Lord High Executioner

Swinburne University is  recruiting a “manager, strategic execution.” “Sounds like a vicious redundancy programme,” a learned reader suggests.

Room at the top as UNSW chief of staff leaves

At UNSW VC Ian Jacobs no longer has Peter Noble as his chief of staff.  According to the university, Mr Noble has resigned “for personal reasons” and is returning to the United Kingdom.

As VP, Mr Noble had a vast and powerful portfolio, covering planning and performance, human resources, legal, governance, risk management, and the University Program Office. This unit provides “strategic direction and operational guidance” to “support the objectives of the university.” As the VC’s chief of staff he also ran Professor Jacob’s office, oversaw strategy development and had charge of “advising on associated issues.” The university points to his “important role” in the UNSW restructure and his work on the new partnership with the universities of Newcastle and Wollongong.

Mr Noble joined UNSW from the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, where he worked with Professor Jacobs.

An offer they couldn’t refuse: UniSydney union members accept the best deal going

Despite a divided leadership, unionists at University of Sydney have backed a call to accept management’s latest pay and conditions offer

What happened: Yesterday’s 300-140 vote followed a split in the campus leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union, with branch president Associate Professor Kurt Iveson and members of the negotiating team calling for a deal while other committee members were urging continuing industrial action for a higher pay offer and improved conditions for casual staff.

The offer was hammered out with the university’s top management last week. While it did not increase the university’s previously stated final pay offer it includes a range of leave and workplace benefits, including involving staff on workload agreements and engaging them in change proposals (CMM September 20). Junior staff will also receive a flat $500 raise with the same amount as a lump-sum for fixed term and casual workers.

According to Dr Iveson, if approved by the university workforce, “this will be the best enterprise agreement in any Australian university.”

While there are still details to address, once done the agreement will be jointly recommended by the NTEU and university in an all-staff vote. The second campus union, the CPSU is believed to be on-side.

Who wins: This is a big win for VC Michael Spence. Once UniSydney union members dig in on an issue they are not given to giving ground, a continuing dispute could have dragged on for months. It is also a win for the NTEU leadership, both at branch and national level. With deals said to be close at Curtin U and Edith Cowan, Sydney will make seven agreements variously approved or getting there. This is momentum the union needed to roll on after the huge defeat in the Fair Work Commission, which agreed to Murdoch U cancelling the old enterprise agreement as a basis for negotiating a new one. It will likely encourage more universities to settle rather than try to slug it out with the union. This means the new pay rise base is around the 2.1 per cent per annum that applies at UniSydney.

Who loses: The same casual staff who always do. As advocates of hanging on for a better deal for them at UniSyd put it the other day; “There are the casuals that have been teaching languages for close to 20 years, with no job security, no paid leave, and far less superannuation than other staff. There are the casuals that were sacked en masse in the student centre without any redundancy package. In every hallway of the university, there are casuals stressed and underpaid, lacking support.”

Growing pains

Back in June the Australian Academy of Science reported the state of agriculture research was such that it was “a highly unattractive” for starting scientists (CMM June 21). The Academy suggested $100m funding over a decade for research, translation and commercialisation would help.

New figures from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics certainly show public funding for rural R&D grew slowly, up just $200m in the decade to 2014-15, due in large part to lower state government spending.

But the private sector rocketed ahead, growing by $600m, to $1.6m in the same period. Another growing source was the R&D tax concession, which provided $55m in 2005-06 and $200m ten years on. Yes that tax concession the one that entrepreneurs love but university researchers think is a touch too generous.

Tough week at James Cook U

Last week JCU staff voted down a management pay offer but anybody who thought things could not get worse was wrong. The vote certainly did not clear conflicted air with the National Tertiary Education Union, which planned a 24-hour strike for tomorrow, over now stopped enterprise bargaining. The university went to the Fair Work Commission asking it to forbid the strike, which it did. So now there will be community protests at JCU, starting at 8am.

