Hail from close to the Chief

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was at Uni Melbourne yesterday talking-nice about research there

But while fourth in line to the Oval Office, your actual president is better and so Uni Queensland still wins. President Obama praised Uni Queensland for research in a cracker of a speech when he was there in 2014.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Rowena HarperKatrina Strampel, and Ratna Selvaratnam on how Edith Cowan U used an institution-wide approach in professional learning to meet the COVID-19 teaching challenge. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Norton does the numbers

So, how many people (people, not FTE administrative abstractions) lost their jobs as universities retrenched  in 2021 (CMM yesterday)

No-one knows but the learned Andrew Norton explains what numbers are solid, what are not and why.

Labor commits to a fixed date for research announcements

Routine legislation for ARC funding was in the Reps yesterday. Labor did not look a gift bill in the mouth

It was an excellent opportunity for the Opposition to hop into the government over Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert’s Christmas Eve veto of six ARC approved Discovery Grants he does not think are in the national interest. While this is undoubtedly a matter of the highest principle it also allowed Labor to assert ownership of the issue, given Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi has a bill to stop ministers blocking ARC recommendations.

Queensland MP Graham Perrett made the running for Labor, criticising delays in grant announcements and “culture war manoeuvres” over awards.

And he reiterated his colleague Tanya Plibersek’s commitment to approve ARC recommended grant funding,  before adding;

“And they’ll be delivered on time on a pre-established date—not Christmas Eve, I can guarantee that!—and well in advance of the grant’s commencement. That’s the Labor guarantee.”

Other Labor MPs and NSW independent Zali Steggall talked at length about the importance of research and the government’s failings but it was Mr Perrett’s promise of a date that the research community will welcome most.

It was left to James Stevens (Liberal SA) to speak for the government’s research commercialisation plan and what it could mean for South Australia and manufacturing (the ghost of Playford stalks North Terrace still) – which he did at length.

Did he change many researchers minds? Probably not. But with an election imminent they were not likely to be his intended audience.

Top of the UG pops

Medicine and business are what NSW students want to study

The Universities Admission Centre reports the top ten uni courses last year’s HSC class applied for. Four programmes are medicine and one is nursing. Three more are business-related courses, plus arts and arts/law at Uni Sydney.

Uni Sydney leads with four programmes, followed by UNSW and UTS with two each. Western Sydney U rates for its joint medicine programme with Charles Sturt U, so does Uni Newcastle for its one with Uni New England.

Message from management for Monash staff: turn up and teach

It’s back to on-campus classes at  Monash U from February 28

DVC E Sharon Pickering advise that unless ill or isolating the university, “expects teaching staff to deliver teaching in on-campus-mode.” She alone can issue exemptions, which must be in writing.

Local students are also expected to show up for classes.

If there are COVID caused “minor interruptions” the university wants to keep classes happening with staff covering for absent colleagues the first option.

Professor Pickering’s announcement appears in-line with VC Margaret Gardner’s determination for the university to be as open as possible. As Victoria locked-down for a fourth time last year Professor Gardner told the Monash community, “we should live the benefits of reaching out beyond our boundaries, of being an open, diverse and tolerant society – not cower in fear on our island, seeking comfort in our isolation,” she wrote, (CMM May 31 2021).

Cyber security: better for the wait

The original bill from Home Affairs when Peter Dutton was minister, concentrated authority in the department to protect critical infrastructure from cyber-attack

It’s ambitions were criticised widely, loudly and at length, including by universities (CMM September 30 2021). The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security got involved and reported it, “received extensive evidence in submissions and at public hearings that many companies, industry bodies or stakeholders did not feel like their input or feedback had been actioned or acknowledged.”

The PJCIS suggested splitting the legislation in two, allowing for consideration of the second  bill, which covers universities, although nowhere as intently as originally intended.

And lo, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has now brought forward a second bill, which the Group of Eight, in the argument from the start, urges parliament to pass.

