The forte be with you

Dan Golding (media lecturer, Swinburne U) speaks tonight at One Hawt Nerd Night (Hawthorn Arts Centre, 8pm).

His talk is, “Star Wars is a fugue: What baroque music tells us about blockbuster cinema.” He’s right – the theme is  indeed your actual fugue,  here.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week Melissa Zaccagnini and colleagues warn that safeguarding higher education from academic misconduct, “may restrict the very practices that are a cornerstone of 21st century learning.”

It’s another essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series in what we need now in teaching and learning.

Ideas for imminent ATEM

It’s a week to the Association of Tertiary Education Management conference in Adelaide

This year’s theme is, “distilling ideas, transforming futures” and Susannah Marsden and Paul Abela start the discussion in CMM Features this morning.

“We are the professional service that makes universities different to other sectors. We contribute significantly to the success of our students and our institutions, as well as often being the ones managing significant risk. So why is it that our professional identity is so nebulous?” Marsden argues.

“The paradox of seeking professional staff needing transferable skills at the same time as specialising we believe is answered by having a deep knowledge of the sector, its history and its purpose, Abela suggests.



The good oil on LNG research

Curtin U’s innovation award goes to research, that “provides a more effective and energy-efficient separation of carbon dioxide from natural gas in LNG processing

The award did not get a bunch of attention – announcing it on climate strike day might have had something to do with that.

Alternatives to uni: more are coming in Shergold review of post-school pathways  

Australia needs more post-school pathways and they don’t all lead to university, the Shergold review suggests

The review commissioned by the education ministers’ council has released  background and discussion papers – but there is a clear sense of what chair Peter Shergold (and colleagues) could conclude – less emphasis on ATARs, more focus on alternatives to university, recognising competencies and micro-credentials and a single post-school system.

on assessment: “The systemic shift toward school improvement appears to have led to an undue emphasis on academic outcomes, such as ATAR scores, rather than an overall view of what students have learned, know and can achieve as individuals. For example, the current presentation of the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education tends to outline only a student’s grades, rather than providing a broader picture of their skills, capabilities and maturity. A student’s workplace experience and community engagement may help provide a much better indication of their drive, resilience and developmental potential.”  (discussion paper)

alternatives: “Higher education, while viewed as a prestigious pathway, may not suit the needs of all young people. This is supported by recent research which estimates one in five students who start a bachelor degree will leave university without getting a degree, with one- third of those students believing they received no benefits from their study. These students get no value for their time or money.” (background paper)

competencies and credentials: “Introduce micro-credentialing options to senior secondary school, to allow students to demonstrate (to themselves and to future education providers or employers) their aptitude or learning achievements relating to specialisations. These could count toward the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education, recognition of prior learning, or work related skill competencies.”

one big system: “Recent research has proposed the need for a single tertiary education sector that calls for universal and affordable access to a quality tertiary education that is comprehensive, coherent and inter-connected and that makes better use of both vocational and higher education (to the extent they can be differentiated). This type of tertiary education will need to respond to challenges facing our students, rather than being based on outdated demarcations between academic and vocational learning. This has the potential to impact significantly on current senior secondary entry requirements into tertiary education,” (discussion paper). Note the “will”.

Incentives to get out of town

The Senate has sent the government’s skilled regional visas legislation to committee

The bill allocates 23 000 visas to people who live in regional centres for three years before being eligible for permanent residence.   Among a bunch of government services, the visa will qualify holders for a Commonwealth funded university place and FEE HELP. Unis set to benefit are all outside Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – and the Gold Coast.

The consideration will be quick, the committee is due to report on October 11.

Science alliance speaks up for peer review

“Peer review is to the governing of the scientific enterprise what democracy is to the governing of the country,” the National Research and Innovation Alliance states in a manifesto research independence

“Benefits to the nation and the advancement of knowledge are best served by a culture where researchers can put forward views and present data for discussion and scrutiny free from interference and without fear of reprisal,” the alliance asserts,

While the statement is silent as to why and why now it needs to speak up, last weekend the National Party adopted as policy the establishment of “an independent science quality agency, to check scientific papers underpinning public policy and affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Contra this, the alliance asserts the authority of peer review as ensuring the integrity of science.

Peer review is to the governing of the scientific enterprise what democracy is to the governing of the country. The concept of peer review retains the confidence of the majority of researchers and the Australian research funding agencies, assuring that they support the highest quality research.”

And it warns against the alternative, “attempts to bypass peer review allow unqualified individuals and organisations to compare their often ad-hoc views with findings derived from well-controlled analyses of available data and experimental investigations. This has the potential to subject science to political interference.”

