Keep shtum

“Snakes can hear more than you think,” Uni Queensland research release, yesterday. So be careful what you say as you leave the department meeting.

There’s more in the Mail

In Expert Opinion

Tim Cahill (Research Strategies Australia) on the extraordinary ways AI is changing research, HERE .

and in Features

Tim Winkler (HEJobs) on how to make working life better for the ageing academic workforce, plus the people waiting for their jobs, HERE.

with; The skills musicians need include coping in the gig economy and being future-ready for the opportunities and otherwise that turn up. Diana Tolmie (Griffith U) reports on preparing students for the challenges of this most precarious of professions, and for jobs in general. “Don’t call it a career plan – our post-normal world does not work that way anymore,” she writes in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning. HERE

plus Merlin Crossley (UNSW) reminds us technologies are nothing without great teachers.

TurnitIn wants its lunch back

It promises “an AI writing detector” by April

The provider of software that compares student writing to content in its database says it’s new detector identifies 97 per cent of ChatGPT and Generative Pre-trained Transformer Three content, with a one per cent false positive.

And it will work within “the existing Turnitin workflow.”

In January, Turnitin signalled it would be best positioned to defend academic integrity, because academic writing is its database, rather than general www content.

And now, “we will continue to develop and refine Turnitin’s detector and are confident that as AI writing evolves, our technology will keep pace with new developments and capabilities,” the company states.

The art of the ask

The Productivity Commission is inquiring into philanthropy 

Treasurer Jim Chalmers directs it report on the state of giving and how to encourage more of it

CMM looks forward to submissions from universities and the medical research sector, both skilled in making cases for large donations, and lots of them.

Working with what the government wants for $15bn industry plan

Lobbies pitch for access to the National Reconstruction Fund with arguments that meet their needs but Science and Technology Australia responds to what the government signals it wants, with one modest ask

STA’s submission to the consultation paper for the fund acknowledges that the NRF is not for discovery research and early stage R&D, but suggests the NRF board should “forward scout projects emerging” from applied research agencies  and programmes –  the Economic Accelerator, CRCs, ARC centres of excellence and “innovations developed” at NCRIS facilities.

STA also ventures into the planning weeds, suggesting how and when the NRF board should engage with businesses in the fund’s seven priority areas, but it makes no grab for researcher power, unlike other proposals (CMM February 14) – staying silent on board membership.

However it does suggest a “modest portion of NRF funding to support training and professional development initiatives to upskill this powerful source of innovation.”

With which STA can help, it’s Bench to Boardroom programme, “is a bold and transformative idea: to create a new generation of scientist entrepreneurs.” No harm in asking.

MP explains what makes research applications a “nightmare”

A parliamentary committee is inquiring into the administration of government grants – one member spoke from lived experience

A hearing last week was burdened by bumf, as officials explained process but this did not deter medical researcher Michelle Ananda-Rajah, the new, Labor, member for Higgins.

Dr Andanda-Raja acknowledged the Commonwealth’s grant notification system worked, but after that applying to the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Medical Research Future Fund, “becomes a nightmare for an end user,” what with “arcane submission requirements.”

“I’m talking about things like margins, the size of your font, this, that, where you put your name, how you number your pages and so on and so forth.”

“I can tell you now that there is not a single happy medical researcher in this country—not one.”

Nothing researchers don’t know, or the officials at the hearing can fix – but it never hurts to get an issue onto the parliamentary record.


First semester strike at Uni Queensland

Union members will go out on day three of classes

National Tertiary Education Union members will take protected industrial action for the day, next Wednesday, as part of their enterprise bargaining campaign. There will be a “high vis” event at the gates of the St Lucia campus first thing and a morning rally at the Great Court. Campus observers say no one really knows how many lectures won’t happen.

The union states the action is because the previous agreement expired in mid 2021 and 600 or so days on a new agreement is way overdue.

The university’s enterprise bargaining info page assures staff, it is “committed to finalising a new enterprise agreement through continued good-faith bargaining as soon as possible so employees can have certainty about their terms and conditions.”

To which the university added last night, “constructive negotiations with the NTEU are continuing, and we are committed to finalising a comprehensive and fair agreement as soon as possible.”

The university had sought an agreed delay to bargaining in 2021, proposing to extend the then expiring agreement for 12 months, “provide staff with greater stability at a time of uncertainty” (CMM July 21 2021) but the NTEU made improved job protections a condition. And so management returned to the bargaining table – which is where the parties remain (CMM August 16 2021.

The continuing process at Uni Queensland contrasts with QUT, where a deal through to 2025 was done just before Christmas, with a 14.1 per cent pay rise (CMM December 8).

And after academic staff voting knocked back a management offer at Griffith U in December, negotiations are said to be moving at a solid pace (CMM February 7).

Apart from the pace of talks, observers suggest the big issues at Uni Queensland are the size of a pay rise, workloads and job security – and any move to convert casual academic staff to continuing positions (perhaps following the precedent set by Western Sydney U (CMM February 1).

“Given casuals are the most activist of union members you would think management might come up with something,” a UoQ observer remarks.


ANZIAM (Australia and New Zealand Industrial and Applied Mathematics) announce its 2023 medals. * Tuck mid-career medal: Luke Bennetts (Uni Adelaide) * Michell early career medal: Chris Lustri (Macquarie U) * ANZIAM medal: Tony Roberts (Uni Adelaide).

 Optica’s (“Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide”) Foundation announces its 2023 ambassadors, to advice young researchers, including, Sejeong Kim (Uni Melbourne).

 Krystian Seibert (Industry Fellow, Swinburne U) is appointed a Productivity Commission associate commissioner to work on its philanthropy inquiry.