Uni Melb going green (gradually)

The university is not joining the rush to sell out of fossil fuel

 

plus quantum queen Michelle Simmons: a great Australian in any year

Wellcome funding for Monash clean water research

 

and regulatory rigour in international education

Another roo on the B-B-Q

Deakin ecologist Euan Ritchie say if we care about our homeland kangaroo is the meat we should eat on Australia (and other) Days. Skippy is better for grazing land than sheep, better for carnivores than other meats, more environmentally sustainable, what with it being a local, and because it is shot in the wild an ethical improvement on farmed animals, which are slaughtered in abattoirs. In another Australia Day idea CMM is taking it off. Back on Friday.

A great Australian in any year

Quantum computing queen and UNSW professor Michelle Simmons  delivered an alpha Australia Day speech in Sydney yesterday, talking about her work and why she migrated to Australia to do it, when she could have stayed in science in her native UK or moved to the US. There was no oi-oi-oining in the address, she warned that the school system must encourage students to ask and answer tough questions and that the country as a whole needs more ambition. But she also made it plain how Australians can excel at hard things, like quantum computing, and why;

“there is no better place to undertake research. Australia offers a culture of academic freedom, openness to ideas, and an amazing willingness to pursue goals that are ambitious. And the results speak for themselves – we have achieved tremendous success in our endeavour, largely because we gave things a go that the rest of the world didn’t dare to try.”

It was a speech that should, hopefully will, inspire young people now at school, to do what Professor Simmons does and have a go. CMM guesses that because she gave a state-based address Professor Simmons isn’t up for a national Australia Day award. But whether or not she and her colleagues ever-build a working quantum computer Michelle Simmons is a great Australian for this, or any year.

Wellcome investment in clean water

Monash U and the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities have $14m from the Wellcome Trust to study water management in 24 slums (or “informal settlements” as they are now known) in Fiji and Indonesia. The project will create the basis for new water infrastructure suited to communities off the services grid which are ignored by ‘big pipe’ agencies. The project also involves researchers from Stanford and Emory universities in the US and the University of Melbourne.

Flinders rolling out restructure

Flinders U is on track for a mid year start for its new structure, as sent to staff for consideration in November (CMM November 25). The six new colleges will each have a four-person leadership team and professional services will adapt to suit the new structure. People now in leadership positions affected by the change will receive “priority consideration” for new roles.

Regulatory rigour

The International Student Ombudsman reports on a much-complained about provider, but does not name it. But dial down the outrage-ometer, this was because the provider asked for anonymity, presumably because it did not word to get around about its good rep with officials among people from countries where government is not trusted. This certainly is not the sadly standard story of a provider exploiting students.

According to the ISO most of the complaints against the provider were crook, with the vast majority from students who were cross the provider intended to report them to immigration officials for non-attendance or poor progress in their studies. The Ombudsman adds that this has got more to do with students exercising their appeal rights than any “systemic issue” with the provider. The Ombudsman adds it backed the provider in 74 per cent of cases between 2011 and 2016, compared to 57 per cent across the industry. “The nature of the complaints that we receive about this provider indicates that it is vigilant about monitoring course progress and attendance as required by the National Code,” the ISO concludes.

Even with anonymity this is a report that merits more attention. The VET FEE HELP catastrophe did Australia’s regulatory rep no good and all education sectors need to be known for high and non-negotiable standards.

Ken calls it quits

Back in 2015 when two Charles Sturt U DVCs left the third, DVC admin Ken Dillon stayed on (CMM April 24 2015). But Professor Dillon has now told the local paper he has decided to retire and will leave in July.

App of the day

Bond U journalism students have created an app detailing delights to discover on the southern end of the Gold Coast. According to Bond senior teaching fellow Rob Layton  ,”it equips our graduates with the practical and meaningful skills necessary for success in digital communications. … Never has there been a better time to be a journalist.” Or at least a digital comms person. The GC guide is free in the App store.

Gradually green

The University of Melbourne says by 2021 it will be out, or in the process of selling, holdings in companies that do not meet its requirements for managingmaterial climate change risk.”  And campus electricity consumption will be carbon neutral by then. The commitments are in the university’s sustainability strategy, announced yesterday. Other measures include all undergraduates studying how to apply sustainability principles and knowledge in their field and replacing 10 per cent of car spaces on campus with bicycle parking by next year.

“The plan is more than just a public statement of our commitment to sustainability. It sets out an ambitious path towards new modes of governance and operations in a warming world, and reiterates our desire to work with industry to support and assist the transition to a lower emissions future,” says CFO and VP Admin Allan Tait.

However, UoM is moving at a more modest pace than universities which have committed to selling out of fossil fuel companies altogether. QUT, ANU and La Trobe are all keen to get out of fossil minerals and energy shares (CMM September 6).

Innovating till it hurts

The UK Government’s  innovation green paper warns the nation’s strong science culture isn’t bringing products to market fast enough, “we must become a more innovative economy and do more to commercialise our world leading science base to drive growth … historically, we have not been as successful at commercialisation and development as we have been at basic research.” Proposals to fix it range from targeted investment, identifying and encouraging best practise technology transfer and (gosh where have we heard this one before) “a review of the tax environment for R&D.” It makes the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Strategy look practical and positive. But the Brits have one really innovative idea; “the government’s industrial strategy will also hardwire innovation into our businesses, schools, workforces and individuals.” The last one could be painful.

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