Bugs in the soup

UNSW VC Ian Jacobs hosted a Beijing dinner this week for, “future students, staff, alumni and partners.” Great networking opportunity for their intel operatives, and ours.

There’s more in the Mail

Marina Harvey (UNSW) on needed support for sessional staff – a new essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning. And on Monday, Kelly Matthews (Uni Queensland) on engaging with students as partners.

Curtin up on the big MOOC stage

VC Deborah Terry joins the edX university advisory board, with her institution becoming a contributing charter member

With Uni Queensland, Curtin U is a major Australian MOOC provider, they both led with micro masters, which can feed into formal courses.

Curtin U offers them in business and IT and also offers a suite of human-rights MOOCs. It also gets the MOOC as community service, launching “living with diabetes” last month (CMM August 8).

Curtin’s top MOOCs, by total enrolments, are; digital branding (113,436), Introduction to IoT (74,151), Online marketing (43,169), Reputation management in a digital world (36,446), Iot Sensors and devices (25,967)

USQ goes big on mini on-line courses

University of Southern Queensland is restructuring on-line teaching resources, to “reclaim (its) position as the sector leader in innovative, quality online and/or digital education,” (CMM August 27) Here’s how

The university is offering 18 on-line “mini-courses” (40 hours over four weeks) in its USQ UpSkill programme.

Subjects are in marketing comms, management, business and education at costs ranging from $625 (childcare subjects) to comms and business ($735).  Completers can qualify for a digital completion badge .

People can also be badged without doing the course – by submitting a portfolio of work which “a qualified academic” assesses as meeting “the learning outcome” of the relevant mini-course.”  The cost of the kit to complete this is $250. Completing four mini-courses can also count as credit to a USQ degree.

Deakin U provides a certification system for marketers who submit evidence of capabilities in five fields, (CMM November 19 2018).

Big ideas from RMIT’s blockchain three

Chris Berg, Sinclair Davidson and Jason Potts argue the blockchain is about way more than crypto-currencies

They have long explained that “decentralised identity protocols,” can give individuals control of information about themselves, now held by the state, and that creating secure records of direct transactions between individuals will allow people to interact independently, (CMM November 9 2017).

Now they assemble their ideas in a book, Understanding the Blockchain: an introduction to institutional crypto economics. ($65 for the e-edition).

“The invention of blockchain reveals that the cost of trust is endogenous to the institutional technology, and that new institutional technology will change the basic economics of organisation,” they write.

So, what’s it got to do with HE?, you ask?  Heaps. A distributed ledger can give individuals control of their own record of credentials.

Funding for women in medical research: “a very stark ratio”

In 2017, the new National Health and Medical Research Council adopted a well-regarded funding system.  (CMM May 26 2017). It came as young researchers despaired of low success rates and women were appalled at the gender in-balance of grants

The NHRC did not say the new model would fix either, which was wise – because it hasn’t.

NHMRC chair Anne Kelso briefed  NSW medical researchers Tuesday, on the first round of the new Investigator grants, the $365m scheme (40 per cent of funding), which provides five years of flexible funding, including salary, if needed and research support.

There were 1857 apps for the first awards, “more than we wanted but pretty much what we expected” Professor Kelso said.  This was a rise on the old scheme and as there was no increase in funding the success rate went down, 13. 2 per cent, below the 15 per cent in some years of the old Discovery awards.

The news for women researchers was also as bad as previous. There were more applications from women at the junior level but in the most senior category men dominate four to one. “It’s a very stark ratio and tells us something pretty fundamental about our system” Professor Kelso said.  The male-female success rate is close in the junior and mid-career categories, but she reminded her audience that the NHMRC separately funded projects with female leaders, and that these are included in the figures. At the most senior level the success rate was 50 per cent for male research leaders and 30 per cent for women (five out of 17).

So, what is to be done, a questioner asked, is it time for quotas? Professor Kelso responded, “I think we are very close to needing to start that discussion. We wouldn’t introduce strict quotas, a formal quota mechanism, without consultation with the sector – I am thinking about how to do that. But when you consider that the last two rounds of project grants and now Investigator grants have gone below the line to fund additional women, that is the reason that success rates are as close as they are for most of those levels. So, we have virtually imposed a quota system.”

And they may not be the whole answer; “it is easy to say, and of course it is a factor that when women are having their families it is then very much harder to be a full-time researcher and to do all the travel and other things that are part of being a full-time researcher and being competitive in a scheme like this which is so track-record driven.”

“But there may be more to it, there may be that women who are faced with those circumstances are more likely to look for something where they get a salary from an institution rather than applying for schemes like this.”

But whatever the reasons, Professor Kelso is not happy. “I have been in this system for a good many years and it is just shocking to see that we are still in this situation today. “

Appointments, achievements of the week

Of the day

Katrina Falkner is appointed interim executive dean of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Adelaide. She replaces Anton Middelberg, who has moved up to DVC R,

Catherine Joustra and Ali Moroney win the Australian Book Industry award for outstanding tertiary/TAFE resource for their Clinical Placement Manual for the Diploma of Nursing (Cengage).

Of the week

University of the Sunshine Coast exercise physiologist Chris Askew is the first joint appointment between university and the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service. USC teaches pre-med at the hospital, with Griffith U running the med school component.

Anthony Maeder (Flinders U) becomes a fellow of the International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics

Bruce Neal moves up from deputy to executive director of the George Institute. He replaces Vlado Perlovic who has moved to dean of medicine at UNSW.

Peter Gething moves to Perth to take up the Kerry M Stokes chair of child health research, a partnership of Curtin University, the Channel 7 Telethon Trust and the Telethon Kids Institute. Professor Gething is now a professor of epidemiology in the Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford.

Also at Curtin U, Tim McInnis becomes chief advancement officer. He moves from the Telethon Kids Institute, where he is head of philanthropic development.

Bradey Moggridge (Uni Canberra) is the ACT Science Tall Poppy of the year. He works on cultural awareness in water policy.

The Young Tall Poppies are; Amelia Gulliver (access to mental health), Lara Malins (therapeutic potential of peptides and proteins), A J Mitchell (nuclear physics), Riccardo Natoli (age-related macular degeneration ) – all ANU. Madeline Mitchell (CSIRO) works on biodegradable plant-based fibres.

Chris Anderson will become the Australian Academy of Science policy director. He moves from chief of staff to former Labor research minister Kim Carr.

Adrienne Erickson is the Swayne Senior Fellow in Australian design at the National Museum of Australia. She joins from DFAT.