Overtime for academics: irrelevant or essential

plus Who’s in at ANU

Upset staff at Uni Adelaide

and Wellcome win for open access research

Imaginative algorithms

US researchers and Uni Adelaide mathematician Lewis Mitchell report a data analysis of 1700 works of fiction demonstrates there are six “core trajectories” that “form the building blocks of complex narratives.” But here’s the bit that will make the movie about their work; “our approach could (be) applied in the opposite direction: namely by beginning with the emotional arc and aiding in the automatic generation of compelling stories. Enough bots with enough programmes …

Monday July 11 AND Friday July 15

Hughes Warrington wins at ANU

It looks like ANU’s leadership is in place with VC Brian Schmidt making two key appointments. Shirley Leitch, who joined ANU as dean of business and economics from Swinburne during Ian Young’s term continues her rapid rise. Last November she added PVC Outreach to her portfolio which is now expanded to include education development and online learning as PVC Education and Global Engagement. She will continue as dean of business and economics until a replacement is appointed.

PVC Student Experience Richard Baker has his portfolio renamed University Experience and picks up equity and reconciliation.

DVC Margaret Harding will be joined in her research portfolio by a new dean for higher degree research. Jenny Corbett now PVC research and research training moves to the Crawford School of Public Policy to “guide an expansion of ANU’s engagement with Japan.”

ANU observers see the new structure as a big win for DVC Academic Marnie Hughes Warrington who Leitch and Baker will report to. This gives Hughes Warrington oversight of not just international (which previously reported to the VC) but also digital innovation in teaching, a subject that fascinates her. The head of University House, Professor Peter Kanowski, also joins her portfolio.

Professor Schmidt says the deans of business and HDR positions will be filled by international search.

 Lib slim win

Bond University HR director Chris Andrews is very pleased with his election result, losing a record weight loss of 4.3kg while on leave running his wife’s campaign. Dr Andrews is married to member for McPherson, Karen Andrews, who incidentally picked up a 3 per cent primary vote swing, yes a swing to the Libs!

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Listening tour

Back in February the National Health and Medical Research Council announced a review of its $800m grant programme to, “determine whether we can streamline the current suite of funding schemes, while continuing to support the best Australian research and researchers,” (CMM February 1).

With success rates under 20 per cent and a perception that young researchers, especially women, lose out to old blokes with large labs the case for a review was clear. The Council invited submissions which are not available on-line, and is also conducting capital-city public forums next week, “for researchers and organisations to hear from NHMRC and ask questions about the review.” But not, it appears, contribute ideas to it. There will not be much point if anybody does stick the bibs in. The last forum is scheduled for Sydney on the 28th and the Council plans to publish the paper by the end of the month.

Digital docs

Flinders is staffing up its new Centre for Digital Health Technologies. Anthony Maeder, from Western Sydney U, joined in May as inaugural chair. Trish Williams, formerly at Edith Cowan has now moved to Flinders, becoming professor of digital health systems.

Upset at Adelaide

Just when union members at the University of Adelaide were set to give the professional services reform project a final spray VC Warren Bebbington decided on a new academic structure, which inevitably puts PSR on hold. But on the principal no expressed outrage is ever wasted, the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has released a survey on what staff think of PSR.

And it is not much. Just 20 per cent of academic staff said senior management had adequately consulted staff about workload models in their school, over half thought there was too much emphasis on performance metrics and 60 per cent agreed top managers “appear increasingly remote from the reality of working academics.”

Among professional staff nearly 60 per cent worry about losing their job, under 10 per cent believe the university’s redundancy process is fair and just one in ten say they were “adequately consulted” about the PSR process.

As to what it means for the new plan to consolidate faculties and empower schools; “these results should act as a warning to senior management. Staff have no faith in their abilities to perform this huge task and little trust in their motives.”

Funnily enough the NTEU did not include details on survey construction or response rates.

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Lockyer to UTS

Lori Lockyer now professor of teacher education at Macquarie U is set to join UTS in August as dean of the Graduate Research School. With five out of eight deans women by the end of the year UTS DVC E Shirley Alexander asks if this is a record.

Back to normal

The UNSW made much of its robot soccer squad when it went off to Leipzig last month to defend its 2015 world title (CMM June 28). Alas UNSW did not make it. Last year’s runners up from the University of Bremen knocked off a University of Texas team on penalties after a nil all draw. People who know tell CMM Germans winning on penalties is standard in international soccer.

Overtime for academics

The idea of being paid overtime would not occur to most for academics but the national union wants to put in on the industrial agenda. “Traditionally, academic working hours have not been limited because such regulation was viewed as an unnecessary restriction on academic autonomy and did not reflect the nature of academic work as both vocation and occupation. However, the absence of any restriction on working hours has led to massive and burgeoning workload problems across the sector, as any academic will tell you,” the National Tertiary Education Union’s Sarah Robert says, making the case for an “enforceable limit” on working hours.

To which the employer organisation, the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association,  replies stuff and quite possibly “nonsense”.

“The NTEU‘s scheme is alien to the nature of academic work both in Australia and overseas, which is professional and largely autonomous and self-directed. The labour market for academics in Australia is a subset of an international labour market and a deviation from the norms of academic employment overseas would put Australian universities significantly out of step with their international peers,” AHEIA argues in a submission to the inquiry.

While the same argument could apply to payrises AHEIA has not raised it, not yet at least.

Ageless invite 

On Friday morning the University of Sydney invited CMM to a morning tea for alumni who graduated before 1966. This was a waste of the university’s time, not even CMM is that old. But then on Friday afternoon the university got in touch again to tell me “we have expanded our guest list” and I could still come. Recovering a stuff-up or responding to a shortage of takers?

Sarra honoured

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.

Unexpected impact

While research policy people work on ways to measure impact and engagement a learned reader suggests the source of a solution might be where higher education experts would not think to look – VET. Jo Hargreaves and colleagues from the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Research have created a model for measuring the use and influence of the centre’s research on VET policy and practice. It included a range of citation metrics, traffic analysis via Google analytics, user questionnaires and critiques by an editorial board. Talking to end users is especially important, Ms Hargreaves suggests, to identify use in the “grey literature” of government reports and policy papers “that do not always cite the evidence used.”

“Our approach also makes it possible to unravel realised impacts from intention and shift the focus from one of research process to sharing the outcomes of research in practical and engaging ways,” she writes.

Learn with a laureate

Laureate maths fellow Nalini Joshi is in the market for three post docs in integrable systems and near- integrable nonlinear systems to join her at the University of Sydney for two tears. The positions pay $111 000 TPV and are funded as part of Professor Joshi’s laureate award

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Open access Wellcome

Big journal publishers will not welcome the new competition from the giant British biomedical research funder the Wellcome Trust, which is establishing its own open-access publishing platform. Researchers funded by the trust will be use the new site to publish findings plus supporting data, “enabling researchers to reanalyse, replicate and re-use the data, all of which will help to improve the reproducibility and reliability of research.” Once published peer reviewed articles will be deposited in major databases, such as the US National Institutes of Health’s PubMedCentral.

Wellcome says the venture will help ensure “critical advances in urgent areas of research are not held up by lengthy journal processes. … This model shifts towards wholly open research publishing, and will bring benefits to researchers and institutions, as well as to society more broadly.” The Trust is a strong supporter of open access, requiring authors to make articles publicly available within six months of appearing in a journal, as a minimum. No open access site can overcome the prestige of publishing in an elite journal, yet, but one from Wellcome brings an open access as the norm closer.

 

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