plus no deal on wages at James Cook

Melbourne’s music as therapy MOOC

and why practitioners don’t read journal articles

Close to Blinky Bill

At CQU Danish masters student Kristina Jorgensen is researching wombats’ and buffel grass. She’s there, CQU says, due to “a lack of marsupials in her home country.” That will do it.

But not all CQU researchers need to get up close to animals that interest them. Last year CMM April 22 reported Sarah Elmeligi was researching a PhD at CQU on grizzly bears – from Rockhampton to the Rockies seems like a sensibly safe distance.


International achievers

Holmesglen TAFE has won the Victorian premier’s international education provider of the year award, with Deakin U picking up the university prize and winning a further three awards. Monash, UniMelbourne, Swinburne and RMIT also received awards.

Bankable breakthroughs required

Simon Birmingham’s “publish and perish” warning for researchers (CMM yesterday) came as a shock to some. It shouldn’t have, ministers and mandarins have banged on for years about the primacy of applied research. But the education minister’s blunt message, that researchers should work to assist Australians not get themselves published was just a little blunt. Why a learned reader asked, could Senator Birmingham not follow Industry and Science Minister Greg Hunt, widely applauded on the weekend for telling CSIRO to focus on pure research. Except what Mr Hunt actually said is on-song with Senator Birmingham. Certainly Mr Hunt  talked of CSIRO “performing pure science” but, and it is a bloody big but indeed with a, “focus on areas of immediate and critical importance to Australia set out by the National Science and Research Priorities and other sector specific priorities.”

This is putting the commercial cart before the laboratory llama. The whole point of pure science is that it isn’t undertaken to fix an immediate practical problem. But this is exactly what the government wants, breakthroughs they can bank on, and preferably announce before the election.

MOOC of the morning

Katrina Skewes McFerran from the University of Melbourne is teaching “How music can change your life,” via Coursera. Or, patients and students’ lives because the focus is on music as therapy and the course is intended for people working in health and education. It’s another of the MOOC as professional development and community service that Australian universities excel at and it certainly makes a change from the endless business subjects most MOOC providers offer.

No deal done James Cook U

Enterprise bargaining has finished for the year at James Cook University, without an agreement reached. However the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union fears that management will put an offer to staff without union sign-off. This has happened before, notably at Charles Sturt U three years back when VC Andy Vann secured staff support in the face of active opposition from the NTEU. However the other campus union supported the deal, which helped get it over the line. In James Cook’s case negotiations are often fraught, the last enterprise agreement took an age to adopt and the university might have decided that line-by-line negotiations are just too hard. This is the approach adopted in Western Australia, where Curtin, Edith Cowan and Murdoch managements are holding the line and demanding simplified agreements. A management sponsored proposal at JCU before Christmas would send a clear signal that the west is setting the tone for negotiations all over.


Plaudit for Palmer

Deakin U’s Stuart Palmer is one of the analytical insiders behind the university’s research crowd funding strategy via Pozible. He is also in the habit of writing papers on social media metrics that CMM is not smart enough to follow. But others are and the World Congress on Engineering has presented him with its award for the best paper delivered at their 2016 conference on data mining and knowledge engineering. The paper is “Crowdsourcing customer needs for product design using text analytics,” for which the musical rights might still be available.

New science dean at UNSW

Emma Johnston is the University of New South Wales’ new dean of science. She moves to the role from PVC R, which she took up midyear after Brian Boyle became DVC R (CMM May 3). Until she takes over in May now acting dean Peter Lovibond will continue, he will then become deputy dean.

The endlessly energetic Professor Johnston is a poster person for UNSW in particular and women in STEM generally. She is an adept of social media arts, passionate in promoting science and will explain her marine ecology work underwater – she presents Foxtel-BBC series Coast Australia.

Consistently ordinary

A learned reader suggests that the West Australian Universities should look to their international recruitment strategies to explain declining international student share instead of calling for a state government strategy (CMM Monday). Certainly none of the WA universities have surfed the international education expansion, showing minimal gains in onshore students between 2010 and 2015. On federal government figures Curtin is down from 10 000 to 8000, Edith Cowan is stable, Murdoch and UWA are down marginally. However marketing failures across all providers is curious, they surely all didn’t make commission crook campaigns at the same time. And while international tourism numbers have grown, up 6 per cent from 2015 this is way behind the national 10 per cent figure. Perhaps Perth just too far from anywhere and too little known overseas, unless the universities are all watching each other and doing the same sort of wrong thing.

Obscure and ineffective articles

La Trobe U sports medicine scientist Christian Barton shares Minister Birmingham’s dislike of journals. “Despite obscene profits, academic journals are in the most part, ineffective at translating knowledge,” Dr Barton writes. In fact, the journal model may be why there is a 17-year lag between “the completion of a research study and translation of this new evidence into the practices of medical professionals.”

He suggests there are three problems in moving research from article to application. First practitioners do not have a clue what research-speak means, second the presentation is too dull to read and third, practitioners just don’t have time to wade through research publications. Short of publishers lifting their game, Dr Barton urges authors to get their work into practice by their own means. “There is a saying ‘if you didn’t publish it, you didn’t do it.’ Additionally, this could be extended – ‘if you don’t translate it, there was no point doing it.’


Drink yourself smart

Raising the Bar has moved to Melbourne. The New York outfit organises academics to talk to about their work in bars, to people who want to listen. The University of Sydney has run two series and now the City of Melbourne is following with events tonight. Deakin, Swinburne and the University of Melbourne are providing talent. CMM hears most talks are sold-out.