Medical research grants: good(ish) news for young women researchers

plus UNSW reshapes courses and adopts new academic year

record international student numbers

Pozibilities for penguins at Deakin U

and a big week for awards

Park where you please

A learned reader reports that Deakin University will stop charging students to park at the Warrnambool campus. CMM wonders whether “free parking!” will generate enough new students to make the struggling campus sustainable.

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UNSW’s new teaching and learning structure

The University of New South Wales has decided on its new academic year and is looking to roll out new teaching modes for 600 courses. Students will take classes over three week terms, “with an optional summer,” (what care they for seasons at Kensington!). A normal study load will be eight courses a year with three per term being standard. “This means students study three courses in ten weeks rather than four in 12 weeks, with the intent to reduce pressure and provide opportunities for ‘experiences’ terms during their program,” staff were told yesterday.

The university will also roll out online and blended courses covering 70 per cent or so of study load, which “will be specifically redesigned for active learning classrooms” and include digital assessment.

Management also advises that “Operational Excellence” is progressing, with positive feedback in staff briefings. Apparently it will deliver “excellent customer service experiences for students and staff.” There was no mention yesterday of savings the university needs to fund initiatives ( CMM May 18).

The rush rolls on

Australia had hosted 506 000 international students in the year to August, up 12 per cent on YTD 2015 and a record, according to new numbers from the Department of Education and Training. There were 329 000 commencers, up 11 per cent. Growth came from the two main markets, China – up 17 per cent and India up 11 per cent.

Of the 363 000 international students enrolled in higher education providers a quarter were studying offshore and an additional 13 000 were learning online. Management and commerce continues the most popular choice of international undergraduate and masters students, accounting for just under 60 per cent.

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Group of Eight gets to work

The Group of Eight is launching a China website to connect its graduates with Australian employers there, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Colliers International, Swisse, KPMG Global and Macquarie Bank. This is very smart indeed. In common with every university on the planet, members of the Eight assure international students that they are in-touch with industry, that their degrees are valued by employers, and so forth and so on. But these messages are only credible if universities demonstrate that they are intent on helping graduates into jobs. According to Australian Education International in 2012, a survey of Australian-educated graduates in China found 12 per cent were looking for work.

The Eight is in-line with member institutions intent on demonstrating they care about their internationals. The University of Queensland has launched an app that connects international students here to job vacancies at home. (CMM August 12 2016)

Advisors and lots of them

Greater Western Sydney U DVC and business dean, Scott Holmes expects great things from the faculty’s imminent move to flash new digs in a Parramatta CBD tower. For a start there are relationships with KPMG and PwC, not to forget NAB, and the faculty’s seven floors of “tech-enabled, co-working classrooms will prepare our students for the jobs they will have and make.” To make the most of all these advantages Professor Holmes tells staff that the school’s external advisory committee will grow from six members to 60! There is biblical precedent for this parliamentary size number; “without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established,” (Proverbs 15:22). Assuming of course the counsellors all agree with Professor Holmes.

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Pozibility for Penguins

A team at Deakin U saw the potential for funding small-scale research via crowd-funding platform Pozible years back (CMM June 17 2014). Since then the university has rolled out successful asks to fund projects that would fall through the cracks of ARC schemes. There’s a new one this morning; Meagan Dewar and colleagues want $10 000 to study the basic biology of four penguin species. It’s essential to establish the impact of climate change on the birds.

Prioritise pay

While no salary offer is on the table at Edith Cowan U, union leader Ute Mueller is upset with what she says is management linking any pay rise to possible job cuts. This isn’t on given the university is projecting five per cent plus surpluses across the next enterprise agreement, Associate Professor Mueller suggests.

“Of course there are external drivers that impact on these projections, but the university does have the capacity to make choices, and one of these could be to run a lower surplus, or maybe reconsider what sporting teams to sponsor or, dare I say it, how many professorial research fellows to hire. We, the staff are being asked to decide what we deem to be a fair pay outcome under a not even particularly veiled threat of job losses should we ask for a pay rise that reflects our already increased productivity. It is not the job of the staff to determine the relative priorities of the university. That is for management, and it is for management to explain should they choose not to prioritise fair pay rises for staff.”

Gender gap narrows for major NHMRC grants

NHMRC chair Anne Kelso has delivered on her hope that the National Health and Medical Research Council could lift grant success rates above 20 per cent, (CMM August 23) with major funding announcements yesterday.

Across all programmes some 23 per cent of applications from women and 25 per cent from men got up. The improvement applies to the crucial early career fellowships, where young researchers lay the foundations of careers and the focus of industry anxiety. Some 22.6 per cent of applications from women and 26.4 per cent from men were approved. The gender gap for research fellowships is a bit broader, 21 per cent for women and 28.9 per cent for men.

The top ten institutions by number of grants awarded are: UniSydney 38, UniMelbourne 28, UNSW 28, Monash 24, UoQ 22, UWA 13, Walter and Eliza Hall 12, Murdoch Institute and Uni Newcastle nine each and QIMR eight.

