Could have fooled me

The University of Melbourne announced research yesterday which suggests hair growth activating fat tissue, “could lead to the development of a cream to dissolve fat.” Um, did publicist Liz Banks-Anderson notice the date? Yes but in fact the research is real, being the work of Professor Fiona Watt at King’s College London and U of M dermatologist Professor Rodney Sinclair. But I’m guessing not everybody thought so. By 10 am Ms Banks-Anderson was tweeting, “not an April fools joke”. Which was a relief to hungry reptiles of the press who wanted to interview Professor Sinclair – never stand between a journalist and a weight loss story.

Glover steps up

On Monday I wondered how long it would be before new University of Western Sydney Vice Chancellor Barney Glover intervened in the marathon and unresolved enterprise negotiations. Turned out to be 24 hours. Yesterday Professor Glover emailed staff that there is an “in principle” agreement with the Community and Public Sector Union for professional staff but that there are three outstanding issues between management and the National Tertiary Education Union; teaching hours per week, specifics of teaching-only roles and pay. Demonstrating he wants to get an agreement, Professor Glover also announced a 3 per cent administrative pay rise from the middle of the month. This follows a $1500 bonus at Christmas, which was originally offered as an incentive to reach an agreement, but when that did not happen was paid anyway. So, will this appeal to enough staff for the union negotiators to settle?  Not quite – my guess is the local NTEU wants an improvement on the pay-rise and a lower cap on classroom hours for teaching only staff, lest the proposed 18 hours flows on to teaching/research staff. The union will likely bet the Vice Chancellor will not take an offer to academics without union endorsement. This happened during the last UWS enterprise negotiations and while the professional staff accepted the management offer the academics voted it down by a big margin. Then again, the NTEU lost badly when Charles Sturt VC Andy Vann took an agreement to staff without NTEU support last year – and won the vote. Both sides have a good reason to do a deal and soon.

What to say when the VC wants to star

“We find no support that celebrity advertisements systematically outperform non-celebrity advertisements on any of the three advertising effectiveness measures – likeability, recall, correct branding.” Aoi Tanaka, Cathy Nguyen and Jenni Romaniuk, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, yesterday.

Depressing deadline

Researchers grumble that the National Health and Medical Research Council’s early March deadline for project grant applications make a mess of the summer – especially as most organisations want draft submissions in over a month before the closing date.  Now their complaints are collected in the report of a survey of by Danielle Herbert (QUT) and colleagues from Flinders and the University of Melbourne appearing in BMJ Open. The 215 respondents (around half of whom are chief investigators on grants, consistently complained that “the process of preparing grant proposals for a single annual deadline is stressful, time consuming and conflicts with family responsibilities. The timing of the funding cycle could be shifted to minimise applicant burden, give Australian researchers more time to work on actual research and to be with their families.” One survey responder in particular pointed to the futility of the process; “the stress is largely induced by knowing that the chance of anyone with even a modicum of expertise in your field reviewing your grant is basically zero.” Of course inconvenient deadlines are a fact of life in all sorts of occupations, there is not a hack on a news floor who has not worked many Christmas days. But while Christmas is not a moveable feast perhaps the NHMRC schedule can change, given the potential benefits. “Changing the timing of the annual funding scheme, or following international schemes with multiple rounds per year, will have wide-ranging benefits for Australian researchers, especially those with children,” the authors argue.

I think it’s a compliment

Flinders University’s Adjunct Professor Peter Sloane doesn’t look unlike an English football club manager from the 1960s, “ the university announced yesterday. Apparently Mr Sloane, who spoke at Flinders last night, is the founder of sports economics in Europe and argues that European soccer clubs are interested in winning matches while American franchises focus on making money. Sounds fascinating, and I am sorry I did not know about his talk in time to announce it. But I do have one question, what has all this talk about soccer got to do with proper football, of the Port and Crows kind?

Cast of thousands

Well it will feel like it what with all the egos attending. In May, Adelaide (the city that is) will host one of those interminable commercial conferences on higher education where very competitive people present papers that demonstrate how much smarter they are than their rivals, without giving away what they are actually up to. This one, the 12 Annual Higher Education Summit has no fewer than eight vice chancellors speaking. Or nine if you include the University of New England’s recently resigned Jim Barber who is billed as vice chancellor but according to the university is now in “a strategic advisor role” to acting VC Annabelle Duncan during his six month notice. One notable absence is the University of South Australia’s energetic VC David Lloyd, which seems strange given other locals; Adelaide’s (the university that is) Warren Bebbington and Flinders’s Michael Barber, are speaking. Professor Lloyd must have had a prior. Even without him this is a fair swag of serious players – which makes me wonder what the collective noun for vice chancellors is, an ego?

A bob each way

The NTEU backed the Greens at last year’s election – spending a million dollars of member’s money supporting the party in the Senate and in selected House seats. (Not in all though, the union spurned the Greens to back successful incumbent Andrew Wilkie in Denison). The union was always at pains to argue that its was an entirely independent campaign in the interests of education rather than a donation to the Greens but not all members were convinced. Which maybe why the union is running two how to vote cards for the Senate re-run in WA, advocating an above the line vote for either Labor or the Greens.