Plus cuts at Macquarie and Kabuki curtain-up at Canberra 

Best and the brightest

The Australian Academy of Science awards are announced this morning – the full list of 17 extraordinary science super-achievers is below. The 13 men and four women come from all over, UNSW (three), Uni Melbourne (two) and ANU (two) are the only institutions that can boast of multiple awards.


Long wait to learn fate

Macquarie U management takes the lighthouse for painfully dragging out the reorganisation of some central services. While its all over for some operating units (the printers are gone) for weeks, months in some cases, people have wondered whether they will be moved to new units or out of the university altogether. It now seems that some roles in learning and teaching, tech support and training for blended learning are to stay central services, but with 25 fewer positions in L&T. Students of staffing in Lighthouse Land estimate that this translates to 50 people losing their jobs. Around 30 people are also expected to look for one of the 20 or so positions being devolved/created in faculties. The new learning skills team will have four staff, “and Macquarie wonders why it has a problem with student attrition,” suggests an observer. There is also talk of cuts to come in project management, resource development, professional development and IT support.

Min’s macro job title

David Moss joins Swinburne as director of the Centre for Micro-Photonics from RMIT where he was director of the Micro-Nano Research Facility. As he arrives Min Gu leaves, swapping Swinburne for RMIT where he will work on photonics, and revel in the title, associate deputy vice chancellor research innovation and entrepreneurship. Nothing micro about that.


Kabuki curtain up

The first production from the 2016 enterprise bargaining playhouse has opened, with the National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Canberra issuing a ritual statement of despair at management mean mindedness.

UC bargainers say they want a modern, flexible, simple agreement. These management jargon words say nothing about the effect in the real world of management‘s proposed changes: reduced conditions and loss of employment security. Their words imply that such changes are inevitable – necessitated by a modern world. This is nonsense. Together, we create the future, and it does not need to be a future where good quality jobs disappear,” writes NTEU negotiator Rachel Bahl.

In particular the union is upset management wants a cap on teaching hours per year and specified weeks pa when teaching can occur. The NTEU also opposes the UC model, which provides a proportion of a pay rise as a bonus, contingent on federal funding. “UC is welcome to operate a bonus scheme if it chooses. It should not, however, be at the expense of pay certainty and proper pay rises for staff,” Ms Bahl argues.

She is also worried that the university might threaten to take an agreement to an all-staff vote, without union endorsement. University management did this in December 2013 when talks with the union were stalled. The threat was enough to bring the kabuki curtain down, with staff voting ten to one in favour of a joint union-UC proposal, (CMM December 2 2013).

The union has called an all-staff meeting for Wednesday week.

JV of the day

Swinburne U and design-strong Hong Kong Poly U will offer partnered PhDs in design, business, engineering and other fields. “We have had a long standing relationship with the Hong Kong design community and HKPU is the ideal place to collaborate on research and to supervise the next generation of design researchers,” says SU’s Scott Thompson-Whiteside.

Sourcing the secret sauce

Minister for Hipsters (and Innovation) Wyatt Roy will launch Source IP in Parly House this morning. That’s IP, not HP (although the government would love a secret sauce to encourage industry –university collaboration). Source IP “is a digital marketplace for sharing information, indicating licensing preferences and facilitating contact for IP generated by the public research sector in Australia.” The database consists of information from universities and publicly funded research agencies.

ANU Sep 15 5

Back to where we started

Rorting of the VET FEE HELP loan system by private providers is so bad that it should be “suspended” Australian Education Union General Secretary Pat Forward said on Saturday. But what will happen to the tens of thousands of people in training with reputable private providers? Ms Forward’s answer is to re-empower TAFE, with a guaranteed 70 per cent of public funding. Of course, the private sector has only grown because governments decided that TAFEs were too slow and expensive to meet the needs of all prospective students in changing markets. However CMM suspects the community’s understandable ire at rogue for-profits exploiting students will overwhelm this argument. The training system system is in trouble.

In breaking news

“The pressure of writing for a prestigious journal, combined with a self-imposed expectation of making the research sound as technical and imposing as possible, can lead to unnecessary verbosity in an attempt to impress colleagues, peer reviewers, and journal editors,” Andrew Ghillyer on writing blog Enago. Good lord, who knew?

Healthy competition

The National Health and Medical Research Council reports its Health Innovation Advisory Committee has met. It was gazetted in June with tasks including; “to promote collaboration between the health and medical research and commercial sectors and creating a culture of commercialisation for the translation of research into health outcomes.” Hang on, isn’t this the Medical Research Future Fund’s turf? The MRFF Act defines one of its objectives as “the application and commercialisation of medical research for the purpose of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians.”

Whatever, the NHMRC’s committee will certainly be competitive, what with it being chaired by the ever-astute Graeme Samuel, business leader and sometime chair of the National Competition Council and the Australian Consumer and Competition. Mr Samuel also chaired the government’s Review to Strengthen Medical Research Institutes, which found; “given the relative scarcity of commercialisation skills in the medical research sector, there is a need to encourage scale and leveraging of larger commercialisation resources with the breadth and depth of expertise required, rather than have each small institution attempting to build an end-to-end commercialisation capability.” Perhaps the NHMRC can help, unless the MRFF gets there first.

Smarts no sweat

Exercise may help keep old people’s brains functioning according to new research. Understandably so – it takes intellectual agility to keep coming up with excuses for not going running.

Academy of Science Awards

The Australian Academy of Science 2016 awards go to:

Elena Belousova (Macquarie U): analysing zircon trace elements in earth’s crust for minerals exploration.

Luke Bennetts (Uni Adelaide): mathematics of ocean waves interacting with sea ice for climate prediction.

Cyrille Boyer (UNSW): working on the synthesis of macromolecules using bioresources.

Jane Elith (Uni Melbourne): applied ecologist analysing species distribution in the wild.

Paolo Falcaro (CSIRO): nano-material engineering for water decontamination, medicine delivery, and portable biosensors to detect viruses during outbreaks.

Geoffrey Faulkner (UoQ): genomics of brain cells as a source of future treatments.

Martin Green (UNSW): the “father of photovoltaics” is honoured for developing generations of silicon solar cells.

Murray Hitzman (Colorado School of Mines): for work on the physics and chemistry of mineral formation.

Michael Ireland (ANU): uses optical and infrared technologies to build astronomical instruments.

Katherine Kedzierska (Uni Melbourne): immune responses to virus outbreaks with the possibility of a flu “jab for life”.

John Paterson (UNE): using Australian fossil records for in evolution, biogeography and palaeoecology.

Jeffrey Reimers (UTS): for chemical quantum theories on solar-electrical conversion during photosynthesis and research on chemical quantum effects in manifesting consciousness.

Ilya Shadrivov (ANU): developing metamaterials with properties not usually found in nature, for example selectively absorbing different colours of light, for example.

Andrea Taschetto (UNSW): role of the Pacific and Indian oceans in regional climate variability.

Ostoja Vucic (Uni Sydney): techniques for diagnosing motor neurone disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

Colin Murray-Wallace (Uni Wollongong): tracking environment and sea level change.

David Wilson (Burnet Institute): modelling of infectious disease outbreaks.