Alpha impact and engagement

“The Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living has joined forces with Channel 9 to launch the new show, Renovate or Rebuild,” Tony Peacock from the CRC Association yesterday. CMM awaits the Australian Research Council including Nielsen TV audience figures in the next engagement and impact ratings.

Dan’s the man for Deakin U

Deakin U congratulates Dan Tehan – understandably so

Deakin U VC Jane den Hollander congratulates Dan Tehan for continuing as education minister, “where he demonstrates real passion for quality graduate employment outcomes and regional access to higher education.”

He was certainly a friend to Deakin U’s Warrnambool campus, when it sorely needed one.  In 2016 when the university wanted out of the regional centre, in Mr Tehan’s seat, he was there, working to keep it open.  Working from the backbench, he secured $14m from the federal government to attract another university if Deakin U bailed.

In the end Deakin U stayed, changing its course mix. “When Deakin refocused its education model … Minister Tehan’s efforts to facilitate the support of the federal government were crucial,” Professor den Hollander said yesterday.

Ramsay rolls on at Uni Queensland

At Uni Queensland management takes the next step to introducing a degree funded by the Ramsay Western Civilisation Centre

Executive dean of arts and social sciences, Heather Zwicker has endorsed a third version of the proposed curriculum and sent it up the line for academic approval. Her move follows a rejection of the draft by the faculty’s advisory board of studies last week (CMM May 22).

In a message to staff, Professor Zwicker set out consultation and consideration of previous drafts and pointed to coming workshops to “progress the curriculum,” compile reading lists, “and other curriculum tasks.”

And she acknowledged the work of the board of studies, “that this curriculum is so much richer, so much more rigorous, is a testament to the vital role that the board of studies plays and will continue to play in our faculty.”

“The vote taken at the BoS meeting puts me in a difficult position because I am torn between what I hear from you, my trusted colleagues, and what I believe are the broader strategic purposes for HASS,” Professor Zwicker told staff.

“The university is not somehow above the public sphere, but a vital participant in it. A humanities that turns its back on the world is diminished. The very hard task for us as humanists and social scientists is to stay faithful to a commitment to public engagement even when it’s difficult – especially when it’s difficult,” she said,

To which a senior HASS scholar responded yesterday; “UQ hires some of the best humanities academics in the world – and ignores their professional judgement.”

Agreement imminent at Federation U

They do things quietly there

Management and campus unions are close to signing off on a new enterprise agreement at Federation U. A draft approved by National Tertiary Education Union negotiators is said to be close to ready for members to consider. If members of campus unions approve it the proposal will go to an all-staff vote.  Under previous vice chancellor, David Battersby unions and management negotiated quietly on the basis of shared interest in shoring up the university’s sometimes fragile finances. It seems that cooperative approach continues under successor Helen Bartlett.

The proposed pay rise is largely in-line with other universities, being a $1750 increase in annual pay on signing plus a flat $250 payment, followed by a 1.8 per cent rise in May 2020, 1.9 per cent in May 2021 and 1.3 per cent in December 2021.

Big winners in science research (shame about the humanities)

In science the research performance gap is narrowing but humanities disciplines, especially in younger universities appear, but perhaps only appear, to underperform

Australian universities have improved science research performance, with some spectacularly lifts in the Excellence in Research for Australia, according to Frank Larkins (emeritus professor, Uni Melbourne).

Professor Larkins has analysed research performance by discipline group for Australian universities, for the L H Martin Institute. This work builds on his recent discipline analysis (CMM May 1).

What he’s done: Professor Larkins collects universities other than the Go8 and the technology specialists into pre and post 1987 groups. He examines the performance of each university in every group on the number of two-digit research codes ERA-rated at above, or well above world standard, for broad science and humanities and social science groups.

Success in the sciences: The Group of Eight universities increased least in science disciplines rated above or well above, world standard in the three ERA ratings – largely because they started close peak to performance. But Professor Larkins says the lift among other universities, “is exceptional”.

The Go8 improved their above world standard rating in broad science fields from 83 per cent in ERA 2012 to 100 per cent in 2018.

In contrast, the technology unis improved by 27 per cent to 87 per cent, the pre-’87 group lifted from 33 per cent to 75 per cent and the post ‘87s from 18 per cent to 61 per cent.

The biggest improvers: Across the country, the universities with the largest increase in above world-class science research ERA ratings were: Curtin U and QUT (eight disciplines each), UTS and Uni Southern Queensland (seven each), Griffith U, La Trobe U, Macquarie U and Edith Cowan U (six) and Swinburne U, UNE, Uni Wollongong and Victoria U (all lifted by five).

