Researchers split over R&D cash giveaway

So very Sydney: UNSW boasts about its rich graduates

Grimly determined: what makes Japanese students different to Australians

Explaining science: it’s harder than it looks

Norma Jean we hardly knew ye

“Our interdisciplinary approach to the topic of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic status is unique,” La Trobe U assures us, promoting a symposium that will, “offer a genuinely contemporary perspective on performance, celebrity and artistic response, as well as to make Marilyn provocative for us in our times.” Ms Monroe died in 1962.

monday

The support students need, just not this weekend

“Online study systems will ensure that you get the most out of your learning experience – wherever you are – and personal support to get you through tough times,” the University of New England pitches to students.

“Did you intend enrolling in Trimester 3 units this weekend? Unfortunately that won’t be possible as there is a systems upgrade being carried out throughout this weekend which will affect the online enrolment process,” UNE 4.30pm Friday, via Facebook. The “good news” for UNE’s Facebook friends anyway, is that the enrolment deadline is extended to Wednesday

What about the workers?

The Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics on the Terascale (CoEPP to its mates) has a new ten-year agreement to collaborate with the US Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Science Minister Greg Hunt announced the signing on the weekend saying, the relationship would be good for, “medical therapy, cloud computing and fundamental research into dark matter.” At least CMM thinks it was Greg Hunt, the statement did not refer to jobs, which are generally mentioned multiple times whenever the minister speaks.

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Keep sending the cheques

Submissions to the Ferris-Finkel-Fraser review of the Research and Development Tax Incentive closed Friday with a remarkable absence of outrage from investors who do well from the existing generous and complex scheme and consultants who make a motza explaining it. While many are upset few outright opponents of change were keen to go on the record, leaving to peak bodies, notably medical organisation Research Australia to make the cash for continuing cash.

In contrast, the publicly funded science community is broadly in favour of the review’s core recommendations, which will generate more research jobs and reduce transfer payments to the private sector.

Science and Technology Australia explained at length how the Three Fs proposal to cap the $2m pa refund will create problems for small operations who use it as operating cash but concluded, “with reservations,” “the current growth of the scheme is unsustainable if it continues indefinitely and that the current structure may be encouraging less than ideal practices. If there is evidence that many SMEs are claiming more than $2 million, introducing the cap would constrain use of the fund and ensure its sustainability.”

However Research Australia was not having any of it, opposing any reduction in tax incentives for R&D because the scheme is funding SMEs and is at odds with the government’s “stated intention to shift gears in laying the foundations for an economy that is not reliant on resources and heavy manufacturing.” Startup Aus does not mind the $2m cap but wants the refundable tax offset doubled to 90 per cent, so that “young innovative companies receive the immediate boost to their development and growth prospects that they need.”

Lavender lost

The jacaranda in the quadrangle at the University of Sydney fell on Friday night. As an omen for exams just starting this is not good. But lest anybody be spooked a work crew removed it on Saturday. “Tree?, what tree?”

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Lessons for Japan

The excellent Australian Council for Educational Research adapted its University Experience Survey to Japan in a 7000-student pilot and compared the results to the Aus original. The findings, reported by Daniel Edwards, Ali Radloff and Julie McMillan, are a mix of intriguing and unsurprising. For example while Australian students, are more engaged with university their Japanese peers are less likely to consider leaving study early, (go figure). But the better the relationships with staff and students the less likely individuals from either country will drop out. A second survey involving 50 Japanese universities is scheduled. With Japan running low on 18 year olds the country’s education industry cannot afford to lose any.

Banks out of ANZSOG

The Australian and New Zealand School of Government is in the market for a new chief executive. Former head of the Productivity Commission Gary Banks, ANZSOG chief since 2013 is retiring.

Science spiked

The presses will roll no longer for E-Science magazine, produced by the University of Adelaide’s science faculty for science schoolteachers. After four years in print and on-line dean of science Bob Hill says “advice and results from surveys has been that this hasn’t worked as well as we had hoped.” Professor Hill says he does not want to spike it for good; “we are simply stopping production for a while to consider our options and see if we can find a way to better support STEM in Schools using the e-Science brand.”

So what went wrong? Not the subjects, the last issue includes up to speed stories on Alzheimers, antibiotics and apps. But as working journalists (including CMM) are acutely aware, in a world of endless information getting and keeping the attention of any audience is a challenge.

Understatement of the month

“There was very dramatic growth and under those circumstances, it was incumbent upon the department to monitor that more closely,” Dr Subho Banerjee from the Department of Education and Training on rorting of the VET FEE HELP loan system before the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee inquiry, last week. CMM is really looking for forward to the Australian National Audit Office report into the catastrophe, due in December.

In the money

Perhaps it is being based in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where million dollar houses are considered affordable housing, but the University of New South Wales boasts with Gekko-grandiosity about how much money some of its graduates have. On Friday the university announced that there were more of its graduates on the BRW young rich list than any other university. This sits well with Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs oft-expressed commitment to “social justice, equality and diversity.” At UNSW even poor millionaires are respected .

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Monash IT hire

Jon Whittle from Lancaster University in the UK will become dean of IT at Monash U next May. “IT is everywhere, and should therefore be a fundamental part of any successful university’s core offerings,” he says

Swan songs for UniSA

Investment banker and Sydney Swans chair Andrew Pridham has donated A$5m to alma mater the University of South Australia. The gift will go to the university’s great hall complex, now being built in the Adelaide CBD. In addition to a formal event space, the centre will also include a 25m pool, court spaces and a gym. Mr Pridham’s gift is supplemented by $1m from the state government, which will support an elite athlete scholarship and a programme for high achieving indigenous students named for Swans heroes Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin.

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