Stolen sangers

Stolen sangers
If Australia had a food museum, what would it include?” Edith Cowan U tweets, promoting research on food museums. The answer is obvious – nothing. No one really believed Malcolm Fraser that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

More to innovation than R&D

The balance between basic and applied research isn’t everything

In Features this morning Amanda-Jane George (CQU) suggests there is a third approach – non R&D innovation, “simple or incremental innovation, like changing delivery methods or shifting on-line.”

There’s a bit of it about. She points to research finding that business responses to COVID-19 last year led to five-years progress made in digital adoption in eight weeks.

“Non-R&D innovation must be better integrated in the policy narrative, with a greater systems-thinking focus, incorporating targeted measures,” she suggests.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Mahsood Shah (Swinburne U) wanted to know how students learnt during COVID 19 – so he asked three peak-body leaders. Their paper is in Features this morning. It’s this week’s contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s long-running series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

The fourth and final essay in John H Howard’s (UTS) CMM series on  rethinking Australian higher education. Australian students must be front and centre – they are the one’s paying, he argues.

Chief Scientist’s strong start

Alan Finkel is a hard act to follow as chief scientist but Cathy Foley will make the stage her own

Dr Foley’s scene-setter at the National Press Club yesterday was a winner, wonderfully-written and appealingly-informed by her own experience. There are not many Commonwealth agency heads who admit to ideas acquired out running or explain what is to be learnt from the Japanese team in the four by 100 metres relay at the Rio Olympics.

And it set out what she wants to do and why she wants to do it.

It was a Sam Seaborne of a speech, constructed to inspire and enthuse, with ideas embedded to a policy purpose

Tough job, great start. (Scroll down for a full report).

The hard questions last

Austrade announces “study Australia masterclasses” to “build awareness of Australia’s high quality education offering” 

Series one is for the South Asian market in STEM and health. Pre-records by speakers will be book-ended with a live introduction and a Q&A wrap. Austrade is asking for EOIs now.

Good-o but how to answer the obvious question – when will people be able to study with Australians, in Australia?

Perhaps Austrade will provide talking-points.

The price of parking for Monash U

The Victorian Ombudsman reckons Monash U was wrong not to do its own reviews of parking fine appeals between 2005 and 2019 (neither did a bunch of other authorities and agencies)

Monash U says its Act it allowed it to, but apparently recognising a hiding to nothing when in view, the university announced yesterday, it “has decided that it will offer to refund historical parking fines to eligible claimants.” An “on-line portal and announced by the university through its external communication channels,” is coming.

CMM asked what the refunds will cost but alas Monash U did not reply.

“Want to know why VC Margaret Gardner described the $259m surplus for 2020 (CMM February 8) as ‘buffer for the future’?” a learned reader unkindly comments.

Not quite, late Wednesday Monash U advised, it is budgeting $1m, “based on current estimates.”

Chief Scientist on her brief from government: “this is a fabulous thing”

Dr Foley explained why in a speech yesterday

Chief Scientist Cathy Foley says her brief from the prime minister is to drive collaboration between industry and science/research communities. And Industry Minister Karen Andrews wants her to place science, “at the heart of policy development.”

This Dr Foley says, “is a fabulous thing. Science is critical to solving humankind’s greatest challenges.”

How to apply it was the policy heart of her address to the National Press Club yesterday.

She set the stage with a personal story of her PhD research on a semiconductor material she discovered could create white light.

“I knew my research was a potential game changer.  But back then, commercialisation was not the mindset. The job of a scientist was to publish a paper. This was the end point. And there was no concept of passing the baton to someone else. So I published the findings, got my PhD and moved on.”

Then a Japanese team picked up the research and won a Nobel Prize for creating an LED.

“With the benefit of hindsight, you might describe that as a brutal lesson in lost opportunities!  Not only for me, but for Australia.  But it has been a valuable lesson,” she said.

This is smart politics, acknowledging two of Dr Foley’s core constituencies. She points the importance of basic research as the foundation of applying science.

