Darwinian selection

Good as VC Stephen Parker’s word in enterprise bargaining last year, the University of Canberra is reported to have decided staff will receive bonuses if the university beats its surplus target. To which National Tertiary Education Union ACT division secretary Stephen Darwin replied, “despite high casual employment rates/student-staff ratios/staff overwork, UC to waste valuable funding on fake bonuses.” I suppose it makes a change from getting stuck into ANU’s Ian Young.

For they are jolly grant fellows

Chris Pyne announced the $115m 2014 Future Fellowships yesterday, one of the few budget announcement the education lobbies liked, although many wished there were more awards. As CRC Association chief Tony Peacock pointed out yesterday, good news for 150 meant a bad day for the 680 applicants who missed out.

‘Twas ever thus. The spread of the awards also seems standard. The Group of Eight is home to 102 future fellows –Uni Melbourne (22) UoQueensland and ANU (16 each) UniSydney (13) as well as Adelaide (eleven) plus Monash and UNSW (10 each). The University of Western Australia trailed with four.  The Australian Technology Network was a distant second with 16 new future fellows spread across all five members. It was a much worse result for the Innovative Research Universities group with just six awards – all at the University of Newcastle. On Tuesday Regional Universities Network chief Peter Lee (VC Southern Cross U) delivered a strong speech on the importance of research to the RUN – in total they picked up a single future fellowship, for Paul Salmon at the University of the Sunshine Coast, who will work on systems analysis for read safety.

Of the universities applying for more than a handful of fellowships, nine had a better than 20 per cent strike rate (the overall figure was 18 per cent). Adelaide did best with 11 out of 23 followed by UTS with four of ten. The other seven ranged from Wollongong (20 per cent) up to Uni of Melbourne (27 per cent).

As to the gender split – slightly more female applicants were successful (19.08 per cent) than men (17.58 per cent) but given the application split – men, 563,women 262- there is nothing approaching a gender balance. Want to know why most brilliant senior researchers are blokes? Because they apply for the grants when young.

Excellently average

The University of Adelaide is promoting its new corporate video glossy and very professional it is too – any anglosphere university would be pleased to use it. Which is rather the problem, the images look like any research university, the copy could apply to any research university and the values are those of every research university. Selling Uni Adelaide’s unique strengths this video does not. But not to worry, the competition does the same thing.

All in the editing

As the open access argument intensifies publisher Sage has reminded us why we need journals by (ahem) opening access to a new article by Gerald F Davis from the University of Michigan in Administrative Science Quarterly. Despite the proliferation of papers and citation scams that go on he agues journals are still essential. “ They can certify contributions, convene scholarly communities and curate works that are worth reading – sometimes by helping scientists become authors who know how to write for an audience. At their best they are not just neutral vehicles for conveying findings, but active forces for advancing scholarship.” Um, sounds like an argument for the importance of editors, rather than journals, especially expensive ones behind pay walls.  As an editor could have told Professor Davis.

Tuckwellered out

Andrew Norton has renewed his criticism of the Tuckwell scholarships at ANU, which pay undergraduates $22 000 a year while they do an undergraduate degree. “The schools represented from my home state of Victoria hardly suggest that the scholarships are opening up opportunities for the under-privileged. Instead, they are the ANU poaching students from the University of Melbourne.” So is the problem that the scholarships are not means tested, that they attract applicants across state borders, or both?

HiCi suspect

The learned Richard Holmes points everybody interested in research metrics to a  recent paper by Lawrence Cram (ANU) and Domingo Docampo (Universidad de Vigo) on how the “highly cited researcher” category used in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (what used to be the Shanghai JT) is decaying over time. It is a deeply learned analysis of immensely complex data and as such will mainly appeal to the wonkiest of wonks, interested in how to improve research measures, rather than rail against businesses monetising metrics. As Cram and Docamp put it; “many critics of applications of these databases often appear to believe that the creators and users are ignorant of the problems. This is unlikely to be the case.” They go on to explain at length efforts to accurately update data before concluding that the ARWU should drop the HiCi rank. I suspect this bit is already filed by research DVCs who suspect they will drop in the next ARWU list.

Not Pyning for power

Stalkers of the corridors of power hear mutterings of a dark (when are they not) plot to move Department of Industry’s research funds to Education Minister Pyne’s plantation. The stalkers suggest that while Industry keeps the CRCs waiting for word on its performance review the Australian Research Council is getting on with similar sorts of schemes, launching the Dairy Innovation Research Hub at the University of Melbourne the other day. Granted, this is the sort of applied research that you could expect from Industry but I doubt that it portends a Pyne plot – the education minister has plenty on his plate just now.

Indebted by degrees

After the good news from the Group of Eight on graduate salaries (CMM yesterday) there is more bad news from the US on what a degree delivers there. Back on July 1 CMM reported research from the New York Federal Reserve that graduate wages were sliding, but not as fast as the wages of people without degrees. Now Bart Hobijn and Leila Bengali from the San Francisco Fed  confirm that graduate salaries are still suffering from the impact of the GFC and are recovering more slowly than the workforce at large. Even the good news isn’t that good for graduates worried by student loans. “Low growth in starting wages does not mean that going to college is a poor investment. It just reflects that it will take longer to recoup the cost of the college education for current graduates.” The cost of study and the dividend degrees pay was a third-level issue in the 2012 presidential election and it could become one here if deregulation occurs and wages slide –at least for a few years after ever increasing numbers of graduates hit the job market.