More for more women in STEM

Science Minister Melissa Price announces $2m for Science and Technology Australia’s Superstars of STEM programme

Since 2017 this has provided 150 “brilliant diverse women with advanced communication skills and opportunities” to become role models for scientific careers. The new money will fund 120 more.

There is also $4.7m for two initiatives from Women in STEM Ambassador, Lisa Harvey-Smith.

CRC budget bid: no harm in asking

The CRC lobby calls for the budget to, “continue to grow investment in industry-led research and innovation.” Isn’t that what the new and nearly $2bn Australia’s Economic Accelerator programme supposed to do?

Cooperative Research Australia wants, among other things, $50m more a year over the forward estimates for Cooperative Research Centres and (specific problem addressing) CRC Ps.

No harm in asking, but the CRC programme has had a bunch of its lunch eaten by the Accelerator.

As applied and industry linked research goes it is hard to beat 30-plus years of CRCs, which are JVs between industry and universities designed to “provide funding for collaborations to solve industry identified problems.”

Granted the intention for the Accelerator is to turn research into products that grow the economy but this is not an impossible shift for the CRC model. As David Miles said in the most recent independent review, “retaining the CRC programme as a stand-alone programme serves to put science at the centre of industry policy,” (CMM May 20 2015)

But CRCs as a policy do not rate in the Accelerator Plan, which focuses on funding for university-based researchers, CSIRO and industry experts.


Appointments, achievements

Of the day

Catherine Clark will become CEO of State Library of WA in March.  She is now university librarian at Curtin U.

Fiona Coulson starts next month at Charles Darwin U as PVC Education Strategy moving from CQU.  She replaces Robert Fitzgerald who left in January.

Uni Melbourne announces Dan Hill is the new head of its School of Design. He moves from the Swedish government’s innovation agency.

Baker HDI names its own Dianna Magliano a five-year gender equity fellow. Professor Magliano studies global trends in diabetes.

Kerry-Anne Rye (UNSW) wins the (NSW) minister’s award for cardiovascular research. Melody Ding (Uni Sydney) and Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina (UNSW are named “rising stars”.

Of the week

The planning board for the proposed Charles Darwin U- Menzies Health Research school of medicine is * Donna Ah Chee (Central Australia Aboriginal Congress – co-chair * John Boffa (NT Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) * Marco Briceno (Rural Generalist Pathway Coordination Unit) * Kiarna Brown (Menzies School of Health Research) * Alan Cass (Menzies School of Health Research) * Jeremy Chin (Darwin and Palmerston Hospitals) * Bart Currie (Menzies School of Health Research) * Mick Gooda (Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education) * Sam Goodwin (Alice Springs Hospital) * Jo Norton (NT Government) * Len Notaras (National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre) – chair  * John Paterson (Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT – co-chair * Di Stephens (Charles Darwin U Menzies School of Medicine) * Dominic Upton (Charles Darwin U).

Sandra Eades has returned to Uni Melbourne to be Associate Dean, Indigenous in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences and hold the Rowden White chair. She moved from Curtin  U where she was Dean of Medicine.

Sonia Fullerton becomes Deputy Chief Medical Officer at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Emma Johnston will become DVC R at the University of Sydney, in July. She will from UNSW where she is science dean.

Christopher Klopper will join the Australian College of Applied Professions as dean, next month. He moves from Griffith U pathway provider Griffith College. Both colleges are Navitas organisations.

RMIT announces new, confirmed and continuing directors of Enabling Capability Platforms (apparently they “connect researchers from across disciplines”). They include, Matt Duckham (Information and Systems), Lisa Given (Social Change), Gary Rosengarten (Advanced Manufacturing and Fabrication) and Naomi Stead (Design), are new. Anne-Laure Mention (Global Business Innovation), Magdalena Plebanski (Biomedical) continue and Lauren Rickards (Urban Futures) is confirmed.