New ways to divvy up medical research money

plus as low as things can go at UniAdelaide

Uni Sydney’s RIPPA engineering result

and open day of the day is at Uni Tasmania

Bloke in a cowl, carrying a scythe, walks into a comedy club …

Simon Stewart with colleagues from the Australian Catholic University find that stand-up comics are more likely to die young than screen comedians and dramatic actors. The study builds on his previous research that found the funnier the comedian the earlier they expire.

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Proposals to fix the unfixable

The National Health and Medical Research Council has released the discussion paper for its much anticipated funding allocation review (CMM February 1 and July 11). The review sets out alternatives to the widely criticised existing funding model which is based on a time consuming application process that is widely assumed to favour old, established and male researchers over younger, frequently female, scientists. Pressure for change also comes from more applicants chasing funds – the funding rate has fallen from over 25 per cent 15 years ago to well under 15 per cent now.

The paper proposes three possible funding models.

The first is an integrated team approach with researchers from a range of disciplines funded to work on a substantial problem for five years.

The second is lab leader focused with a single grant “providing flexibility to collaborate widely and enter into partnerships to achieve commercialisation, translation and implementation.” A second stream would fund researchers with big ideas but not the experience to sell them.

The third model would fund chief investigators to fund a range of projects for five years. “The driver of this structure is simplification of the grant program, while continuing support for a breadth of research to create new knowledge and promote the translation of research into policy and practice.”

The three will attract supporters and detractors but the other thing that they have in common is that they will not end the fundamental problem that created the need for the inquiry in the first place. There are more young researchers than there is research money and that the more of the latter government gives the more of the former the universities and research institutes will train.

Monday July 11 AND Friday July 15

Where Pokemon will go

So what’s it going to cost a university to have students chase campus based Pokemons? As a way of getting people to actually attend physical lectures it will be cheap at any price.

Caught standing

A reader wonders how many executives will have lost jobs when the UWA academic restructure ends (CMM yesterday). “With the reduction of faculties from nine to four, we were to lose five deans.  However, it looks like we’re gaining four executive deans, with the “subfaculties in each group retaining their own dean.  So it’s down to a rather tight single-round game of musical chairs.”

W’sup with all the saving

Word that times are tough at Western Sydney U started circulating three months back, when CMM reported a hiring freeze (April 18). But things are now less frozen than glacial, with word (thanks Honi Soit) that management has withdrawn admin support for student paper W’SUP, (cruWsible) as was.

The university has also just announced it is moving the Institute for Infrastructure Engineering, independent since its founding in 2012, into the school of computing, engineering and maths, to take research “to the next level,” CMM, June 22). Um that will be the IEI which is home to Vahid Vakiloroaya, just named by Engineers Australia as one of Australia’s most innovative engineers for 2016.

Brain Jane

ANU media maven Jane O’Dwyer graduated from the university yesterday with a management masters. She already has a masters in journalism (from Uni Wollongong). “Looking forward to not writing essays after work ever again,” she says.

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Open day of the day

The University of Tasmania promises “bubble soccer” (sorry no idea) on its day. Otherwise the UTas recruitment fair is really information rich. There is a mass of online info with video thumbs of academics talking about what they teach and students about what and how they learn – the latter often much more interesting than the former. So much information that anybody who isn’t a fan of bubble soccer does not need to go to the actual Open Day. But if they do there is all sorts of fun to be had, especially at the Sandy Bay campus – online games, 3D printing, live music, robo penguins, for example. That you learn about activities that are on via PDF (which is not a Pokemon monster) sends an old fashioned signal but overall this is an ok OD with ample info and examples of why campus can be fun.

As low as things can go

Union members at the University of Adelaide have voted their now annual no confidence in Vice Chancellor Warren Bebbington. Last year they were upset about cuts (CMM May 19). This year they are outraged at the newly announced academic restructure, which they say will delay the long underway professional services review. “Academic and professional staff are already suffering from serious change fatigue, staff morale is at rock bottom,” National Tertiary Education Union leader Felix Patrikeeff said yesterday. Well at least things can’t get any worse.

Popular with peers

The peer reviewed National Health and Medical Research Council’s research excellence awards are out (details below in Heads Up) with the University of Queensland quick to claim an institutional achievement, being home to three winners. The University of Melbourne also picked up three. There are two winners from the Menzies School and also from the University of Sydney. Seven universities and health research institutes received one each.

HEADS UP

who won at work this week

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s awards for “outstanding performance and excellence in health and medical research and innovation” are out with the top 17 drawn from the 6000 applicants for NHMRC funding;

Rising stars: Gail Garvie  (Menzies School of Health Research), Robert Commons (Menzies), Justin Cooper-White (UoQ), Peter Currie (Monash), Stephen Davis (UniMelbourne), Kirill Alexandrov (UoQ)

Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowships: Jane Visvader (Walter and Eliza Hall), Robyn Guymer (Centre for Eye Research Australia), Billie Giles-Corti (UniMelbourne)

Fellowship Awards: Alex Hewitt (UTas), Stephen Nicholls (South Australian HMRI)

Career Development Fellowships: Joseph Powell (UoQ), Jean Yang (UniSydney), Bruce Campbell (UniMelbourne), Kim Delbaere (Neuroscience Research Australia), Anne Tiedemann (UniSydney), Felice Jacka (Deakin U).

Engineers Australia has announced the most innovative people in the profession for 2016, including winners in the academic and research category. Greg White who’s PhD is from the University of the Sunshine Coast wins for work on updating airport pavements. Vahid Vakiloroaya from Western Sydney U is honoured for an aircon system that can consume up to 40 per cent less electricity. Veena Sahajwalla (UNSW) gets a gong for her system to extract recyclable glass and plastic from rubbish dumps. Ali Fathi from the University of Sydney is noted for creating a injectable biomaterial which forms a scaffold for regenerating tissue in cartilage, bones and spinal cords. Fariba Dehghani, also from UniSydney is applauded for environmental friendly food packaging that extends shelf-life. And in a RIPPA result another UoS scholar, Salah Sukkarieh is celebrated for his robot for intelligent perception and precision application and the variable injection intelligent precision applicator. Apparently the VIPPA sits on the RIPPA.

Flinders is staffing up its new Centre for Digital Health TechnologiesAnthony Maeder, from Western Sydney U, joined in May as inaugural chairTrish Williams, formerly at Edith Cowan has now moved to Flinders, becoming professor of digital health systems. The university has also appointed Lindsey Conner dean of educationProfessor Conner joins from Canterbury University in New Zealand.

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Lori Lockyer now professor of teacher education at Macquarie U is set to join UTS in August as dean of the Graduate Research School.

Chris Sarra is NAIDOC’s person of the year. The founder of the Stronger, Smarter Institute for indigenous education joined the University of Canberra last month as professor of education.

The now not so new Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne finally has a permanent head with John Fazakerly taking over yesterday. He replaces acting dean Brian Leury. The faculty was created in 2014 by merging vet with ag courses, which were moved from the “disestablished” School of Land and Environment.

After three years managing alumni relations for ANU Lea Sublett is moving to Saudi Arabia to manage alumni at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Understandable move in the depths of a Canberra winter.

Dr Irene Kourtis is the new CEO of the Australian Genome Research FacilityDr Kourtis has a PhD in medical research and years of experience leading medical research foundations.

Romy Lawson is moving from Edith Cowan to Murdoch University where she will be DVC EducationProfessor Lawson is a former director of learning and teaching at the University of Wollongong where VC Eeva Leinonen was DVC A.

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