And she appeals to the people who pay for it, immediately ministers but ultimately electors.

“From where I stand, a few things are clear.  There is no shortage of excellent research in Australia.  Our discovery research must continue.  But let us be frank, our research is not being translated into new products and innovations nearly as often as it could be. As a result, Australian ideas and industries are being lost offshore.”

Dr Foley also explained the core ideas she starts with and how she means to go on.

“Science is where we start.  But science cannot do it alone.  We need to engineer the solutions, with the right design and user interface. We need the right business model, supporting policy and regulation, and the social licence to ensure that a given technology is what society is willing to support.  Discovery happens in small teams. But innovation and impact needs bigger teams. We need to coalesce around common goals and concentrate our efforts to get that critical mass. “

And the Chief Scientist set herself a heroic challenge. She described her experiences at CSIRO in, “knitting together different components of the research and commercialisation system” and added;

“As Australia’s Chief Scientist, I’m now in a position to do something similar on a national scale.  This is the task of building connections and collaboration to advance the adoption of Australian science, technology and innovation.  To take our science to impact.”

Dr Foley also set out the “four critical foundation issues” she will champion

* AI and quantum computing

* education. “If Australia is to avoid locking in a two-speed society, we need people with the expertise to design, develop and operate future technologies”

* diversity, “It should not need saying that we are more likely to succeed if we use our full human potential … including the knowledge base of Indigenous Australians.”

* open access. “Access to information is the great enabler for innovation and for research commercialisation.  Lack of access to information is a real roadblock, and hinders our ability to compete internationally.”

Dr Foley added, she is “closely considering” an “OA strategy in Australia.”


The uni interference committee report: the response will be big

The parliament’s committee on foreign interference in universities holds a second public hearing tomorrow. Its friends are planning ahead

Yesterday in the Reps Melissa McIntosh (Lib-NSW) gave notice of a motion, which calls on the House to note, “the government is committed to safeguarding Australians from foreign interference in our universities” and to recognise, “there are examples of intimidation, threats and coercion towards researchers and their families.” There is more along the same lines.

There is no word when Ms McIntosh’s motion will be debated but a bad time for universities would be when the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security tables its report, especially if it concludes some university links with foreign powers have not been in the national interest.

This would be immensely damaging to some universities. This committee is highly regarded for working in the national interest – its findings will carry great weight.

California dreaming becoming an OA reality

Uni Cal achieves an open access breakthrough

Elsevier’s prices are still too high, and it makes outrageous profits. But we did get an expenditure reduction, and that will save money for the system and for the authors,” U Cal Berkeley Librarian Jeffrey Mackie-Mason  says announcing an agreement with the journal giant.

The agreement took over two years to reach, which included a lengthy formal no-speaks when negotiations stalled.

But as of April 1, U Cal staff can read Elsevier titles and can publish what looks to CMM like gold OA in 2500 of the company’s titles. Article processing charges will be 10 per cent or 15 per cent.

“APCs are now incorporated in and controlled under the financial agreement for UC.  This will restrain overall growth in open access spending which has been rapid and unmanaged,” the university states.

This is a win for U Cal, which claimed Elsevier’s first offer to renew the long-expired network subscription would have cost the system more, (CMM March 4 2019).

And it appears the largest concession in the US in Elsevier’s fighting retreat from a pay to read/pay to publish journal provider to a research data services manager that also publishes. The company has been making concession to European university networks for years but clearly did not want to retreat at U Cal, for fear of what would follow in the US.

Whatever that will be, is about to happen.

Appointments, achievements

Writer/director Wesley Enoch is appointed Indigenous Chair in the Creative Industries at QUT.

IDP International reports Montse Castells is now Regional Director – Operations, for South East Asia and Joanna Storti joins as Commercial Director for IDP Connect, Asia Pacific.

At Western Sydney U Michelle Trudgett is acting Senior DVC to mid-June, when Clare Pollock arrives from Flinders U to take up the position.