The Alliance also issues a challenge; “those who disagree with peer-reviewed findings should participate in the scientific process and subject their findings to the same level of scrutiny and review.”

The statement is backed by eleven organisations; Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, Australian Academy of Science, Australian Society for Medical Research, Australian Technology Network, Group of Eight, Innovative Research Universities, Professionals Australia, Research Australia, Rural R&D Corporations and Science and Technology Australia.

However not all alliance members who signed previous manifestos are named on this one – the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Regional Universities Network and the Cooperative Research Centres Association are notably absent. A learned reader suggests that this is not because non-signers oppose the statement but because they would like the Nats policy to be ignored.

With R&D down Unis Aus appeals to industry to engage

And suggests a tax incentive to make it happen

Gross national expenditure on research and development was up six per cent between 2015-16 and 2017-18, to $33bn – which will probably be the figure ministers quote.

But spending by business was up by less than $1bn in the same period and down $1bn on spending in 2013-14, which will likely be the figure opponents of research and development tax changes will cite.

And R&D expenditure is down to 1.79 per cent of GDP, way below 2008-09s 2.25 per cent – which Universities Australia cited late Friday in a pitch to industry.

“Universities have urged Australian businesses to take a fresh look at how university research can help drive productivity to stimulate economic, jobs and wages growth,” Unis Aus CEO Catriona Jackson said.

This is not the first such invitation UA has made. Back in June Ms Jackson responded to a Productivity Commission report that industry R&D is easing off; “we urge businesses to take a closer look at what our world-class university system can do to help your firm to innovate and grow,” CMM June 5).

And in February then UA president Margaret Gardner (VC, Monash U) pitched it strong to the corporates, “if you have a complex business challenge you haven’t been able to crack, come talk to an Australian university about how we can work together to solve it,” (CMM February 28).

But, UA has more on its mind than asking industry out.

Ms Jackson suggests the way to encourage firms to invest is to make it worth theirs, and universities’ while. She renews a proposal for a premium concession rate for firms that collaborate with campuses on R&D. This was recommended by the Review of the Three Fs, which addressed research and development tax and proposed a 20 per cent collaboration premium for business expenditure on research jointly conducted with publicly funded agencies (CMM September 29 2016). Labor took a slimmed-down, 10 per cent, proposal to the last election (CMM May 8).

Given the government is looking for savings from the existing tax concession, expanding isn’t likely.

Second set of SAGE gender-equity institutions

The Science in Australia Gender Equity project expands with 13 universities and research institutions receiving Athena SWAN bronze awards

The UK originating Athena SWAN project provides a framework for institutions to create cultural and structural changes for gender equity. SAGE is a partnership of the Australian Academy of Science and Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

Awards go to, * ANU. * Deakin U. * Federation U. * Flinders U. * La Trobe U.  * Macquarie U.

* RMIT.  * South Australian HMRI. * George Institute. * Uni Queensland. *  Uni SA. * Uni Sydney. * Western Sydney U

This is the second pilot group. The first, announced in December was *ANSTO. * Baker HDI. * Charles Sturt U. * CSIRO. * Curtin U. * Edith Cowan U. * Griffith U. * Monash U. * Swinburne U. * QUT. * UNSW. *Uni Newcastle. * UTS. * Uni Wollongong. * Walter and Eliza Hall.

Outcomes for a third are expected before year end.

Accreditation is based on institutions adopting ten principles covering issues including; gender-based pay, employment conditions and tenure and organisational commitment and activity on gender-equality.

Peer review moderation is conducted by fellows of the two academies.


Appointments, achievements

Dan Johnson will become PVC Research Innovation at Macquarie U in February. He is now managing director of the Australian Wine Research Institute, at the Waite research precinct in Adelaide.

Ross McLennan (UniSA) is in-coming president of the Australasian Research Management Society.

The WA Young Tall Poppies are announced, including; Catherine Anne Boisvert (Curtin U – evolution of fish). Asha Bowen (Telethon Kids Institute and UWA – skin infections in remote Indigenous communities). Chris Brennan-Jones (Telethon Kids Institute and UWA – ear infections). Willem Joost Lesterhuis (UWA – drug treatments for cancer). Joshua Lewis (Edith Cowan U-cardiovascular disease). Katarina Miljkovic (Curtin U – planetary geo-science). Richard Norman (Curtin U-sustainable health systems). Debbie Silvester, (Curtin U – sensors for toxic gasses). Stephanie Rainey-Smith (Edith Cowan U- personalised strategies for Alzheimer’s Disease).