The vice chancellor wants her executives to confront why men are paid more


How HASS researchers can maximise their ARC chances (write really good applications)

CSIRO sets out the big ifs medical tech and pharmaceuticals must address to make money

plus applied research on the agenda: new linkage grants and CRC applications


and the high price of better super for more people

Vote One, Sandy the Dingo

Commercial DNA sequencing company Pacific Biosciences is running a competition where people pick the plant or animal with the most interesting genome, which PB will sequence for free. Professors Bill Ballard from UNSW and Claire Wade from the University of Sydney are principal investigators on the Australian entry, a “pure desert dingo.” Sandy, to his mates, is said to be  a strong contender up, against a US-Singapore team interested in the genome of the decidedly scaly pit viper. “This project is an important step in identifying and potentially preserving an iconic species that has been shown to preserve biodiversity by maintaining native ecosystems,” Sandy’s how to vote card states.

To win Sandy needs more votes from members of the public, cast in his favour, only, of course, after a rigorous scientific assessment of his true-blue cuteness. You can vote  here and polling closes today. CMM’s branch stacking reporter points out there is nothing to stop multiple voting by people with more than one email address, as if CMM readers would ever do such a thing.

Not so super solution

A learned reader reports the National Tertiary Education Union’s demand for a 17 per cent superannuation contribution for all university workers, including qualified casuals, is indeed upsetting university negotiators (CMM yesterday). At Curtin U management suggests that it would cost $35m over the life of the new agreement and wonders how paying more people nearly twice the government required 9.5 per cent employer contribution, while universities complain they are under-funded would look outside the academy.

MyeQuals underway

The Groningen Declaration Group committed to creating digital, portable, records of achievement for every student, meets at Melbourne U in three weeks, with the launch of the ANZ MyeQuals (CMM March 23) the big ticket event. But the University of Auckland could not wait to start trialling the program, “as a student or graduate, you have direct access to your records, to view, download and share with anyone you choose,”: UniAuck announces.


Farewell my Bus-ly

A learned reader suggest those responsible for the woeful choice of names proposed for Curtin U’s new self-driving e-bus (CMM yesterday) should look to San Francisco where the connector between the University of California Berkeley and the Bay Area Rapid Transit system is called Humphrey GoBart.

CSIRO prescription for MTP success

CSIRO predicts a “bright future” for the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceutical sector if it improves access to and use of digital data and records, encourages regulatory agility, including in international markets and increases the numbers of researchers in industry and industry experienced staff in research institutes. In a new report CSIRO names five  MTP growth areas smart devices, implants and bionics, accelerated pharmaceutical development, high-value pharmaceutical manufacture and diagnostic/ informatics products/services. It also sets out the steps needed to make the most of Australian MTP advantages. This is a real-world report, while it includes plans-a-plenty that would cost a bomb to implement, it looks to industry, not government, to lead – it makes a repeated point that it is up to researchers and industry to start talking to each other. “Australia’s industry is often disconnected, leading to low levels of collaboration between research organisations and industry. This manifests itself in Australia’s poor ability to translate world class research into innovative commercial outcomes, despite its strong research community, with developing products often obtaining funding from international investors, resulting in lost value from the Australian sector.”

Laptop’s all you need

Now is not a good time for academics at the Fiji National University to log an equipment request, with Vice Chancellor Nigel Healey complaining, “I deal with a repeated string of complaints that faculty cannot produce good papers because they need more ‘stuff’ – offices, PCs, library space, etc.” To prove the point, he will write a journal article on a very long flight next weekend (and report all about the process if the paper is accepted). As Lennon and McCartney meant to sing, all you need’s a laptop.

Addressing the wicked problem of what universities pay women

Jane den Hollander wants to increase the number of women in senior positions and reduce the gender pay gap between them and men doing the same sort of jobs at Deakin University. The vice chancellor says she will start on pay by having the university executive take “unconscious bias” training to address the way salary loadings often favour blokes. The university will “also have an in-depth look at our recruitment practises and career progression for academic and professional women Deakin-wide. Strategies to address gender equality must be embedded in our overall vision, goals and plans.”

