For research with real R&D impact governments should do less applied research and give the money to universities

George Institute confirms relationship with UNSW

 Short isn’t sweet: Western Sydney U union leader slams management for ignoring principles and values in negotiations

 and Swinburne’s new footy deal: Tigers still roar

In breaking news

“Giving birth has been the foundation of the human race since the start of humanity,” the University of Newcastle announces virtual reality training for midwifery and nursing students.

George Institute’s new relationship

The George Institute of Global Health has confirmed it is in a relationship with the University of New South Wales, (which now calls itself the University of New South Wales Sydney). Back in January The George signalled it wanted to see other universities after an 18-year partnership with the University of Sydney (which does not call itself the University of Sydney NSW) (CMM January 30). And now, to the surprise of as many as no-one the Institute has shacked up permanently with UNSW.

“We would not be where we are without the support of the University of Sydney, and we have both benefited greatly from our collaboration. But today is a new day, and we are excited by the future and what we can achieve over the next 18 years,” George founders and principal directors, professors Stephen MacMahon and Robyn Norton, said on Friday.

The new partners say theirs is the, “the biggest move by an Australian medical research institute and marks a significant new chapter for both organisations.” They will work together on “accessible and affordable treatment and prevention programmes” for diseases including heart attack, strokes and diabetes, especially in low and middle income nations.

George Institute executive director for Australia Vlado Perkovic will lead work with UNSW on non-communicable diseases while UNSW staff will identify international research opportunities with Anushka Patel.

It’s a no-go for the mighty swinbunnies

Swinburne University announced on the weekend that it had extended its sponsorship deal with the Richmond Football Club to include naming rights, which CMM naturally assumed a change name for the team. The deal covers sports science and management courses and yes naming rights – but only to the club’s Punt Road HQ which will, in a creative triumph, be renamed the Swinburne Centre. So, it will still be the fighting-fury Tigers in yellow and black, not the swinbunnies.

NCRIS guidelines announced

Guidelines for National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy 2017-19 bids are out. Projects and facilities determined to be an ongoing priority or requiring realignment under the 2016 research infrastructure roadmap are in the hunt. According to the guidelines this is a transitional arrangement until the government responds to the roadmap, although given ministers Birmingham and Sinodinos released it with kind words a couple of weeks back a change in priorities isn’t likely. There is $152m in the pot this year and $156m next, indexed at 2.5 per cent.

Asmi Wood honoured

ANU’s Asmi Wood is a new principal fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. This is the HEA’s highest award and Aspro Wood is one of five at ANU and a 1000 worldwide to hold it.

University research delivers more R&D

A research paper from the Office of the Chief Economist at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science reveals that research and development spending generates growth but suggests the smart money needs to be in basic research.

But Sasan Bakhtiari  (DIIS) and Robert Breunig (ANU), using data from the R&D tax concession, found that public spending does not necessarily encourage private outlays.

“R&D activity is on average higher in industrial clusters but that clustering does not amplify the effect of spillovers on R&D expenditure. For public sources of R&D expenditure, we find that higher education expenditure has a positive influence on firm-level R&D expenditure. Direct government spending on research seems to crowd out private R&D expenditure.”

Researchers uncomfortable with the vogue for applied research will take comfort in Bakhtiati and Breunig’s conclusion that universities spend 60 per cent of funding on basic research while 70 per cent of government funding goes on applied research. “These estimates could be read to imply that basic research generates more knowledge spillovers than applied research.” Unless, as they point out; “the way the research is being communicated to the business community differs between academia and government.”

While the authors acknowledge they “cannot distinguish between these two possibilities,” they add; “these results suggest that shifting expenditure from government R&D to academic R&D might bring positive effects for firm-level R&D expenditure. It also suggests that a shift by government agencies towards more basic research could be rewarding.”

Let the games begin

It’s Senate estimates season and education and training is on this week. The ARC, ASQA and TEQSA get grilled on Wednesday, CMM is looking forward to ASQA officers answering  lots of questions based on the Australian National Audit Office report and the latest catastrophe, with Careers Australia closing.

If not SA unis then who?

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has requested proposals to run the government’s $25m, for starters, Naval Shipbuilding College. The government specifies that the college will start with “key entry-level trades courses, with university courses in marine architecture and engineering” to follow. It will be national in scope and work “rather than compete” with education and training providers across the country. But it will help to have a campus in Adelaide, where the minister says the college HQ will be.

This surely sets up a win for the South Australian Defence Industry Education and Skills Consortium, consisting of the state’s three public universities and SA TAFE (CMM May 17). After all, with Adelaide pre-selected as the base who else is going to bid? And if not this what does the group exist to do?  But on Friday the most people close to the consortium would say is that it is considering the minister’s request and would respond in “coming days”. Last night Margot Foster, CEO of the Defence Teaming Centre told CMM; “the consortium is currently reviewing the federal government’s request for proposal to operate the naval shipbuilding college to be based in South Australia. The consortium is considering whether or not it will submit a proposal.

With Mr Pyne stating the college will start on January 1 the consortium, and anybody else interested, will surely need to decide soon, real soon, if they want in.

Popular publisher

NewSouth is Australia’s small publisher of the year, named at the Australian Book Industry Awards. It’s a subsidiary of UNSW Press, run by Kathy Bail. “In the challenging world of global publishing, small can still be beautiful,” says university VC Ian Jacobs.


WSU attacking working conditions and culture, says union

Western Sydney U management want to keep the new employment agreement short and simple – the union says it is an attack on working conditions and culture.

A short agreement  would be in line with the position of the Australian Higher Education Association Industrial Association, which wants managements to keep the new round of enterprise agreements very short and simple. AHEIA says the complex codified conditions of all aspects of pay and employment is an efficiency killer. Funnily enough, the National Tertiary Education Union says exactly the opposite, that without detailed statements of workers’ rights they will not have any.

The two sides have argued over agreements in Western Australia for months and now at Western Sydney U the blue is moving from powder to navy.

Terri Mylett, the union’s academic VP tells members that students in her first-year industrial relations course understand what management doesn’t.

“Students quickly realise that substantive entitlements and obligations need to be accompanied by procedural rules. The procedural rules need to account for various circumstances. Short and simple would be great, but we must aim for workable rules, clarity, and statements of shared commitments and expectations in order to avoid confusion, grievances, disputes, perceived unfairness and actual unfairness from inconsistent decisions.”

She proceeds to work through clause after clause of the existing agreement, showing what the management want to excise or amend into oblivion. Key issues include clauses on flexible work hours, long service leave, job security and career development.

The NTEU even rejects a change to the way misconduct matters are dealt with, a condition the union conceded in the Deakin University agreement, which is widely-expected to serve as a precedent across the industry. At Deakin a committee to deal with misconduct matters will be replaced with a single reviewer, acceptable to all parties (CMM May 16)

But from Dr Mylett’s perspective, the dispute is about issues far more important than specific terms of employment;

“Some other changes proposed by management mean walking away from statements of principles, shared values and expectations that have been jointly made by staff, unions and management. The idea that the employment relationship is purely economic rather than social, psychological, and political is again attempting to radically redefine industrial relations. Staff have a right to bargain to bring management to making commitments to principles and values with regards to the employment relationship,” she  tells her members.