No new HASS heroes: ERA outcome in humanities and social science discipline are spectacularly different – far worse for all universities outside the Group of Eight.

The percent of HASS disciplines rated above world standard in Go8 universities increased from 77 per cent to 86 per cent between 2012 and 2018. However, for the technology universities the increase was from 19 per cent to 25 per cent, for the pre-‘87s it was 14 per cent to 23 per cent and the post ‘87s, 27 per cent to 35 per cent.

Is HASS under-performing?: Professor Larkins suggests that the apparent under-performance of HASS could be due to its “stronger emphasis” on peer-review which may be tougher. In comparison, “as more universities in developing countries publish in science journal there is the likelihood that world standards for some disciplines, as measured by the world average citation rate per paper, have declined over time.”

“The problem,” he suggests, “has been recognised for many years but apparently not addressed by the Australian Research Council.”

Why it matters: “The consequences of discrepancies in standards can be very serious for university departments in terms of the perceived relative excellence of disciplines within an institution and the research funding consequences,” Professor Larkins warns.

“The three ERA rounds have demonstrated very clearly that if a university aspires to increase its overall research standing, including international rankings, then an investment in science related disciplines is more likely to provide a better dividend than investment in the humanities and social science disciplines. This approach may not be in the national interest of preserving breadth and strength in course and subject offerings.”

More money in Victoria for medical research and education   

Medical Research and education budget wins

Yesterday’s state budget included full-funding for the new Footscray Hospital, in Melbourne’s inner-west. State Labor promised the hospital in last year’s state election. It will be built adjacent to a Victoria U campus where the university says (CMM October 8) it will develop teaching and research in healthbiomedicineexercise and sport.

There is also money for medical research (when isn’t there?) with $116m this financial year and next. Projects include the Australian Drug Discovery Centre at Walter and Eliza Hall, for “translation of biomedical research discoveries into new drugs for patient” and planning for the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery in biomedical engineering.

Learning analysts want a code of their own

ANZ research agencies are reviewing classification codes, learning analytics experts want one of their own

Learning analytics research is a fast-growing, multi-disciplinary field including education, computer science, psychology and data science, say Abelardo Pardo (Uni SA), president of the Society for Learning Analytics Research and Jorge Maldonado, coordinator of the Latin-American Community of Learning Analytics.

They call for peak research agencies to allocate LA a research code in Division -13 (education), Group – 03 (specialist studies).  A code of its own, will “increase the interest in an area that overlaps data sciences, psychology, technology and education.” They call on supporters to sign their petition, here.

The reviewing agencies point to classifying (or) “inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary research” and adding new categories to cover “emerging subject areas,” (CMM March 25).

Academy of Science announces new fellows

Alex Zelinsky was one of 22 new fellows elected to the Australian Academy of Science last night. Professor Zelinsky became VC of the University of Newcastle last November, moving from Chief Defence Scientist.

Eight of his colleagues among the new fellows are women. This is in line with the last five years, during which 36 per cent of new fellows were women and well-up on the overall 15 per cent women among the total of 543 fellows. However president John Shine says the academy is using, “best-practice measures to ensure that the outstanding contributions of our female scientists are properly recognised.”

The new fellows are:

Warren Alexander – medical researcher, Walter and Eliza Hall.

David Balding – genetic statistician, Uni Melbourne.

Lyn Beazley – neuroscientist, Murdoch University.

Debra Bernhardt – chemist, Uni Queensland.

Maria Byrne – marine biologist, Uni Sydney.

Mark Cassidy – civil engineer, Uni Melbourne.

Peter Corke – robotics, QUT.

Joanne Etheridge – physicist, Monash U.

John Hamilton – medical researcher, Uni Melbourne.

Paul Hodges – medical researcher, Uni Queensland.

David Karoly – atmospheric scientist, CSIRO.

Christopher Barner-Kowollik – polymer chemist, QUT.

Kerry Landman – mathematic biologist, Uni Melbourne.

David McClelland – physicist, ANU.

Maria Makrides – nutrition research, SA Health and Medical Research Institute.

Alex Molev – pure mathematics, Uni Sydney.

Surinder Singh – plant science, CSIRO.

Catherine Stampfl – physicist, Uni Sydney.

James Whelan – plant scientist, La Trobe U.

Cynthia Whitchurch – microbiologist, UTS.

Ian Wright – plant ecologist Macquarie U.

Alexander Zelinsky – engineer, Uni Newcastle.