They do not like fake ham and Sam

Actor and vintner Sam Neill posted Twitter-thanks on Friday, to the Australian Antarctic Division, which appeared to have hosted him and his pet pigs on the ice –there was a pic to prove it. Sadly, the Antarctic experts quickly put the story in the deep freeze. “Rest assured Mr Neill did NOT take pigs to Antarctica. For reasons best known to himself, Mr Neill takes toy pigs around the world, photographing them in various locations for entertainment. These pigs broke no rules… although they did appear to enjoy their time on the ice!” they tweeted. And CMM was so looking forward to questions in Senate estimates.

Hard numbers on NHMRC grants

Genetics researcher Gaetan Burgio (ANU) keeps a close and quizzical eye on National Health and Medical Research grants and has run the numbers on last week’s announcements (and re-announcements). He published his analysis yesterday, via Twitter. Dr Burgio reports:

# application are down, pushing the funding success rate up a couple of per cent on 2015, to 16 per cent or so

# without the 34-grant pool reserved for projects with women chief investigators (a first-time move) the gender distribution would be unchanged

# more grants were allocated to basic science research this year, but with less money on average than other areas

# for the first-time, women received a majority of New Investigator grants (but this could be due to the 34 women-only CI awards).

Illustrious ilustrators: UniNewcastle pair win edX exceptional teaching award

Bernadette Drabsch and Andrew Howells are winners of the edX award for “exceptional contributions in online teaching and learning!”. The University of Newcastle pair win for their MOOC, “Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101,” (CMM September 28 2016).  And yes, the course the MOOC is based on has survived the humanities restructure at UoN.

Why industry innovators ignore universities

The general assumption that Australian business do not want to work with universities is less wrong than incomplete, demonstrated by a new report from the Chief Economist.

Just 3 per cent of innovation-active firms report higher education institutions “as a source of innovative ideas.” The reason why is very bad for university outreach experts.

“Only 7.8 per cent of innovation-active businesses report lack of access to knowledge or technology as a barrier to innovation. This suggests most businesses do not collaborate with research institutions because either they do not perceive it is beneficial to them or they are simply unaware of how such collaboration might improve their business performance.”

But, this is not because business distrusts researchers, Australia ranks 7th in the OECD for government R&D expenditure financed by industry. “This favourable result may reflect stronger links between business and non-university publicly funded research organisations, such as CSIRO.”

The chemistry is right

The Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association 2017 medallist is Chris Porter from Monash University.

New Linkage Grants

The Australian Research Council has announced (very quietly) another round of Linkage Grants. Intriguing among the 16 are:

Funding for Arul Arulrajah and colleagues at Swinburne U to investigate harvesting geo-thermal energy from pavements made from recycled materials.

Work on stain resistant paint led by Brian Hawkett at the University of Sydney.

Yongsheng Gao and team at Griffith University who will research vision technology to improve productivity in lobster farming.

A grant to Anna Zhu and others at the University of Melbourne will fund work on the way the design of income-support impacts children from low-income families.

Flinders announces new medicine dean

Jonathan Craig is moving to Flinders U from the University of Sydney. Professor Craig will become inaugural VP and executive dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health in April. Flinders reports Craig has 20 years of continuous NHMRC funding, 640 papers and an H index of 71. CMM hears Flinders management is very pleased indeed.

UniMelb and union split over stand-downs

The University of Melbourne wants a codified right in the new enterprise agreement to stand-down professional staff if circumstances beyond its control interrupt, “the normal operation of the university.” The National Tertiary Education Union suggests management is anticipating disruption caused by construction of the new metro. The union also asserts there is no similar proposal for academic staff. This appears to make its point that a separate deal for professional workers, instead of a single agreement, risks reduced conditions for non-academics.

However, bargaining observers suggest the flexible “self-directed” nature of academic work makes it immune to workplace interruption and that while the union draft agreement has extensive coverage of stand-downs for professional staff, academics are not mentioned.

Yesterday the University of Melbourne rejected any connection between its position on stand-downs and the metro.

Upward O’Dwyer

Jane O’Dwyer moves up to become ANU’s inaugural VP for engagement and corporate affairs. A 14 year university veteran in comms, Ms O’Dwyer is an astute operator, long-skilled in presenting ANU to the community of Canberra, which has a parochial interest in the university, and selling it across the country as a national resource. Ms O’Dwyer will report to DVC Global Engagement Shirley Leitch.

Morale at “all time low” Flinders U union warns

Morale at Flinders is at an all-time low. Anxiety is high. The university’s proud history is under threat,” the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union warns Chancellor Stephen Gerlach and the university’s council.

A union survey of members found 90 per cent of them think management does not value staff contributions, 87 per cent say there is no “genuine collaboration” or “meaningful consultation” and just 7 per cent have confidence in management to “empower staff” and “build trust”. “We believe this survey is a realistic snapshot of wider staff sentiment,” the union advises Mr Gerlach.

Apocalypse-wise this is the four grim riders mounted on Shetland ponies, reflecting the relatively pain-free academic and administrative restructure at Flinders U over the last year, with head count cuts largely achieved by voluntary departures. It is doubtful council will share the union’s alarm. Back in August the university offered Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling a new seven-year contract from next month, when he was just half-way through his first five year term ( CMM August 18).

New role for Wappett

Former Open Universities Australia chief Paul Wappett will join private provider, Australian Institute of Business in the new year. The AIB claims to be the largest MBA provider in the country.

SA TAFE’s chances sink

Revelations that South Australia’s TAFE system could not teach refrigeration in Antarctica surely narrows the competition to participate in the federal government’s shipbuilding college. Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne wants universities and colleges around the country to participate in the Adelaide headquartered venture which will teach the skills needed for the navy’s big-build. This should be a natural for the local TAFE, but it is not, thanks to continuing news of crook courses. As Education Minister Simon Birmingham said on Friday “we have invested some $90-odd billion in terms of future ship-building activity in South Australia, and one of the biggest risks to successful delivery and successful implementation of our naval ship building capabilities is indeed having the skillset there to succeed.”

Curtin University awards

Curtin University has announced all its annual staff awards:

Student learning: Brooke Sanderson, Helen Flavell, Health Sciences

Teaching excellence: Claire Morrisby, Health Sciences

Student learning: Aneeshta Gunness, Shamsul Abdullah Curtin Malaysia, Business School

Teaching excellence for university associates: Shafiiq Gopee, Odylle Charoux, Karlo Jouan, Tasneem Mustun, Gounshali Vaghjee, Jirad Jhuboo Zaid Timol, Sarita Hardin-Ramanan, Odylle Charoux, Shubashni Ramrekha, Loga Balla Soupramanien, Geshwaree Huzooree, Karlo Jouan, Shafiiq Gopee – Charles Telfair Institute (Mauritius)

Curtin Academy Fellows: Janet Beilby, Psychology, Melissa Davis, Psychology, Sonia Dickinson, Marketing, Jonathan Paxman, Civil and Mechanical Engineering, Rachel Sheffield from the School of Education

Innovation: Hannah Wilkinson, Business School teaching and learning, Curtin Info Tech Services Virtual Computing Lab Project Team

Engagement/Collaboration: Mike Ridout, School of Mines, Curtin Stadium Health and Rehabilitation Clinic

Leadership: Sarah Moffatt, University Marketing

Customer service: Jenny Goodison, Business School R&D. Info Tech Service Centre Hubs