Keeping an AI on crocodiles

UTS researchers, Michael Blumenstein and Nabin Sharma have created AI, which when drone-mounted can spot crocodiles. It follows their creation of similar spotter for sharks. Once the AI spots a croc it puts a red box around the beastie on the drone pilot’s screen.

WA Govt delivers on med research promise

Capital account for WA med research but not so much interest

Back in May, the WA Government promised to direct income from the state’s $1.2bn future fund to health and medical research, (CMM May 13).  And it has done just that, with legislation now before parliament. Good, but $1.2bn in capital does not generate the sort of income it used to. The government estimates there will be $126.6 million for research over the next four years.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning Cathy Stone (Uni Newcastle) on the mass of students who don’t study on campus and why universities should stop policies and processes designed for school leavers,  here .

It’s a new op ed in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series in what we need now in teaching and learning.

And, an insider’s view of NHRMC Investigator Grant peer reviews by Wendy Ingram (Adelaide Medical School, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, University of Adelaide) here .

QUT rates on new Nature index

QUT rates eighth in the world in the new Nature index of “fast-rising” research institutions

The index tracks research in 82 journals. It is based on fractional counts of the per centage of an article’s authors from an institution. All authors are assumed to make equal contributions.

QUT’s fractional count lifted from 16.6 in 2015 to 27.85 in ’18. In comparison, the top-rated fast riser, University of Chinese Academy of Science China, increased from 212.93 in ’15 to 318.77 last year.

ARC research reviews being … reviewed

The Australian Research Council announces the next ERA and yes there will be a second EI exercise

Now is a good time for universities interested in improving research rankings by hiring talent to start making calls. And institutions should get cracking if they want to upgrade the hypeboltron to promote applied research projects.

The ARC says the next Excellence for Research in Australia will run in 2023, five years after the previous exercise, a longer gap than the two, then three years between the first four. The second Engagement and Impact Assessment will run in 2024.

According to the ARC, the government “is committed to the on-going assessment” of research and so it will conduct “a comprehensive review” of both programmes in 2019 – 2020. Objectives are to, “simplify” both programmes, “take advantage” of tech and big data developments, “ensure” both are world best practice and “respond” to sector needs.

Any questions? Sorry, there are no answers. The ARC says information about the review and future reporting requirements “will be made available … in due course.”

More opposition at Uni Sydney to VC’s second Ramsay funding prop

There are reports the (student) University of Sydney Union opposes Vice Chancellor Michael Spence’s proposal for the Ramsay Western Civ Centre to fund people taking existing civilised subjects

The Ramsay Centre plan, as adopted at the universities of Queensland and Wollongong, will provide $50m over eight years at each to fund scholarships for selected students in custom-created courses on western civ.

Uni Sydney management’s suggestion last year that it could adopt something similar was met with uproar over course content and outrage at a role foe the Ramsay Centre campus.

Dr Spence now proposes using Ramsay money to support up to 1100 students in 130 appropriate subjects (CMM September 19)

USU board members opposed the idea Friday, joining academics whose open letter to the VC decries connecting with the Ramsay Centre’s, “narrow, masculinist, Anglocentric view of ’the West’.” And campus National Tertiary Education Union leader Kurt Ivison argues that given the university already teaches the subjects suggested, Dr Spence just wants to secure Ramsay funding.

Neither Ramsay management nor board has commented  on the Spence prop.

Union wants to get involved in James Cook U v Ridd

The National Tertiary Education Union is seeking leave to intervene in James Cook U’s appeal against the Federal Court judgement that it unfairly dismissed scientist Peter Ridd

Justice Rangiah has listed the application for hearing on October 10. The university is appealing Justice Vasta’s ruling that Dr Ridd’s criticism of scientific research at JCU was covered by the JCU Enterprise Agreement and that he was wrongly dismissed for misconduct.

The union’s application is expected to focus on clause 14 of JCU’s 2013 enterprise agreement, which Justice Vasta concluded protected Dr Ridd.

NTEU National President Alison Barnes said in April, “the most important implication of this judgement is that the only real protections for academic freedom in Australia are in the enterprise agreements negotiated by the NTEU. Most universities have policies on academic freedom, but they are completely unenforceable and therefore of very limited value.”

“… Professor Ridd’s views on climate change would be at odds with the strongly held opinions of many NTEU members. However, that is not the point. The right to speak freely about academic matters needs to be especially protected when views are unpopular or controversial.”

CMM asked the university if it would oppose the union’s application and yesterday JCU responded “directions have been made and the parties will have an opportunity to be heard.”

Appointments, achievements

At Charles Sturt U Tom Burton moves up to PVC for community and global engagement. He is now director, global engagement and partnerships there.

Deborah Ralston (professorial fellow, Monash U) is appointed to the federal government’s review of the retirement income system

Grace Sanna is the new GM of La Trobe U’s science, health and engineering college starting December 2. She moves from the University of Melbourne, where she manages the medical school.

New approach at ASQA as Paterson announces exit

The feds signal a new approach for the training regulator and Chief Commissioner Mark Paterson “steps down”

what’s happened: The government will respond to “key recommendations” in the Braithwaite review of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s legislation and the Joyce review of the VET system.

“Improving the quality of VET is a priority of the Australian Government, and this includes ensuring the sector’s regulatory environment is reasonable, transparent and effective,” Employment and Skills portfolio minister Michaelia Cash said Friday.

Minister Cash added “the proposed shift in direction for ASQA provides an appropriate time” for Mr Paterson, “to step down.”

why: The announcement follows long and loud criticism of ASQA’s regulatory approach to private providers of training. In August, Liberal MP Andrew Laming gave the agency a federer of a serve in the House of Reps over its treatment of registered training organisations (CMM August 2).

And the Joyce Review reported; “While there was general acceptance of the need for a robust national regulator, particularly after the damage caused to the reputation of the vocational education sector during the VET FEE-HELP scheme, there was a strong sense that the approach the regulator is taking to its role is causing its own problems. Most concerningly, industries and RTOs in a number of jurisdictions, particularly smaller ones with thin training markets, cited examples of good long-term smaller providers leaving the sector because of the perceived risks and compliance costs associated with the way the ASQA regulatory regime is currently being implemented.”

Mr Joyce recommended ASQA educate rather than just regulate; “a measure of a good regulator is not so much who it catches out as ensuring that the whole regulated community is operating confidently and effectively within the regulations set by the governing jurisdiction. Viewed in that way, the provision of guidance and advice is a crucial part of the role.”

And in her review of the ASQA legislation ANU academic Valerie Braithwaite proposed; “ultimately, the way ASQA should regulate for quality (as opposed to sufficiency) is to look at how well RTOs go about setting their own higher standards, checking if such standards are met, motivating through praise and encouragement and support when they have achieved improvement, and advising on options when they have not.”

who’s on next: ASQA deputy chief commissioner, Saxon Rice will act as chief commissioner from October 7. She is a former Queensland state assistant minister for technical and further education in the 2012-15 LNP government.

what observers reckon: The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia was quick to back the government, stating, “new leadership at ASQA, will offer the transparency, consistency and timeliness of regulatory decision-making.”

so that’s ASQA sorted: Not entirely – the Australian National Audit Office announces ASQA is a “potential” target for an effectiveness audit in 2019-20.