Australian academics co-authored some of the top 100 scholarly articles of the year

plus: Murdoch U management losing the social media argument

and the engineering man cave at Macquarie U

A motza on media

TEQSA reports the higher education sector spent $526m on marketing and promotion last year, up from a mere $403m in 2014. Yes, half a billion dollars spent to show brands that do much the same things much the same way are not like each other at all.

Research the world reads

The wacky funsters at Altmetric have tracked 17m mentions of 2.7m research outputs through the year to identify the top 100 articles of the year according to news stories generated, blog mentions, tweets and Facebook posts and so forth and so on, to generate an “attention score”.

Great research Mr President: World number one is by some bloke called Barack Obama who brought a detached scholarship to the subject of US healthcare reform (attention score: 8063). Number two is by Martin Makary (Johns Hopkins) and colleagues, “Medical Error – the third leading cause of death in the US” (score: 4912) The third is the work of a light-year of researchers (the list certainly looks that long) who combined to write “Observations of gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger,” (score: 4660).

As for the oi-oi-oing: Yes, Australia scholars make the cut – just not many of them. According to Altmetrics, locals made the list as authors on 12 articles as follows: There are some Australians in the roll of writers of “Gravitational waves,” (above).

Wendy Brown (UoQ), Neville Owen (Swinburne), and Adrian Bauman (UniSyd), are among the authors of “Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality?” (16th), in The Lancet. Rinaldo Bellomo from Monash U is a co-author of “The third international consensus definitions for sepsis and septic shock” in The Journal of the American Medical Association (19th). David Handelsman (UniSydney) and Robert McLachlan (Monash) are among the authors of “Efficacy and safety of an injectable hormonal contraceptive for men” in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (35th). Allen P Nutman (Uni Wollongong and UNSW), Allan R Chivas (Uni Wollongong), Martin J Van Kranendonk (UNSW), Vickie C Bennett (ANU), are authors of “Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures” in Nature (40th). Cath Chapman and Tim Slade (UNSW) proved they know of what they write by publishing “Rejection of rejection: a novel approach to overcoming barriers to publication,” in The BMJ (48th). James E M Watson, Danielle F Shanahan, Moreno Di Marco and James Allan (UoQ) plus William F Laurance (James Cook U) combined to write “Catastrophic declines in wilderness areas undermine global environment targets,” in Current Biology. (59th) Gerritt D van den Bergh and Michael J Morwood (Uni Wollongong) and Adam Brumm (Griffith U and UniWollongong) wrote, with others, “Homo floresiensis-like fossils from the early Middle Pleistocene of Flores” in Nature. (60th) Ling Li, Mirela Prgomet and Johann Westbrook (Macquarie U) are among the authors of, “Allocation of physician time in ambulatory practice: a time and motion study in four specialities,” Annals of Internal Medicine (65th). Bette Liu (UNSW) is corresponding author of “Does happiness itself directly affect mortality: the prospective UK million woman study,” The Lancet (80th). Will Steffen (ANU) is one of 24 authors of “The anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene,” in Science (84th). David Balding from the University of Melbourne co-authored “A genome-wide association scan in admixed Latin Americans identifies loci influencing facial and scalp hair features” (85th) Nature Communications.

No numbers

Where, a learned reader asks, is the Department of Education and Training’s Financial Reports of Higher Education Providers, 2015 ? Last year officials managed to get the ’14 data done by the middle of October but there is nothing yet on last year’s numbers. Perhaps the feds are saving it for Christmas. Don’t look to TEQSA for information in the meanwhile. The charts on universities financial performance in its new report on key financial metrics are anonymised.

Lots of lawyers

There’s a talent buy-in among law schools in the Melbourne market. Deakin has a bunch of international hires starting in the new year, La Trobe is staffing up and now the University of Melbourne announces international appointments, Eric Descheemaeker who works on the law of obligation joins from the University of Edinburgh, Jack Anderson (sports law) comes from Queens U Belfast, Ying Liew now focuses on equity at University College, London, Jianlin Chen will move from Hong Kong U where he researches resources law, Jane Kaye took her law degree at UniMelb and returns from the University of Oxford, where she works on the connection between law, ethics and emerging health technology. Trade practice lawyer Robert Burrell joins from the University of Sheffield.

Early outrage

The Curtin University Student Guild says its “quick work” stopped university management from hiking parking fees for the new academic year. But this did not stop news site WA Today running the first parking outrage yarn of a new academic year, just not the next one, warning of a 2018 price rise.

Problem precedent

The feds have appointed Bioscience Managers, Brandon Capital, and OneVentures to manage the $500m Biomedical Translation Fund. This is widely considered a good thing, intended to bring successful research to market. Good-oh but the government’s $250m share of the capital comes from the Medical Research Future Fund, a precedent that Treasury will not have missed.

Engineering a man cave

A learned reader wondered why Macquarie U did not make the Workplace Gender Equality Agency preferred employer list last week ( CMM December 9). Knowing that engineering is anxious to increase the number of women in the profession the LR had a look at the gender split in the Macquarie faculty, only to find a very blokey space.

Adjunct and honorary appointments aside, there are only three women academics in Macquarie engineering and all eight appointments announced last month are men.

“The new appointments must have been approved at every level of management but did anyone ask the obvious question – why there are no women amongst them?” the learned reader asks.

Good question. Especially as Macquarie U describes itself as a “champion of diversity” with “a higher representation of academic women in senior levels … than the Australian universities average.”  What’s more, “the Department of Engineering has a Macquarie University Women in Engineering leadership group to support and encourage the undergraduate female students,” who might look at the absence of women among the academics and come to their own conclusions.

Departing Deakin

Dan Meagher is leaving the Deakin U law school for La Trobe. The associate professor follows colleague Louis de Koker who announced last week he is moving there.

Hard sell to students

Anybody considering a new corporate campaign presenting their university as uniquely excellent, just like all the others, should read John Black’s analysis of education market trends in the December issue of the Group of Eight’s newsletter . Mr Black mines all sorts of data to report on the state of the nation, often in The Weekend Australian, generally concluding that the only reason most Australians are not stuffed is that we are really, really stuffed.

This piece focuses on how tough-times are changing school demand but he includes intriguing, strike that, alarming advice for universities. Students will prefer universities, which give them the best chance of a full-time job after graduating and part-time work while studying, he warns. Not issues advertising can address, whatever the agency says.

Pomp and circumstance

RMIT reports 4000 graduands paraded through city streets yesterday, acclaimed by 7000 supporters lining the route, “while RMIT planes (took) to the skies.” There is no word on whether the university’s Horse Guards presented arms as the VC took the salute.

Social media minds made up

Murdoch University has responded to the armoury of outrage launched against its Fair Work Commission application to abolish the now expired enterprise agreement, which includes conditions it does not want in the next one. Yesterday the university reissued a statement assuring staff it did not want to cut pay and “remains committed to good faith bargaining and is looking forward to negotiating with the NTEU with a clear focus on the future of the university.” It’s a good thing for Murdoch management that this dispute will not be settled in social media, where friends of the National Tertiary Education Union make the running.  It is already over on Twitter, and Murdoch U  lost.