Yesterday the other campus union, Together, representing professional and technical staff, hopped into management over its proposals to end the staff entitlement to a three-day Christmas shutdown and the “unfair pay offer.”

And this morning Vice Chancellor Sandra Harding will respond to Elizabeth Broderick’s review of JCU’s “sexual harassment and sexual assault policies and procedures, and its culture.”

Plaudits for peer reviewing as UofQ leads the world

The purpose of Publons is for academics to demonstrate their achievement as peer reviewers and to present their pre-publication work assessing manuscripts as “research outputs’. Small reward for the unsung-scholarship peer reviewing requires to be sure, but Publons praise is way better than nothing. So here’s to the 2017 Publons awards of the paragons of peer reviewing, announced this week.

The US leads the national list with 58 000 peer reviews, followed by the UK with 22 000, Italy at 18 530, just ahead of Australia with 18 380.

And Australia leads the institutions with the most peer reviewers in the world with four in the top ten.

Publons records the University of Queensland as the global number one for peer reviewing with 2467 reviews. The University of Sydney is second with 1672, the University of Melbourne is fourth with 1357 and Monash U is ninth with 1357.

Other ANZ universities in the world top 30 are; the University of Auckland (13th), UNSW (16th), University of Otago (22nd) and Macquarie U (29th).

The top Australian peer reviewers for this year are:

Dong-Shen Jeng, civil engineering, Griffith U, with 371 reviews! He is followed by:

Samuel Asumadu-Sarkodie, environmental science, Macquarie U,

Nicholas Chileshe, construction, University of South Australia,

Nathan Lawrentschuk, University of Melbourne, surgery,

Neal M. Ashkanasy, University of Queensland, business,

Henry Woo, University of Sydney, surgery,

Nam-Trung Nguyen, Griffith University, nanotechnology,

Fengwei (David) Xie, chemical engineering, University of Queensland,

Manoj Kahndelwal, engineering and IT, Federation University,

P J Blackall, agriculture, University of Queensland.

Praise and prize for poets

Surely Australia’s best known poet, thanks to a generation of HSC study, Bruce Dawe is set to receive an hon doc from his local university, U Sunshine Coast.

The University of Canberra poetry prize winner is announced. Eric Berlin from Syracuse NY wins the $15 000 award for a poem about “isolation, empathy and van Gogh”. Former VC Stephen Parker established the prize which continues under his successor, Deep Saini.

No appeal for the anxious

A learned reader at the University of Queensland suggests staff may not support management’s proposal to increase job security by offering more fixed-term contracts, which could replace casual hires (CMM yesterday). The problem the reader sees with management’s proposed clause is that it would empower management to offer all non- academic jobs as fixed term. With staff already anxious about job security, the LR suggests the proposal will not fly as it stands.



Wins of the working week

 Ross Coller joins Victoria University as Advancement Director. He moves from the University of Melbourne where he spent nine years in development and advancement roles.

Medical science lobby Research Australia  has announced finalists for its 2017 awards, which include;

Data Innovation: Professor Lisa Bero, University of Sydney (research evidence integrity), Professor Helmut Butzhueven Royal Melbourne Hospital. (monitoring MS).

Griffith University Discovery: Dr Avnika Rubarelia, Monash University (regenerative medicine), Dr Tamsyn van Rheenen, University of Melbourne (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)

Health Services Research: Australia and New Zealand Hip Fracture RegistryProfessor Lorna Moxham (University of Wollongong) mental health nursing

The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia has announced the Paul Bourke Early Career Researchers for 2018.They are; Elise Sargeant (criminology) Griffith U, Mark Humphery-Jenner (corporate governance) UNSW, Amy King (China-Japan relations) ANU, Daniel King (psychology) UniAdelaide.

Cordelia Fine is the winner of the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prizefor Testosterone Rex: unmaking the myths of our gendered minds. The University of Melbourneprofessor of moral psychology and neuroethics receives £25 000.