Strategy set for Medical Research Future Fund

But there’s still $17bn in funding to find

plus uni-wide admin review at WSU

Relax policy people, Christmas isn’t cancelled

 and Heads Up: the winners in a big week at work

Every little bit helps

Monash recruiters will always go the extra yard, many many extra yards. The Interior News, organ of record for Smithers, British Columbia,  reports that Monash U representatives were at Northwest Community College this week explaining students could complete two years there and then transfer to Monash. “All programs ladder into university at NWCC, but now that ladder leads across the Pacific,” Chris Gareau reported. It’s not the largest of Monash markets – Smithers’ population is 5400.

Not giving up her day job

Suzanne Miller is Queensland’s new chief scientist, replacing Geoff Garrett, in the post since 2011. Professor Miller will continue as chief executive of the Queensland Museum Network.

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WSU announces admin review

The expected report on an administrative restructure at Western Sydney University (CMM November 7) is due next week. Vice Chancellor Barney Glover told staff yesterday that consultant Deloitte is working with HR and the university’s project management office, “to investigate our current operating models and provide recommendations for improvement. These may include streamlining and consolidating processes and functions, standardising policies and improving systems,” Professor Glover said.

The review, believed to be the tightly held exercise codenamed Project Essex, is focused on professional staff.

An early voluntary retirement offer has just concluded at WSU and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is already anxious as to who will do the work of the people already going. It looks like reasons for anxiety just expanded.

MRFF set to go

The medical research establishment is clearly pleased with the government adopting funding priorities and the strategy for the Medical Research Future Fund proposed by its advisory board. According to Vlado Perkovic from the George Institute, the MRFF plan, “is the most important step in improving the health of Australians since the announcement of the first National Health and Medical Research Council research funding several decades ago.”

The Group of Eight, which invests $2bn plus a year in medical research, is also happy. “Australia’s research policy framework must be underpinned by long term policy and funding certainty and the medical research innovation five-year strategy recognises this,” CEO Vicki Thomson says.

Priorities: announced by the fund’s advisory board, chaired by cervical cancer vaccine creator Ian Frazer, certainly seems a to-do list for applying research with an emphasis on leveraging research outcomesnew uses for existing drugs, infrastructure for clinical trial networks, bringing to market point of care solutions to antimicrobial resistance. And some, in an understated way, appear to address issues that aren’t top of mind now but could be very quickly, the prospect of pandemics for example. The advisory board discretely mentions a priority to “enhance and coordinate research on national surveillance of and response to current and emerging infectious diseases …”

Change required: The board also acknowledges that more money is not the only answer to improve the funding pipeline, that life in the lab can obscure opportunities;

researchers largely remain focussed on academic metrics rather than application. Although barriers are more perceived than real, researchers may not pursue commercialisation because they regard other aspects of research activity as more important. … A cultural and systems change is required.”

But where’s the cash coming from: CMM still wonders where the $17bn still needed to bring the fund to its $20bn capital target by 2020 will come from.

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In breaking news

“The historic basalt retaining wall in the Booloominbah carpark is coming down! But don’t despair, it will be rebuilt stronger than before after decades of moisture and root damage had undermined the structure,” the big Facebook story at the University of New England yesterday.

Mature about money

But what do the MRFF plans (above) mean for the National Health and Medical Research Council? Apparently it’s all good news. “Australia’s research system is mature enough to run distinct and parallel funding streams, like many other nations. … Both the NHMRC and the advisory board are committed to working together to ensure complementarity of funding is maintained through collaboration, governance, and shared administration where appropriate.”

Good-o, with NHMRC chair Anne Kelso on the fund’s advisory board both bodies will know what the other is up to. Still it’s a step from last year, when then outgoing NHMRC chair Warwick Anderson told the National Press Club when he expected the council would control “the vast majority” of MRFF funds, (CMM April 16 2015).

Don’t cancel Christmas

Does Simon “the Grinch” Birmingham want policy people to have a not especially Christmassy party season and summer break? The education minister has asked the House of Representatives standing committee on employment education and training “to inquire into and report on matters that ensure Australia’s tertiary system – including universities and public and private providers of vocational education and training –  can meet the needs of a future labour force focused on innovation and creativity.”

The terms of reference read like instructions for policy ducks to form a row, preparatory to a minister making a major announcement. But sadly no, this is standard over-sighting and the committee did not complete a previous inquiry on education, innovation and etc before the end of the previous parliament. Gosh, you don’t think people will just change the dates and update the intros to their last submissions do you?

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Grants for research in Germany 

This morning Universities Australia will announce the 72 researchers to receive up to $25 000 for travel and expenses to conduct research in Germany. Projects range from robotics in surgery to song-writing therapy for dementia suffers. The list is here. funding is from the Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme, which is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service and Australian universities. To date the partners have committed $6m. “The projects are laying the groundwork for our future large scale collaborations,” UA chief executive Belinda Robinson says. Applications for the 2018 and 2019 rounds open in April.

ACU scores an A 

Warnings of an oversupply of teachers do not alarm ratings agency Moodys which yesterday rated Australian Catholic University Aa2. In addition to “strong increases in operating revenues” and “modest” debt ACU occupies “an important market niche of supplying nurses and teachers to Australian institutions.”

Bowman’s back

Just returned from leave CQU VC Scott Bowman is back to unsettling local rival James Cook U. Professor Bowman is using all sorts of opportunities to extend his university’s presence in Townsville and Cairns, once JCU heartland. Yesterday CQU and Cairns Regional Council signed an MOU to “enhance Cairns’ reputation as a major hub for social innovation and the arts.” This barely moves the needle on the announceometer but it does demonstrate that CQU is committed to competing in Cairns.

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Heads up: winners of the working week

University of Melbourne innovation expert Charles Day is the new head of Innovation and Science Australia. Dr Day is a previous head of the university’s STEM innovation precinct Carlton Connect. Three new board members join him, Bronwyn Harch from QUT, master of Ormond College, Rufus Black and management consultant Bronte Adams.

The Cooperative Research Centres Advisory Committee has two new members, UWA cancer surgeon Christobel Saunders and human research ethics consultant Kylie Sproston.

Greg Hill, VC of the University of the Sunshine Coast is the new chair of the Regional Universities Network.

University of Queensland brain researcher John McGrath has won a Danish fellowship to continue his work on schizophrenia. Professor McGrath will divide his time between UoQ and Aarhus University,

Alpha animator Chris Ebeling and interaction design researcher at UTSAndrew Johnson are the creative lead and research director of the university and Animal Logic’s joint masters of animation and visualisation.

Monash lecturer in entrepreneurship Erin Watson-Lynn is the new chair of the Curtin University based National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Swinburne University has a new DVC Academic, replacing Jennelle KydDuncan Bentley is promoted into the position. Professor Bentley is now Swinburne’s PVC International.

Massey U in New Zealand has recruited another Australian leader to keep company incoming VC Jan Thomas, who joins from the University of Southern QueenslandJane Mills is moving from RMIT to head the College of Health.

Louise McWhinnie is founding dean of UTS’s Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation. Professor McWhinnie moves up from associate dean of teaching and learning in the university’s design, architecture and building faculty.

Neuroscientist and management consultant (and how often do you read that?) David Bowser has left the Nous Group where he was higher education lead. He will focus on his Curio venture, which connects sessional staff with universities and TAFEs in need of their services.

Michael McDaniel, director of UTS’s Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning is the university’s inaugural PVC Indigenous Leadership and Engagement.

 

 

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