plus: Murdoch management escalates its brawl with the union

Another departure from Deakin law school but management says new staff coming

 and Macquarie U’s big asks of business faculty staff

16 straight

Griffith U points out that the Workplace Gender Equality Agency has now cited it (CMM Friday) as an employer of choice for 16 straight years. “Is this a record G U?” asks.

Publish and perish

A couple of weeks back Education and Minister Simon Birmingham mentioned how the impact and engagement metrics being trialled next year are about measuring; “the value of research against things that mean something, rather than only allocating funds to researchers who spend their time trying to get published in journals.” And if anybody is still in denial about the implications for basic research, consider another initiative announced, but widely ignored. In 2016 research publications counted for 7 per cent of research block grant funding – next year it is nil.

New CSU campus head

Charles Sturt U veteran Jennifer Munday is the new head of campus at Albury-Wodonga. Dr Munday is now associate head of the School of Education.

Big new year at Deakin law school

CMM hears another senior staffer at the Deakin U law school has resigned. With Dan Meagher deciding to go, there are now four major losses since dean Sandeep Gopalan introduced a new policy restricting staff to researching in nominated areas. Mirko Bagaric has decided to move to Swinburne, Christoph Antons is going to Newcastle and Louis de Koker to La Trobe.   With departures from the struggling Warrnambool campus as well law at Deakin U is way down on numbers.

But not to worry. According to a university spokesperson; the school will welcome, “12 new academics in the New Year, with credentials from institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, LSE, Michigan and the Sorbonne, among others. These talented scholars also bring a record of research and work experience at the World Bank, UN agencies, and major law firms, to sit alongside the School’s Australian commercial, human rights, constitutional and resources law expertise – striking a balance between global priorities and local relevance.”

Three wins in a row

In October Kerrie Mengersen from QUT received the CRC for Spatial Information’s research excellence award. Last week she was awarded the Statistical Society of Australia’s Pitman Medal. To cap it all on Friday QUT has designated her a distinguished professor. Gosh what are the odds of all that? (Sorry)

Murdoch U escalates IR dispute

In an extraordinary escalation of the dispute between Murdoch University and the National Tertiary Education Union management has applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the existing enterprise agreement. The move follows the university’s ending talks for a new agreement after union members rejected its ‘take it or leave it offer’ (CMM December 5). Murdoch has offered staff 3 per cent over four years (about a quarter of pay rises in the agreement now ending) and less comprehensive employment conditions. The university said “an unprecedented financial challenge” born of two years of deficits plus higher costs and tougher competition made the case for the economic offer (CMM November 28).

According to the NTEU, management’s new move would replace existing working conditions with statutory minimums. Given the last pay rise under the existing agreement was paid in June management is not trying to reduce pay but force the union to accept simplified working conditions. The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, which is working closely with Murdoch U management, is pushing for enterprise agreements with far less prescriptive rules on redeployment and retrenchment than now apply.

It seems the university is intent on forcing the NTEU to engage with Murdoch on its terms in the three months or so it will take for its application to come on in the Commission.

Late Friday NTEU state secretary Gabe Gooding, told Murdoch workers, managements’ actions were “an immediate and vehement attack on your employment conditions by a management team that has completely abandoned all principles of fairness and decency toward staff.”

Murdoch University management, as is its practise on enterprise bargaining matters, ignored CMM’s request for comment.

New boss at ASQA

Mark Paterson is the new chief commissioner of the Australian Skills Quality Authority, replacing Chris Robinson. Mr Paterson joined ASQA in May as commissioner for risk intelligence and regulatory support. He takes over with release of the Australian National Audit Office report on the VET FEE HELP shambles imminent. This mess occurred long before he joined ASQA.

Big asks of Macquarie bus staff

Kevin Jameson, the ever-energetic acting business dean at Macquarie University has invited staff to apply for next year’s academic performance loading. But what puzzles learned readers is that, as they remember, the scheme was originally about matching what the market would pay for academics with in-demand skills. Now it is all about meeting metrics for teaching and research, curriculum development and grant income that are variously burdensome with a very big B or can mean whatever a supervisor wants. What, for example, does “demonstrated outstanding student experience” actually mean? Learned readers are also curious about how many faculty executives actually publish as much as is required under the scheme, let alone win specified research funding.

Swinburne scholarships

Swinburne U has created 14 scholarships for people on bridging and temporary protection visas, the terms of which prevent them for applying for citizenship, thus excluding them from a Commonwealth supported university place and HELP loans. “By offering these scholarships, we’re giving refugees and asylum seekers the chance to gain a qualification and further their skills, without the financial burden. At Swinburne we believe in the inclusiveness of further education,” Swinburne VP students Andrew J Smith says.

UTS looks to China

Late Friday the understated UTS announced four significant deals in China, as follows: Shanghai University: a joint venture focused on engineering and innovation research, teaching and engagement. (no value ascribed). BroadLink: jointly funding 50 PhD scholarships in AI and the internet of things, valued at $17 million. Southern University of Science and Technology, (Shenzhen, Guangdong): 30 PhDs in IT @ $4.2 million. China Electronics Technology Group Corporation: continuing joint research in superconductor high data rate receiver technologies.

Vice Chancellor Attila Brungs adds the university is also in talks with China partners “to promote research and development, industry engagement, commercialisation and research training.”

Elsevier cites its own achievement

The for-profit journal publishers have a tough time presenting themselves as public service providers, what with the way their business model depends on publishing research they do not pay for and variously charging readers to access publicly funded work or authors for their work appearing in flash scholarly periodicals.

So the smart journal companies now work on making themselves indispensable to researchers. And they come no smarter than RELX‘s Elsevier division, which is the biggest journal publisher. Elsevier regularly releases value-adding products that make it easier and more productive for researchers to keep publishing in its journals. A couple of weeks it committed to making available data sets underpinning articles in 1800 journals (CMM December 2). And now it is has announced a new impact metric, CiteScore, which covers 20 000 plus journals.

According to Ludo Waltman from Leiden University’s Centre for Science and Technology Studies, CiteScore is no bad thing, a “simple and easy to understand” metric (it’s all relative innit) supplementing more complex ones from his own organisation. And while he has a bunch of methodological issues and thinks the overall emphasis on journal impact factors is overdone,  “In certain situations, journal metrics can provide helpful information in assessing scientific research.”

This should be enough for Elsevier – every product that people use strengthens its hold on the market.

CiteScore already impacting

CiteScore is already having an impact as researchers start checking to see how it will change journal relativities. Australian business scholars were quick to consider which journals are up and down in the new ranking and to debate the collateral damage CiteScore will create. One victim seems to be the Australian Business Deans Council, which used the now discontinued Australian Research Councol model to update its journal ranking back in September, (CMM September 8). “The new rating certainly makes the ABDC’s look sick,” a learned reader told CMM yesterday.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM who had Mark Gregory moving from Uni Adelaide to Uni SA in Friday’s issue. In fact he is moving to Flinders.