Cliché of the day

The Australian Research Council launches its Centre of Excellence to investigate dark matter. The project was announced in 2019 (CMM August 29 that year). The ARC calls it “ground-breaking,” presumably because the kit is 1100m down, in an ex goldmine at Stawell, (Vic).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning  

Mahsood Shah (Swinburne U) sets out students’ nine  expectations to improve teaching. This week’s contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

plusCorey Bradshaw (Flinders U) and colleagues have a fairer way than the H Index  to compare researchers at different career stages and across disciplines.

with James Guthrie (Macquarie U) who wants to know how many people Victorian universities actually employ – he finds that numbers change from data set to set.

ARC answers on its pre-press citation stuff-up

And yet there are still questions

The Australian Research Council dropped funding applications for the high-crime of breaching a new and obscure ban on referring to pre-prints.

Cue outrage from applicants who were caught by a rule they knew not of and astonishment from researchers who wonder what the ARC had against pre-prints, a research foundation of open access (ten CMM stories, starting August 20).

The ARC was quick to reverse its rule, which did not explain why it was adopted or how it was applied.

So, Senator Faruqi (Greens, NSW) asked officers, who have now replied to her questions on notice.

The ARC states it only checked funding applications where “peer reviewers raised potential eligibility issues” – there were 15 such for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award funding and 17 for Future Fellowships.

As to where the idea came from; “the ARC did not consult externally prior to publishing updated instructions that strengthened its handling of preprints.”

And why it was imposed; “The ARC implemented the change with the aim to ensure consistency and fairness across all disciplines and all applications.”

The ARC also repeats its “we told people” defence. “the ARC held a webinar and updated the sector on the new requirement. Research office staff members from all 42 universities attended that webinar and the ARC did not receive widespread feedback from the sector about this adjustment at the time.”

So that’s all right then. No it’s not. For a start, some research officers got the message but others obviously didn’t. Perhaps the ARC could have got the message out earlier and wider – particularly to researchers in disciplines where pre-prints have been widely used for years – say physics, All excluded Future Fellowship applications were in astronomy, space science or fields of physics.

And as for the ARC only checking applications raised by peer reviewers – were there any apps which cited pre-prints that weren’t noticed and thus avoided exclusion?

And if so, were any funded?

We see what you did there

Australia may soon have the jump on cane toads,” Uni Queensland announcement yesterday. Researchers from UoQ and Uni Sydney have developed an environmentally-friendly lure.

Micro-credentials: important (whatever they are)

MCs could be the next big thing in post-school education, as soon as everybody agrees on what they are and whether they can be trusted

Fortunately, MC maven Beverley Oliver has created a basis for discussions the world needs to have in a paper for UNESCO.

Key issues, she suggests, include

* where they fit: MCs can document informal acquisition of skills and knowledge but perhaps supplement, not replace degrees

* provision/accreditation: the proliferation of providers is, “part of the shift from education as a supply-driven to a demand driven system.” A big question is, will courses designed by corporates to create talent-pools of their own be accepted as skills statements by other employers.

* quality assurance: difficult to do without agreed standards and unregulated providers

* unintended consequences:  government could decide MCs are a quick and easy skill creator and fund them at the expense of formal education

First things first

Before anybody can agree on anything there needs be an agreement on what “microcredential” means, so UNESCO funded 50 experts to hammer out a definition. Professor Oliver’s report details the discussions around four proposal, including the one adopted (p 24).

The take-out

“the micro is the distinguishing feature of micro-credentials, but to be accepted and trusted, they must be seen to bear the quality hallmarks of credentials,” Professor Oliver advises.

Safety first on North Terrace

Uni Adelaide evacuated three buildings yesterday, “due to tremors from an earthquake in Victoria.”   And empty they stayed until checked by engineers.

So, what’s wrong with these three, Napier, Schulz and Nexus 10 and 250? CMM asked. Nothing – but they’re tall and people in them felt tremors, Uni Adelaide advises – but they were open for business by 4.30pm yesterday. They don’t take chances at Uni Adelaide.

Ways to catch-up in emerging digital tech

Australia is falling behind in researching emerging digital tech, the learned academies of Science and Technology & Engineering warn – but they have arresting ideas

They suggesting keeping up with the likes of the US, UK, France and Canada requires, “a vision for innovation and research in areas of national strength and strategic priority—one that is matched by a globally competitive level of commitment and investment.”

Which should not bother whoever’s turn it is to be minister for industry, science and technology. A few words some dot points on funding comparing Morrison and Barton government funding will do it, or it would except for achievables deep in the detail.

The academies call for including Emerging Digital Tech in the 2021 Research Infrastructure Roadmap.

And they want it promoted through DIST’s Innovation Connection’s business grants programme and included in the Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

There is also an excellent “if not, then why not” idea – a “dedicated stream” in the Cooperative Research Centre Projects scheme ($3m for three-year max projects to address a specific industry problems). Round Ten was exclusively for recycling.