian innovation system.” But how?

Why, by “adopting holistic system-level approaches to innovation policy-settings. This involves integrating and aligning policy responses designed to influence investment in skills and capabilities for innovation, at the individual and enterprise and system level.”

ACOLA suggests Innovation Science Australian has a crucial role “to refine and target Australia’s performance in skills mixing for innovation,” which will encourage anybody in ISA not overwhelmed by the workload they already have.

Thurs July 21

Top billing

CQU VC Scott Bowman is on long-service leave but he obviously left instructions for staff to keep messing with minds at rival James Cook. CQU is building a new campus in James Cook’s Townsville heartland and until that is complete there is a big city centre billboard near its existing digs, announcing CQU is “the university to your future.”

MOOC of the morning

UNSW is running a second edition of its MOOC exploring urban development and design, using the Sydney CBD fringe Central Park project as a case study. The course is taught by Built Environment’s associate dean Oya Demirbilek and colleagues, with guest presenters including Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore. As a way of presenting the faculty’s work to the world, especially prospective students, it looks impossible to beat. CMM wonders what they will make of it at UTS, across the road from the Central Park subject. As a way of presenting the faculty to prospective students this is impossible to beat.

CSIRO health hire

Rob Grenfell is CSIRO‘s new director of health and biosecurity, tasked with making the organisation “a powerhouse of health innovation.” He joins from health insurer BUPA, where he was Australia and New Zealand medical director. Dr Grenfell is a public health physician with decades of experience.

Unique educator

TEQSA reports there are now 170 higher education providers in Australia, with 40 Aus universities, 2 overseas unis, ten HE providers and one “Australian University of Specialisation” being self accrediting. The specialist is the Melbourne College of Divinity.

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Intellectual infrastructure

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has issued an issues paper on capabilities required in national research infrastructure investment over the next decade and is seeking submissions to assist a consultation process on needs in National Priority Areas. Submissions, not bids. “This stage is not about funding or governance, or the identification of facilities, projects or specific items of infrastructure, or where they should be located, or which organisations might operate or contribute.”

The seven priority areas are: “health and medical science, environment and natural resource management, advanced physics, chemistry, mathematics and materials, understanding cultures and communities, national security, underpinning research infrastructure and data for research and discoverability.”

However, being gluttons for punishment, Dr Finkel and his colleagues on the working party responsible for the paper also asks whether “other capability areas should be considered.” Let the bidding commence.

Wooders wins

John Wooders from UTS is a new fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory. He joins Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller and nine other, all US based, economists as new fellows.

App of the day

For people who want to walk and talk with humans, rather that pursue digital monsters Bridget Foley at the University of Sydney has created a sociable exercise app.  Meet and Move allows users to assemble at a specified spot and go for walk around campus and inner city environs.

No place for a market

VOCED policy veteran Peter Noonan, from Victoria U’s Mitchell Institute has responded to the Commonwealth’s paper on redesigning VET FEE HELP in a paper that goes beyond the government’s immediate imperative, a VET loan system for 2017. He also sets out the core issue, how did governments fail to see, let alone act, on the system’s inherent faults?

Professor Noonan points to foundation failings in the loan system. First, there is a disconnect between support for students in higher education, including those undertaking voced courses there, and those in VET.

“Decisions on the design of VET FEE HELP must therefore be taken as a part of a comprehensive redesign of the financing of tertiary education in Australia. The redesign must recognise the interrelationships between the different financing system within and across the sectors, and also recognise the different roles and characteristics of the sectors.”

And he points out the loan system never had, or indeed could have, the characteristics of “a properly functioning market.”

Income contingent loans substantially reduce sensitivity to provider prices, particularly as VET is largely an experience good. There is little or no transparency about costs and returns or provider performance. Products are largely homogenous. In the main, the VET FEE HELP market is … substantially based on government funding, and on government regulation of providers and products,” he writes.

Professor Noonan suggests we should learn what went wrong with administering the system when the Audit Office report is released in September. But whatever it reveals any new funding system should “focus on student and the public interest, rather than fostering competitive markets.”

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Dolt of the day

In yesterday’s email edition I hit y in typing UoQ VC Peter Hoj’s name instead of j. Thanks to readers who pointed it out.

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