Institutions with an above average (24 per cent) success rate are:

100 per cent: Edith Cowan U, Metro South Health Service, Qld

above 60 per cent: Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine,

above 50 per cent: Bionic Ear Institute, Cancer Council Victoria, CQU, St Vincent’s Institute

above 40 per cent: Macfarlane Burnet Institute,

above 35 per cent: Menzies School, Walter and Eliza Hall

above 30 per cent: James Cook U, Swinburne U, UNSW

above 25 per cent: ANU, La Trobe U, Murdoch Children’s, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Uni Melbourne, Uni Newcastle, Uni of Queensland, Uni South Australia, Uni Sydney, UWA, Victor Chang

Top ten institutions by competitive grant funding: Uni Sydney ($26.4m), UniMelb ($25.8m), UNSW ($17m), UoQ ($14.4m), Monash U ($13.9m), UWA ($9.3m), Walter and Eliza Hall ($7.2m), UniNewcastle ($5.6m), Murdoch Institute ($5.4m), QIMR ($5.2m)

Today’s results will not placate the general concern with a system which does not fund the vast majority of researchers and presents particular difficulties for women who take years out of the lab meeting family responsibilities. The medical research community is waiting for the results of the Council’s review of its overall research funding system.

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Heads up

Winners at work this week

 

ACU professors Simon Stewart and Michelle Campbell are among 160 new fellows of the American Academy of Nursing.

After a decade at the Melbourne Business School Ian Williamson is crossing the ditch to become a PVC and dean of business at Victoria University of Wellington.

The Council of Private Higher Education has appointed former Queensland state Labor minister Simon Finn as CEO. He replaces the long-serving Adrian McComb.

Two Australian based researchers are on The Analytical Scientist’s 2016 power women list. Shari Forbes from UTS is honoured for her research on “the volatile organic compounds” produced by human remains and how to use cadaver-detection dogs can use them. Emily Hilder(University of South Australia), now focusing on portable diagnostic technology is cited for the fourth time

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has received the M A Sargent Medal from Engineers Australia’s Electrical College.

The first list of early and mid career highly cited women researchers in Australia was published this week. The women are: Rachel WoodANU, archaeological science, Jin TengCSIRO climate modelling, Susan SharmaDeakin University, financial econometrics, Emma KowalDeakin, cultural & medical anthropology, Zoe BainbridgeJames Cook University, environmental science & management, Annie LauMacquarie University, health informatics, Ute Knoch, University of Melbourne, applied linguistics, Alize FerrariUniversity of Queensland, psychiatric epidemiology, Margaret MayfieldUniversity of Queensland, plant ecology, Eugenia SampayoUniversity of Queensland, marine ecology, Julie Schneider, University of Sydney, health sciences, Delphine Lannuzel, University of Tasmania, chemical & biological oceanography.

ARC Laureate Fellow Lloyd Hollenberg from the University of Melbourne is the Royal Society of Victoria’s 2016 science medallist. Professor Hollenberg’s is deputy to director Michelle Simmons of the Australian Research Council’s Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology.

NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Mary O’Kane has joined the review of energy security in the national electricity market chaired by the commonwealth’s chief scientist Alan Finkel.

Janet Verbyla will act as VC of the University of Southern Queensland in December-January following the departure of Jan Thomas to become VC of New Zealand’s Massey U.

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering has  named the 18 men and seven women who are its 2016 fellows. They are: Michele Allan (Charles Sturt U chancellor), Simon Biggs (dean of engineering, architecture and IT at University of Queensland), Phillip Butler (manufacturer), Stuart Cannon (Defence Science and Technology Group), Jacqueline Craig (former head of cyber electronic warfare, Defence Science and Technology),Dimity Dornan (executive director Hear and Say), Eileen Doyle (non executive director Boral), Abigail Elizur(professor aquaculture biotechnology University of the Sunshine Coast), Jackie Fairley (CEO Starpharma), Barney Glover (VC Western Sydney U), Hong Hao (faculty of science and engineering Curtin U), Thomas Hatton (chair WA Environment Protection Authority), Tony Haymet ( Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UCal San Diego), Gernot Heiser (computer science and engineering UNSW), Svend Peter Klinken (WA chief scientist), Peter Langridge(molecular geneticist University of Adelaide, not University of South Australia as reported yesterday) Larry Marshall (chief executive CSIRO), Eduardo Nebot ( field robotics, University of Sydney), Cecile Paris (research scientist CSIRO), Christopher Pigram (CEO Geoscience Australia), Ian Reid (computer science University of Adelaide), Jeffrey Rosenfeld (Monash University Institute of Medical Engineering), Thorsten Trupke (photovoltaic and renewable energy UNSW), Ian Tyler (Geological Survey of WA) Alex Wonhas (ED environment, energy and resources, CSIRO).

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