We got the bad news last week and today there are small and selective announcements, very small for  VET

Can Treasury count? Depends which economist you ask

 No more new med schools but Newcastle’s wins big


What science smarties needs to know

New QUT research demonstrates no link between eating red, rather than yellow, smarties and happiness. Philip R A Baker and QUT colleagues ran the (sadly) mock-experiment with students to teach randomised critical trials and critical appraisal. But they missed the big question, what confectionery studies scientists need to know, is when you eat your smarties, do you eat the red ones last.

No more med schools

On budget eve the feds announced money for the University of Newcastle’s new Gosford med school – it ‘s no predictor of success for the Charles Sturt-La Trobe proposal.

While there are few expectations of budget funding for the Charles Sturt and La Trobe U Murray Darling medical school universities which now train doctors in the bush and oppose the MDMS are not taking any chances. University of Sydney dean of medicine Arthur Conigrave was in central west NSW late last week explaining how UniSydney is pumping out plenty of graduates from its regional med schools and departments – the challenge is finding post-graduation training places for them all.

Lest anyone miss the point, Richard Murray (James Cook U), acting president of Medical Deans ANZ, argued yesterday that another university medical school is unnecessary, what is needed is more flexible postgraduate training so that country educated doctors could spend time in cities before returning to the bush.  The regional training hubs announced by the feds last month (CMM April 18), are part of the solution, Professor Murray says. But new medical schools aren’t, the existing 20 “is more than adequate for Australia’s health needs in coming decades.”

The government made his point yesterday, announcing $12m more for the University of Newcastle’s medical school at Gosford on the NSW central coast – the school will accept students from 2020.

More cash for CRCs

There’s a $20m budget bucket to expand the Cooperative Research Centre Projects scheme. Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos announced the money yesterday for “large scale advanced manufacturing research.” The Ps differ from standard CRCs in being short term funded to address specific challenges industry faces.

When the Miles Review was announced CRC watchers feared they were for the chop – the Commission of Audit had proposed closing the programme and giving its funding to the ARC for linkage grants  ( CMM May 20 2015) but four coalition portfolio ministers have now smiled on the scheme.

Off the factory floor

Straight out of the prime minister’s innovation playbook comes Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos’s budget announcement of $5m “to maintain engineering excellence by investing in student research at universities, technology institutions and in industry to continue the flow of highly trained engineers to the automotive design and engineering sector.” This may not cheer up workers whose production-line jobs are gone but it makes the point that there are going to be a bunch more opportunities in designing cars not assembling them.

Send no money

An email urging CMM to apply for “$160 000 in paid research opportunities,” at the state library set off the scamometer yesterday, but it’s legit, applicants need not send any money. It’s an invitation to apply for any of six research fellowships in Australian history and culture at the State Library of NSW, not Nigeria.

Yet another budget announcement

Not only does Adelaide have a bells and whistles, budget blowing new public hospital and research centre it’s going to get a shiny new proton beam facility to put in it. Health Minister Greg Hunt talked about the $100m (the feds and state are splitting the cost 60/4) facility on, where else, Adelaide radio yesterday. The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute will house the facility which will be used in cancer research and treatment.

Over and app

A University of Sydney symposium  today will address mental health apps that do not deliver. “Apps tend to be highly commercialised, yet biases resulting from app sponsorship or promotion are an area that has remained relatively unexplored,” says the university’s Lisa Bero. The symposium will address app integrity issues and how to “counter commercial biases.”


With ministers announcing who will get what in the budget it was training’s turn yesterday. Assistant Minister for Voced and Skills Karen Andrews announced a “series of new videos and case studies that highlight best practise in delivering vocational education and training in secondary schools.” But surely, you say there must be more than that – with the states and commonwealth still short on a new funding agreement probably not much, CMM replies.

Jolly good fellow

Edward Holmes is  elected to the Royal Society (not the Royal Society for this or that ) your actual Royal Society, the one founded in 1660 to study science. Professor Holmes is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney, “distinguished for his work on the emergence and evolution of viruses.” He is already a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

Sunshine state to Smithsonian

The Queensland Government annually funds two researchers to visit the Smithsonian Museums. This year Ashley Field from the Queensland Herbarium gets to go to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington. QUT’s Donna Hancox will spend time at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, on New York’s upper east side – lucky woman,  it’s a truly terrific museum.


Counting on Treasury

Economist Saul Eslake from the University of Tasmania  asked a selection of his Economic Society of Australia peers whether the government should outsource the budget forecast of nominal GDP growth, to the Parliamentary Budget Office say, given the way Treasury gets it wrong. The panel split 56 per cent nay 37 per cent yea with others undecided. It seems that some suspect the public sector of not being to organise bingo at a bowlo while others don’t think anybody would do that much of a better job or that the budget is government’s job. According to Geoff Kingston from Macquarie U, Treasury forecasts are actually pretty good. Perhaps the government could commission estimates from academic economists, but only if it wanted as many carefully considered figures as the number of experts asked.

Whittaker honoured

Maxine Whittaker is the Royal Australasian College of Physicians International Medallist for 2017. Professor Whittaker is dean of public health, medical and veterinary sciences at James Cook University.

Only way is up

Private education and training providers have had a terrible couple of years as shonks and spivs rorted the VET FEE HELP scheme but the only way to repair reputations is to show their standards match the public sectors. That private colleges have not made the government’s new approved provider list for the new loan scheme does not help. And so, the Australian Council of Private Education and Training is establishing its own benchmarking initiative for higher education members who now have to meet the new standards for all HE providers introduced this year. Sensible start.