Knight and don

Dr Don Markwell spoke on the office of the governor general yesterday, at a University of Melbourne conference on the work of Sir Zelman Cowan. What that Don Markwell, the advisor to Lord Pyne of the Pedagogues? That’s the one. Given matters vice regal really rate now I asked his lordship’s office if there was a paper available to plebs of the press. An equerry replied that there wasn’t but referred me to two books by Dr Markwell, Instincts to Lead and A Large and Liberal Education which both cover Sir Zelman’s life and work.

Nature is cruel

Metrics of the morning are from the Nature Publishing Group, which has published its 2013-14 rankings based on papers published in the main mag or monthly research journals.  As rankings go this is a modest measure but then again the results are a straightforward indicator, which are not gamed. The Australian top ten is unsurprising. The University of Melbourne leads, as usual, and ANU, U of Q, UNSW, the University of Sydney and Monash follow. Of the Group of Eight only Adelaide is not in the top ten. The three other institutions that make up the natural born leaders are CSIRO, Walter and Eliza Hall and Macquarie. Overall Australia rates third in the region, between China and Japan, with nearly twice the articles and reviews as academics from fourth placed Korea.  However no Australian university makes it into the Nature global top 50, while five institutions from Japan, the Chinese Academy of Science and the National University of Singapore do.  So how will we go next year? Nature does not speculate but it is clearly talking to pessimists,citing the absence of a science minister, public service cuts, which it says will hurt the CSIRO and the government’s emphasis on medical research. Above all, Nature warns, “the government’s apparent disdain for environmental conservation generally, and ‘green tape’ in particular, threatens to undermine Australia’s strong publishing record in earth and environmental sciences.”

CRC process continues but commercialisation kaput

The CRC Round 17 Roadshow is underway, with briefings next week from Darwin down to Melbourne. Applications close in July, which isn’t all that long, given the forms to fill out Still, at least it is an indication that there will be a round after the budget. Things are not as clear for grants from Commercialisation Australia, also administered by the Department of Industry. Applicants are being told all is on hold until after the budget when grant applications will be assessed for their fit with government priorities. When I inquired yesterday the department promised to respond to written questions as soon as they could. And I am sure they will.

The big bloke on big data

Chief Scientist Ian Chubb provided his usual polished performance when he addressed the Research Data Alliance in Dublin on Wednesday. He was all praise for the way the big data community was developing the infrastructure and protocols necessary to share stats across the world. “If we waited for government to get the show on the road there would be treaties. MOUS and agreements and the like – and most likely missed opportunities,” he said. It is certainly not Professor Chubb’s way to miss an opportunity. Thus he pointed to the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy as a way Australia was managing its data pool. It was a message for an audience at home as well as away. NCRIS is only funded for the rest of this financial year and the next. The overall theme of the speech was the need to share data globally to address worldwide challenges. Gosh, I wonder if the big journal publishers were listening.

ANDS more

The Australian National Data Service (funded by NCRIS) is holding a data citation workshop at ANU on Wednesday April 9 for anybody “with an interest in supporting the citation and reuse of data in their organisation.

Even bigger data

Yesterday Mark Jenkins from the University of Melbourne outlined a major use for BioGrid, a collaboration of 28 health services, medical research institutes and universities who are sharing data sets to predict patients at risk of bowel cancer.

Archaeology of ideas

Toby Burrows from the University of Western Australia is using data management technology for a very different purpose. He has won an EU Fellowship to Kings College London to identify the provenance of medieval and early modern manuscripts among the 60 000 collected in the 19th century by Sir Thomas Phillips. Even more impressive, the collection is long disbursed – I have no idea how he will do this and will try to find out more.

Scary for sessionals

Megan Fulwiler and Jennifer Marlow’s documentary on the state and fate of adjunct teachers in US universities, Con Job is on YouTube. It is worth a look, not because it will tell you anything you did not know but for the way it starkly sets out academic experience for sessional staff in the US. It does not present a solution, at least not a practical one, while university administrators exploit a cheap labour source – which subsidises the wages of tenured staff. For postgrads working on their doctorates in the hope of a permanent academic job this will be scary stuff.  Should the situation change in the US, and come to that here? Yes, but I doubt that it will.