Expectations will be exceeded

“We are looking for an ordinary member on the CAULLT Committee,” the Council of Australasian University Leaders in Learning and Teaching, sets a low bar (LinkedIn yesterday).

There’s more in the Mail

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) wonders whether AI is as good as it is going to get and worries about what that means. “It could be that ChatGPT is currently as reliable as it will ever be,” he warns.

plus Making more and the most of student partnerships requires an inquiring mind and nuanced approach. Alison Jaquet and colleagues set out the challenge for Commissioning Editor Sally KiftHERE

More pay to stop the PhD student slide

Most candidates are in their mid 30s, “many raising and supporting families,” Universities Australia chief Catriona Jackson warns in a speech this morning

“And right now these students are studying on less than the minimum wage, she states in the text of her address to the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association.

She adds that because PhD candidates are considered students not staff, women among them do not qualify for government parental leave.

“If we are serious about maintaining this workforce to maintain the output, we need to do better for our researchers.”

Ms Jackson warns the number of PhD graduates fell from around 9500 in 2019 to 8500 in ’21.

“We need to arrest this slide. In times of crisis, or changes in priorities, governments and businesses draw on their academic expertise to solve complex problems,” she says.

Ms Jackson calls for the government to “lift the rate of PhD stipends to a more liveable level” with no reduction in PhD places or stipends.

The employment status of doctoral students has been challenged in the past, with a 2019 Queensland case where the state’s public workforce insurer sought to charge universities premiums for PhD students as workers. A test case was  successfully opposed by AHEIA for CQU (CMM July 8 2019, January 20 2020).

Ian Chubb calls for doing the most needed science with what we’ve got

The former chief scientist welcomes the government’s “long overdue revision of national science and research priorities”

“We should bear in mind those identified in 2015 had little impact, apart from a tick-a-box on some forms. This was not helped by the rapid rotation of science ministers,” Professor Chubb says – and he should know. As chief scientist he led the development process.

Now policy secretary for the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Chubb nominates three areas, “as the basis of our national research effort,”

* Australia’s environment and biodiversity

* “matters that are global … where we have the capacity and talent to contribute to international efforts.” He nominates health, energy and global warming.

And he speaks-up for discovery science, “ there is a critical need to build intellectual capital through the pursuit of the most basic understanding of the very nature of things.” Implicitly acknowledging the applied research temper of the times, he suggests a review of the research framework, “with clear and unambiguous support for research leading to knowledge and separately for the use (translation) of the knowledge.”

But he also counsels caution, “Australia remains a middle power in global science. We cannot do everything and should not spread thinly our already inadequate support for research,”

Decades advising government on science policy will do that to a bloke’s enthusiasm.

World-first quantum computer challenge

Minister-friendly media are all-over the government’s quantum strategy, applauding intent, anticipating achievements which won’t be hard to accomplish – except for academics

The document includes eight “indicators of success,” most of which will be easily achieved, what with there being no hard numbers. One,  “a strong quantum technology industry” will be measured by the number of companies and their valuation and investment leveraged by industry – there is no word on base-lines.

But researchers are given specifics on which they will be compared against national competitors, “rankings in research publications and impact for quantum,” “number of patents and trademarks” and sale/licencing of IP

Plus there is a time-specific, no-hedging outcome on which the strategy and all on-board it will be judged; “ building the world’s first error-corrected quantum computer in Australia” (p28)

Tempus fugit quantum scientists.


Academic integrity awareness is up, for now

Students who are aware of cheating going on is way down – that might change

Studiosity’s latest student survey puts awareness of cheating going on at 15 per cent, half the figure for 2020. The study support service (and CMM advertiser) reports 25 per cent awareness in medicine down to 14 per cent in nursing.

Big majorities of students also report knowing how to avoid plagiarism and the consequences of not.

However, this all might change, “with the growing prominence of AI one hypothesis within the sector is that the normalised use of large language model tools may make students less aware that using a machine/tool to write your work could constitute cheating,” Studiosity states.

Appointments, achievements

Jodie (Martin-Blick) Altan starts as Associate PVC Engagement at RMIT Vietnam.

John Church (UNSW) receives the 2023 Prince Albert Medal. It is awarded by Monaco and the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans.

Craig Jeffrey will leave Uni Melbourne to become PVC International at Monash U in July.

Jenny Lewis (Uni Melbourne) receives the Routledge Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Research Society for Public Management.

Steven Warburton will become PVC Education Innovation at Uni Newcastle in June. He moves from Uni New England.