Plus medical research funding debate heats up 

edX marks the spot

The University of Queensland reports some 300 000 people have enrolled in its eight MOOC, courses offered via the Harvard – MIT edX consortium. One course “the science of everyday thinking” has a staggering 127 000 students! True, none of this is making UoQ any money now but as brand building it is impossible to beat and the more MOOC experience the university acquires now the bigger its early-mover advantage if (or when) the market really takes off.

mindhive 2

Research realpolitik

The Association of Independent Medical Research Institutes has responded to the National Health and Medical Research Council fellowship review with three clear messages – don’t try to share the wealth, keep it simple and leave the IMRIs to run their own shows.

On the vexed question of low success rates, AIMRI suggests the research community just deal with it;

NHMRC fellowships must be embraced as supporting the best researchers, at each point in their career, with the inevitable consequence that many researchers will miss out ever being in the fellowship schemes. Turnover will be achieved among those entering the system because some will fail to sustain the high level of research output required from an intensely competitive system and some will leave to pursue other opportunities.”

And it calls for a simplified structure of grants to;

“reverse the trend of research teams having to ‘salami-slice’ their research portfolio to enable the research leader and their post-doctoral fellows to obtain support through multiple project grants, fellowships and a program grant. It would also prevent the current perverse situation where some fellows have a research salary, but no grant support to undertake a program of research.”

While acknowledging women taking family time away from the lab are disadvantaged when research output is assessed, the Association suggests the NHMRC but-out on how to address this.

“The NHMRC has no place to be dictating the relationship between employers and employees. The free market should be allowed to operate, with those organisations providing conditions that are more attractive to employees being more competitive. The reality is that in an environment of stagnant funding for medical research, increasing researcher wages, and a continuing stream of PhD graduates, there is simply insufficient funding to support increases in the medical research workforce and to provide job security for all.

Rebel yell

Universities are quick to claim alumni achievements as demonstrating the quality of their courses – so the the University of New South Wales is delighted with the latest win for law graduate Rebel Wilson. She’s nominated (again!) for best comedy actress in Pitch Perfect Two at the Teen Choice Awards. (CMM wonders whether it is as good as PP One.) Can an hon doc be far away?

ANU June 1

Expensive e-learning access

Everybody interested, or resigned to, learning about e-learning needs the list of top journals, measured by impact factor (using Thomson Reuters citations) and relevance (times it turned up in a literature sample) from the e-learning forum. Number one is Computers in Human Behaviour, a Reed Elsevier journal which, in the spirit of the subject has an open access option – as long as authors or their institutions pay a modest US$1800 publication fee per article. Last listed (11th) is the Australasian (oi-oi-oi!) Journal of Educational Technology, which is as green as it gets open access.

Alpine ANU

The Crawford Australian Leadership Forum (at the Australian National University) “is becoming the Davos of Australasia,” ANU VC Ian “the gent” Young tweeted yesterday, quoting an editorial in the Australian Financial Review. Yes the very same AFR that got stuck into the university last spring for selling its energy shares. I wonder if Davos will start promoting itself as “the Acton of Switzerland” – and what the Fin would write about it.

Orcid blooms

The Wellcome Trust has adopted Orcid, which should encourage Australian research agencies to follow. The Open Researcher and Contributor ID has signed one million individuals and 140 institutions to its unique identifier, which makes it easier to find researchers and for them to assert ownership of their work, (CMM April 14). “The ability to uniquely identify contributors is a deceptively simple concept which, if realised, could enable forms of real-time understanding of scientific research that up to now have been extremely costly (if not impossible),” the Trust says.

Charm Offensive

The University of Newcastle is holding its 26th central coast graduation today, at its southern campus, with chancellor Paul Jeans and VC Caroline McMillen both attending. And you can bet they will be at their charming best, what with recent suggestions on the coast that Uni Newcastle does not have the area’s interests at heart and that the region needs its own institution. (CMM, June 4) The proposal, which appeared to catch Uni Newcastle by surprise, went nowhere, but you can bet the university is keen to ensure this is where it stays.

No brainer

The University of Queensland reports this is National Corpus Callosum Awareness Day. Perhaps organisers should have started with an explanation day for those of us who are corpus callosum clueless.

CEF June 15 3

Google rates greats

Google Scholar citation rankings are out and while they do not rate like Thomson Reuters they certainly demonstrate where the intellectual effort is going. Of the top 100 journals in English 54 are in science disciplines and 42 in medicine. The others are all in economics. The number one is Nature with an H index for five years of 377, way ahead of the second place getter, the New England Journal of Medicine with 328. Open Access Plos One is 25th  while the  excellent, effectively open access, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Papers series is 22nd. For a sense of scale, the top rated social science journal is Computers and Education, which has an H5 index of 88. Demonstrating economic history’s return to fashion, it and business history, hold five of the 20 spots (including the first two) on the history list. There is hours of entertainment fossicking about the lists and no, CMM does not think that sounds sad at all.

U beaut

CMM is a fan of U-Multirank, the European comparator of participating universities designed to demonstrate institutional performance against similar schools rather than rank them all from top to bottom. The site’s new poster (which is as close to marketing as U-M gets is here.) Yes it is cumbersome and the methodology is bewildering, universities pulled out over it during development, but it is an alternative to the commercial league tables. CMM wonders how much of its approach will be picked by the QILT rating being developed for the government.