plus Flinders’ innovator sleeps his way to success

how to deliver open data

and computer says no: what went wrong with CRC bids

Free to read felines

Open Access is about making scholarly publications freely available to everyone. We live in a world where we can access information immediately – from breaking news, to celebrity gossip, to grumpy cats,” writes Ginny Barbour and colleagues from QUT. Quite right, and when a journal of grumpy cat studies starts it should be accessible to all.


Cited stars

The first women in science citation awards are on at ANU today, supported by Clarivate Analytics, (what was Thomson Reuters IP, CMM October 5) . Highly cited researchers have been announced since 2001 but this is the first specific celebration of early and mid career achieving women in Australian research. The index was compiled from data in the Web of Science core collection and is based on papers in the top 10 per cent for citations, adjusted for discipline and other factors. The winners are;

Rachel Wood, ANU, archaeological science, Jin Teng, CSIRO climate modelling, Susan Sharma, Deakin University, financial econometrics, Emma Kowal, Deakin, cultural & medical anthropology, Zoe Bainbridge, James Cook University, environmental science & management, Annie Lau, Macquarie University, health informatics, Ute Knoch, University of Melbourne, applied linguistics, Alize Ferrari, University of Queensland, psychiatric epidemiology, Margaret Mayfield, University of Queensland, plant ecology, Eugenia Sampayo, University of Queensland, marine ecology, Julie Schneider, University of Sydney, health sciences, Delphine Lannuzel, University of Tasmania, chemical & biological oceanography.

Hard ball

The UNSW robot soccer squad has lost China’s RoboCup Challenge to the University of Texas, Austin. The Australians went down (literally-robots fall over a bit) seven – three in Beijing.


Computer says no

There are just three bids are in the running for one of the three Cooperative Research Centres expected to be awarded in the current round. So what happened to the other four bids shortlisted? Good question, one that those teams would like answered.

Apparently bids were due last Friday but when at least two of the four tried to lodge the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science computer system rejected them. It seems there were a range of reasons, one bid left cells with no numbers in them blank, instead of including a zero as required by the department’s system, which is not universally celebrated for efficiency. But no matter, the bid teams scrambled to meet the demands of the picky programme, only to find that when they did the system shut down at 5pm and having officially missed the deadline they were formally fritzed.

This is being seen as a technology fail – close observers of some of the bids say that they were trying to file hours before the deadline but that the department’s system was always slow and sometimes threw users out. “If there were 7000 bids perhaps this would be understandable, but seven!” says one. As of yesterday bidders had not been definitively told if their months of work in pursuit of hundreds of millions of funding will actually be accepted to go to the final round. If it is bidders will be interviewed about their proposals, by people. It will be a change to the temperamental technology.

Another quantum hero

ARC Laureate Fellow Lloyd Hollenberg from the University of Melbourne is the Royal Society of Victoria’s 2016 science medallist. Professor Hollenberg’s is deputy to director Michelle Simmons of the Australian Research Council’s Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology.


Rating universities

No, not league tables, rating as in charging council rates. In NSW a review of how local government taxes are assessed is looking at ending the exemption for some university activities. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal is thinking about basing exemptions on land use rather than ownership. While this would mean land used by universities for “educational purposes” stayed exempt from council rates student housing and commercial services wouldn’t. CMM hears this isn’t going down well among universities but with IPART due to report in December it’s getting late to mount a case for the status quo.

Fix a date

Researchers sweating on imminent National Health and Medical Research Council grants wonder when the announcements will be made, same as they do every year. This strikes NHMRC fellow Tim Moss as unfair and he has created a petition requesting the council to announce a date and stick to it each year. “It is disrespectful of researchers that outcomes of decisions that so greatly affect their livelihoods should be announced ad hoc. It is unfair that researchers are left in limbo. Their applications are submitted before deadlines known months in advance,” it states. Quite right – everybody knows that doctors always keep you waiting.

Access that matters

It’s Open Access week, which seems to consist of true believers agreeing with each other. There is a good deal of global good news, with the monopolies of journal publishers that use pay to read/pay to publish business models under challenge by universities and research funders. But where open access really matters, in the availability of the data sets underlying research, there is still a problem – researchers.

According to David Groenewegen, director research at the Monash University Library, “resistance to making research data available remains high.” Writing for a global review of OA published today by UK consultants Figshare, Mr Groenewegen reports his team have asked hundreds of researchers to make public data related to journal articles but “we’re lucky if one in 20 even want to consider it let alone actually do it.”

It’s understandable, there are good reasons why researchers want to keep data discrete and not enough better ones to give it up. To make it happen he proposes four measures: make it easier by providing a university-wide data management platform (as Monash does), provide credit for making data open, “because people deserve to be rewarded for their efforts,” demonstrate the benefits those who make their data open enjoy and demonstrate there is preparation for problems, “the process of de-identification of data is difficult and important, so how can this be made easier and be shown to be safe.”


Artists out

The Sydney College of the Arts occupation ended first thing yesterday when police cleared the Rozelle site, home to a permanent protest since the University of Sydney’s decision to move the college to main campus. There were two students rostered-on to stay overnight at the college when the constables arrived. Student unrest started in June when the university proposed handing the school to the University of New South Wales. When that plan was dropped in the face of vocal protests UniSyd management said the school could stay, but only if it relocated. (CMM July 29). The mess has already claimed one high profile casualty, college dean Colin Rhodes, who resigned in September (CMM September 15).

Kickstarting sleep

As everybody in the innovation industry talks about the difficulty of commercialising research Flinders University sleep scientist Leon Lack has done it, funding a product via Kickstarter. Professor Lack and colleagues have found that people can train their bodies to sleep with a routine of falling asleep, waking up after three minutes and then falling asleep again. Repeating the process over and over conditions people to clock off fast.

To help it happen they have created Thim, a device worn on a finger, which vibrates every minute, when a wearer ceases to move their finger in response it starts tracking sleep-time, sending data to the user’s phone for analysis. After three minutes Thim wakes its wearer. The technology is also good for power-nappers, who want the optimum ten minutes downtime.

The Kickstarter campaign ends tomorrow but has already raised $129 000, $10k over target, from 705 backers who will get the product at a discounted price.

Professor Lack has already taken another sleep therapy products to market, Re-timer, green light glasses that help reset body clocks.

US News reports on Australian rankings

The US News and World Report college rankings is not enormously well-regarded in its home market, Malcolm Gladwell sliced and diced it in The New Yorker five years back. “Rankings are not benign. They enshrine very particular ideologies, and, at a time when American higher education is facing a crisis of accessibility and affordability, we have adopted a de-facto standard of college quality that is uninterested in both of those factors,” he wrote. But it is the only ranking most US readers see and so it matters to Australian universities who dream of rich fee-paying students from the land of the brave and the home of the free.  And as for criticism of its methodology the new issue of the worldwide ranking includes an Australian list that is pretty much the same as every other ranking. The University of Melbourne is equal 36 in the world, ahead of the University of Sydney at 45. They are followed by the rest of the Group of Eight from UoQ at 52 and on through Monash at 79, ANU and UNSW at equal 80 and UWA at 95th. The University of Adelaide is the last of the eight in a distant 152 spot. But the gap between it and the ninth placed institution is more of a chasm, with Macquarie U coming in at 267, ahead of James Cook at 273. The full list is here.

A learned reader also reports the Group of Eight‘s performance in the USNWR top fifty subject rankings, as follows: UoQ 10, UniMelb nine, UniSyd five, Monash U four, ANU four, UNSW three, UWA three, Uni Adelaide, one.