Victoria’s obvious education agenda

Plus ANU’s perfect Rumsfeld Scale score 

Considered from Kiev

James Cook U is very pleased with Ukraine coverage of its Cairns campus architecture. But surely anywhere not at risk of shellfire with a functioning economy will look pretty solid from the steppes.

Discussing the obvious

The Victorian Government’s education discussion paper will only generate brief chats – consisting of, “too right!” followed by “if only the evil Commonwealth would give us the money we need”.

The paper is stronger on schools than further and higher education but does set out industries where the government thinks the state should excel and which will require a workforce with relevant education and training. The good news is that most of them are covered by Canberra’s nominated research priorities. Indicating what the government might be hoping for in the training review, due in August, the paper foresees success in education as including a strong TAFE system. “Victoria’s public TAFEs are rebuilt and supported to provide students with relevant skills and service the job needs of their local communities and industries.”

Minister for Training and Stating the Obvious, Steve Herbert summed it all up yesterday, “Vic needs a stable training system that meets the needs of industry and community, (and) is a source of high-quality, job-ready graduates.”

ANU June 1

MOOC of the morning

Is from ANU, where scholars Michael Smithson and Gabriele Bammer are ready to explain ignorance. According to platform edX, the course will provide, “a comprehensive framework for understanding how people think about unknowns, how they deal with them, and how certain kinds of ignorance are enshrined in cultures and social institutions.” Apparently, “knowing more about ignorance will help you to manage and work with it,” which puts the course way high on the Rumsfeld Scale of known unknowns.

Another Gago gutser

Another day another disaster for South Australian Training Minister Gail Gago, whose plan to reserve a majority of publicly funded training places for TAFE next year has taken a horrible hammering from industry and much of the Adelaide media. Things got worse yesterday when the Opposition assembled the numbers in the upper house to send the government’s training policy to a select committee.

NTEU is Southern (very) Cross

The National Tertiary Education Union is urging Southern Cross University staff to reject management’s pay offer of 2.4 per cent pa for five years because it is below the 2.6 per cent the union says management previously offered and less than its own pay rises. SCU “has the capacity to pay more but has chosen to pay less,” the union argues. This is a high-risk strategy for the NTEU given the other campus union, the CPSU, has signed-off on the offer. However the NTEU has no choice, if staff vote for a package the union does not support it loses both face and bargaining power in the next negotiation. The NTEU lost a vote in similar circumstances nearly two years ago at Charles Sturt University and it is still fighting in the courts a Swinburne staff vote in March 2014, where management won a majority for a pay deal the union opposed. Given SCU’s improving but not blooming financial condition CMM June 1) the 0.2 per cent in dispute is a significant sum.

Full and frank

Characters were tested yesterday as young researchers received assessors’ comments on their research proposals for the ARC’s Discovery Early Career Research Awards. Applicant responses now go to an ARC experts panel, which considers assessments and responses in ranking applications. DECRA applicants have time to calm down before responding, with rejoinders due Tuesday week.

Pirates don’t pay

Journal publishers are increasingly antsy about the way popular demand and funding agency requirements that publicly funding research should be, well, public, – no delays or costs attached (green open access) – is eroding their market. Their first defence gold open access, whereby research funders and universities pay publication costs for staff to have their work included in commercial journals, is endorsed by leaders in the UK research establishment. However green open access advocates still argue publishers should not get to privatise the profits they generate from researchers’ reports.

So the big gorilla in the journal game, Reed Elsevier (RELX) changed its own rules, which previously allowed versions of papers published in its journals to be available early in open access archives. But it seems too many authors for the publisher’s liking were giving away access to their papers so now RELX has tighten the rules on journal specific embargoes, which are anything from 12-24 months. (CMM, June 2).

And now in the US, RELX is suing open source Library Genesis, for making available content from the Science Direct database, “which facilitates access to over 10 million copyrighted publications.”

The ethics of privatising publications based on publicly funded research aside, it certainly looks like the Library Genesis project has breached RELX’s copyright. But going to law to keep people who want to read research but do not have access to a subscribing university library (which surely covers millions of people in the third world) strikes CMM as doomed. Has not RELX considered the fate of the music industry, which cost itself vast amounts of money by charging-up for online recordings, which people then pirated instead of purchasing? The lesson from the music biz is that the way to make money from digital products is to make it easier to buy or rent online instead of stealing.

Ah, RELX’s friends will say, publishers already sell and rent individual articles online, which is entirely true. But at a price, generally $30-$40 or so for an article, when the marginal cost of supply is effectively zero (no production or shipping). RELX and other publishers might not make as much money by selling access to research at a fraction of existing charges – but it’s better than the nothing pirates pay.

Ranking rivals

What a coincidence that QS and Times Higher are releasing rankings within hours of each other. QS put out the Latin American, Asia and Arab nations lists last night. Brazil has five of the top ten institutions in Latin America, with Universidade de Sao Paulo in top spot. The National University of Singapore leads the Asian list, followed by the University of Hong Kong and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. The People’s Republic of China (ex Hong Kong) has just nine universities in the Asian top 50.  THE follows today with its Asia rankings.

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