Uni Melbourne sells research in the big end of town

The busy life of Professor Stan Grant

Research grant success rate stuck at 14 per cent

Bad day for down time

The Australian Research Council had a census moment yesterday morning. As people across the country logged on to check who had got what in the grant announcements the Research Management System went down. It wasn’t for long, except for everybody sweating on announcements.

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Working with what you’ve got

They were not much fussed about ARC outcomes at Charles Sturt University first thing yesterday. The big research news there was a project to prevent native fish death in western NSW. There was no mention of federal funding for the project, or the $700 000 CSU won in ARC grants. The university only got around to announcing its two ARC grants two hours later.

But news is what you make it, as they know at the Australian Catholic University, which announced its “stunning strike rate,” with 33 per cent of its Discovery Early Career Research Award applications being successful – which translates to two. Overall ACU won seven grants with $2.5m in funding.

Melbourne takes its message to the streets

The University of Melbourne has a new campaign which goes where the market is – with a research exhibition in adshell displays at 14 points around the Melbourne CBD.

The 14 research exhibits cover work at UoM that will make deep sense to passersby. From fighting fat to ending blindness, building robots to brain-controlled artificial limbs, the campaign covers work which will make a real difference to real people on the city’s streets.

The creative for the campaign is just that, delivering audience engagement without digital whizbangery relying on smart design, but above all well-chosen research.

In an exhibit on research on drones in vinyards for example, magnets in a plinth create the sense of a drone hovering by using repelling transparent disks to create an illusion of movement. In another LEDs in an image of the human nervous system light-up when people put their hands on the glass, triggering a current that lights up diodes in the brain. In an exhibit on eye sight the glass covering an chart which reads “made possible by Melbourne” fades from clear to opaque over 20 seconds, giving readers a sense of failing sight.

This is the second stage of the Pursuit campaign launched last year, which CMM (September 28 2025)  called “an exercise in triumphalism, asserting less leadership than Uni Melbourne’s ownership of the ideal of the university as engine of national innovation.”

Stage One was a hit, joint winner of the Australian Marketing Institute’s Marketing Programme of the Year (CMM October 21). Stage Two could well win as well – this is a brilliant way of presenting the university as not just the acme of research but a community  service provider as fundamental to community need  as health services. With this campaign university marketing directors who think “outdoor” means a billboard of blather need to think again.

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Stan’s their man

Stan Grant will be an even busier bloke than he is already when his new programme in planning at the ABC starts. But what will it mean for his job as professor of indigenous affairs at Charles Sturt U (CMM June 9)? Professor Grant says that this is being discussed and that he will certainly deliver lectures and do research but that it will be more a “visiting professor” role. CSU is certainly still happy. DVC Mary Kelly told CMM yesterday, that Professor Grant will continue in his CSU role, “to drive innovative thinking in all aspects of indigenous affairs at the university. CSU congratulates Stan on his new position with the ABC, which adds to his stellar portfolio of contributions to high quality debate.”

Sydney spruikers

Michael Spence (VC UniSydney) and S Bruce Dowton (VC Macquarie U) have become city ambassadors for Business Events Sydney. The urbane Dr Spence will be charm personified and Professor Dowton undoubtedly do well in a role that surely will lift his subterranean media profile.

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UA pleased

Universities Australia was very pleased with yesterday’s ARC grants, pointing out that funding is $59m up on last year and calling the cash “a clear-sighted investment in research that would lead to new economic opportunities and health and medical breakthroughs.” In particular UA CEO Belinda Robinson pointed to Future Fellowships and the Discovery Early Career Research Awards, which “provide much needed certainty for early career researchers to secure their career pathways in the Australian university research environment. This is crucial for sustaining our future research workforce needs.” This is a sensible strategy, the government’s innovation agenda is not exactly a hit with the voters but it is the best chance of keeping research funding up.

Another expert departs for the Old Dart

Monash marketing maven Margot Burke is off to show the Brits how it is done. The woman behind the new “Question the answers” corporate campaign (CMM April 11) is moving to the University of Leicester. She follows marketers Andrea Turley (ex Deakin and ACU) now at Anglia Ruskin U and Tracy Chalk (ex ANU) who moved to the University of Western England (CMM January 25)

UoQ teachers honoured

The winners of the University of Queensland’s teaching excellence awards are engineering academic Vincent Wheatley and the School of Psychology’s Blake McKimmie, Barbara Masser and Mark Horswill.

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Grim for grants

Research funding stays hard to get, demonstrated by the success rate for Discovery Grants, announced by the ARC yesterday. Just 17.8 per cent of applications got up this year compared to 17.7 per cent in 2015. Some 5687 chief investigators on applying projects were men, compared to the 2165 led by female CIs, both genders had the same success rate.

The per centage of successful grants was consistent across broad discipline groups, ranging from 17.5 per cent for engineering, information and computing to 18.1 per cent for maths, physics, chemistry and earth sciences.

Yet more bad numbers

The Department of Education and Training has released (very quietly) the 2015 VET FEE HELP statistical report. Most of the data will not be new to people who have followed this regulatory ruin but there are still some stark stats. Like the 49 000 people who enrolled in more than one course, when the average was 72 per cent of a full load – gosh that couldn’t have been because people were gulled by shonky providers into enrolling twice could it? And like the 52 per cent VFH students who were unemployed or out of the workforce. This probably reflects people wanting to skill-up to get a job, but it might also indicate providers recruited disadvantaged people with no chance of completing, some 14.7 per cent of students under 25 listed personal interest/development as their reason for enrolling. One interesting stat that is not in the report is how many DET officials realised there was a problem with the scheme – perhaps because none did.

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