“It is not easy, and reporting measures alone are not the answer. The factors leading to unequal outcomes for men and women are complex and varied and therefore difficult to change. It is a wicked problem but there is much we can and will do to advance gender equity,” Professor den Hollander says.

New linkage grants

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has announced another wave of rolling linkage grants with three awards for, as is the programmes wont, particularly practical projects. Allan Pring from Flinders U has $485 000 to work with BHP Billiton and the Museum of South Australia on extracting copper from now uneconomic low grade ore. Huanting Wang from Monash University receives $469 000 for a project involving Coal Energy Australia and Nanjing Industrial Technology Research Institute to develop a membrane to treat waste water and for desalination and purification. Dr Monika Doblin from the University of Melbourne, in partnership with biopharmaceutical company Under the Tree, will spend $466 000 to improve yields of  therapeutically-active cannabinoids.

The ARC also announces Bionic Vision Australia has $18m in commercial funding to build a bionic eye. The ARC has backed the University of Melbourne led consortium with $50m.

Picking a campus

Asmar Qureshi from the University of Queensland wants to know the degree to which parents shape young people’s choice of university so she is surveying Year 11 and 12 students with a parent also participating. The results will make fascinating reading for university marketers who write briefs for campaigns which appeal more to uni leaders with kids than kids.


Quality beats gaming the system

Learned research whisperer Tim Pitman from Curtin U has posted a  realist guide for humanities and social science researchers applying for Australian Research Council funding, and no realism is not a euphemism for despair. Indeed, the ARC should have his message inscribed on vellum with a copy sent to every HASS applicant.

For a start, Dr Pitman points out, a 20 per cent success rate is common across disciplines and while grants to some HASS areas seem especially small, there are sciences that suffer the same. And he urges aspiring applicants not to worry about being a single scholar, instead of one of the regiments of researchers listed on STEM submissions, because it means they are assessed on their own achievements and not those of a chief investigator. And because the ARC lists grant administering universities and not all the participants, the number of HASS people outside the Group of Eight with research grants to their name is not as low as it might look.

Above all, he urges researchers to ignore system-wide data and eschew trying to create an application that ticks what might be the right boxes.

“Don’t make your application only look like a good application; actually make it a good application. The basic strategy is the same across all disciplines (win the grant) but the tactics employed need to be specifically designed,” he writes.

Moving up at UniMelbourne

Julie McLeod is the University of Melbourne’s new PVC for research capability. She moves from the university’s Social Equity Institute where she is deputy director.

Aspiring CRCs

The CRC Association reports at least ten bids for Round 19 of Cooperative Research Centre funding which is about to begin. The bids that have broken cover include; advanced medical biotechnology, critical chronic conditions, “farming smarter”, foodwaste and fraud prevention, minex, subsea research, resource data science, digital health, future energy (which is said to build on the work of the energy pipelines CRC and traumatic brain injury.

Big issue in engineering

Engineers Australia’s state of the profession report is out today and word is it will warn Australia is not producing enough of its own engineers, which is pretty much what Andre Kaspura concluded in an EA report last week, (CMM March 29). Mr Kaspura warned that the country is over-reliant on engineers from overseas who might not stay here. But while Australian universities may not be  pumping out enough engineers they are certainly producing more . The learned Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities reports the most recent federal figures report rising engineering enrolments, from 26 900 undergraduates in 2009 to 34 600 in 2014. Completions increased from 6 000 to nearly 7 400 over the same period.

What CMM is hoping for today is  EA addressing the need to keeping women graduates in the profession. As Mr Kaspura points out, just 13 per cent of working engineers are women, which he understatedly puts down “to numerous workplace and cultural problems.” All the efforts to increase women studying engineering do not matter unless the they are welcomed, and stay happy, in the workplace.