Said fast, said best

‘A sad day for the science and technology community, Professor Hawking‘s contributions to his field, and STEM more broadly, have been transformational,” Science and Technology Australia tweets on the death of Stephen Hawking, less than five minutes of first report.

New DVC at USC

Tim Wess is the incoming DVC Academic at the University of the Sunshine Coast. He joins from Charles Sturt U where he is executive dean of science.

Enterprise agreement imminent at Murdoch U

The end is at hand for the long, approaching two years, and sometimes bitter, enterprise bargaining negotiation at Murdoch University.

Campus members of the National Tertiary Education Union have voted to approve the deal hammered out by union and university, with significant help from the university system’s IR association and the union’s national leadership.

“While we acknowledge the recent decision of the management to seek to reach a fair settlement, the university has incurred massive legal costs and suffered significant reputational damage for the same outcomes that have been achieved elsewhere through earlier constructive negotiations. These costs could have been avoided altogether,” state secretary of the NTEU Gabe Gooding said last night.

“We welcome this progress towards resolving a new agreement that will enable a focus on strengthening our university’s future,” was Murdoch management‘s response.

The proposal now goes to an all-staff vote.

A federal court action brought by the university against two union officials is yet to be heard. Did CMM mention the dispute was bitter?

Surgical precision

“Surgery for oesophagogastric cancer is a double-edged sword,” Monash U’s Central Clinical School cuts to the chase in a statement yesterday.

Applauding indexers

It’s a fortnight to National Indexing Day, intended to demonstrate that, “indexing is an intelligent undertaking that is not matched by any search function. A good index can be a work of art and the indexer an artist,” the ANZ Society of Indexers argue.

What will the doctors order for regional med education

Evidence but no outcomes: As the Budget is bedded down the National Rural Health Alliance’s annual conference early next month will consider; “the rural and remote health policy impasse: why hasn’t research evidence generated policies to improve rural and remote health services?”

Good question, one which the Gillespie Review of rural medical training places, which has never emerged from the bureaucracy, might have addressed. Perhaps Rural Health Minister Bridget McKenzie will have something to say, if she accepts the Alliance’s  invitation to speak.

Unless of course announcements to be made, or not made, in the budget, notably about funding for the proposed Murray Darling Medical School, will preclude her saying anything substantive.

Three Rivers to complement or console: Charles Sturt U has pushed for the MDMS for years but yesterday it re-announced the Three Rivers University Department of Rural Health. Funded by the feds, Three Rivers (Murray, Darling, Murrumbidgee) was announced last year to expand and enhance nursing, midwifery, allied health and dental services in the region. And now lead uni CSU, with partners Notre Dame Australia, Western Sydney U and UNSW have signed an MOU that they agree to doing what the department was established to accomplish. CSU says this has nothing to do with the MDMS bid but the other universities involved have medical schools, which would give the government an out if it there is no money for the MDMS in the Budget.

Bad news and good(ish) news

The bad news is that new data from the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research shows apprentice and trainee starts were down in the year to September 2017. Non-trade commencements were 5.7 per cent lower on the year to September 2016. Trade starts dropped by 3.2 per cent. The good news is the September quarter was better than the same period last year with total commencements up 4 per cent.

Stars in their courses

The stars in their courses

“Astronomers discover galaxies spin like clockwork,” the University of Western Australia announced yesterday. The orrery industry will be pleased.

Never happen here

While QILT national student surveys demonstrate Australian undergraduates are pleased with their university experience it isn’t so in England.  A learned reader points to a survey of students at 133 providers by incoming regulator the Office for Students which has produced critical findings.

Like 38 per cent thinking they got value from their course fee. And like students feelingleast comfortable” with their tuition fees cross-subsidising research, other courses and management. Good thing those sorts of things don’t go on here.

Research lobby announces (very) early election ask

And so it begins. Medical research lobby Research Australia has announced the first gimme of the election. That’s the federal election which could be held in May – May, 2019. RA has convened a summit to “capture the issues our sector wants commitment to – from a future Australian government of any political persuasion.”

And to help discussion along RA has spelt out what the industry should call for$20bn in the Medical Research Future Fund by 2021,“sustainable, predictable research and development tax-incentives, making Australia attractive for clinical trials, rolling-out the My Health database and making de-identified records available for research

RA shows remarkable restraint in not calling for the entire federal budget to be spent on medical research although you can bet if it did some members would warn inadequate funding would cost lives.

When too much research is more than plenty

The more research published the fewer the new ideas that attract attention,  John Chu and James Evans (UniChicago) argue in a new analysis of Web of Science citation patterns.  They found that when a discipline has “manynew publications in a year; the papers most cited will not change year on year, new papers are more likely to cite those already most cited, the probability of a new paperbecoming canon” is small and “localised diffusion and preferential attachment” will not explain why a new paper becomes one of those most cited.

“If too many papers are published in short order, new ideas cannot be carefully considered against old, and processes of cumulative advantage cannot work to select valuable innovations. The more-is-better quantity metric-driven nature of today’s scientific enterprise may ironically be retarding fundamental progress in the largest scientific fields. Proliferation of journals and the blurring of journal hierarchies due to online article-level access can exacerbate this problem,” they write.