How sweet it is (depending on the lab report)

UTS microbiologist Nural Cokcetin buys into the fake honey story; “The ‘fake’ honey (imported) reports are hugely concerning. Let’s continue to support our Aussie farmers, beekeepers and local honey industry by buying 100% Aust honey, which is just that.” She should know, being an Australian Fame Lab winner for explaining her research on the antimicrobial and prebiotic properties of (real) honey,

“Be generic:” Griffith U’s new advertising campaign

Griffith University has a new recruitment campaign, “be remarkable.” At least CMM thinks it is a recruitment campaign, because the launch advert copy provides no reasons why anybody should enrol. Instead, there are images of people doing sciency and fitnessy looking things and exhortations to character-building. “Be curious, be experimental, be relentless, push boundaries, be remarkable.” But one “be” does not get a mention, “be a student at Griffith.” Take away the logo and this could be a campaign for any university in the country.

Plibersek positions Labor to expand university access

A Labor government will spend $174m on mentoring and support “designed to boost opportunities” for university study for people in areas “where graduation rates are low.”

“We want to support students who are first generation in their family to go to uni.  We want our unis to attract more students from our outer suburbs and the country, more Indigenous students, and more students with a disability,” Opposition education shadow Tania Plibersek says.

Money will go to universities and not for profit community groups who propose programmes.

Ms Plibersek will announce the funding today at Caboolture in south-east Queensland, accompanied by recently re-elected member for Longman, Susan Lamb and Labor candidates for the government electorates of Dickson (held by Peter Dutton) and the ultra-marginal Petrie.

The initiative builds on Ms Plibersek’s equity-credentials. Last year she campaigned hard against a government move to cut funding for university preparation programmes and offer them on a fee for service basis (CMM July 12 2017).

This is smartly targeted politics. Brisbane’s outer north and adjacent areas have way below city rates of graduates in the population. Greg Hill, VC of the local University of the Sunshine Coast is also chair of the Regional Universities Network and a vocal supporter of more resources for his members, including for access programmes. “Regional universities have a majority of first in family students and this needs to be taken into account.” … ““RUN does much of the heavy lifting on equity,” he has  told CMM (January 17 2017).

Carolyn Evans to be Griffith U VC

Carolyn Evans will be Griffith U’s next VC, replacing long-serving Ian O’Connor. She is now DVC (Graduates and International) and Deputy Provost (graduate education)  at the University of Melbourne. Professor Evans was a long-term head of the UniMelb law school and appointed DVC in May 2017.

Glyn Davis was quick to congratulate Professor Evans yesterday, saying in a message to staff;  “as both vice chancellor of the University of Melbourne, and a former vice chancellor at Griffith U, I can say with confidence Carolyn is an outstanding choice for her new role.

“This is cause for celebration of the success of one of our own, as well as sadness at her impending departure from Melbourne.”

Another Melbourne colleague, sometime provost Margaret Sheil, now QUT VC was also quick to welcome Evans’ appointment. “Delighted that Carolyn will be joining us in Queensland. I look forward to working with her and other Queensland VCs.”

Brown can be green at Monash and Fed U

The feds have quietly kicked-in $1m for Brown Coal Innovation Australia to continue its work on, “low-emissions, low-cost, coal technologies and novel, high-value products derived from brown coal.” BCIA is a partnership of coal companies, CSIRO plus Monash and Federation universities. Fed U took over Monash’s campus in the La Trobe Valley, brown coal capital of the country a couple of years back.

Not that Monash U will need any of the output. The university is committed to being entirely powered byclean and renewable” energy by 2030.


New ACOLA report points to natural opportunities from synthetic biology

The ever-inquisitive, eternally-optimistic Chief Scientist Alan Finkel thinks synthetic biology has vast promise, so he commissioned a report from the Australian Council of Learned Academies  on what it can accomplish. It is published today, in ACOLA’s horizon scanning series.

 Synthetic biology is based on gene technology and “applies engineering principles to biology.” ACOLA suggests the science can create new products in a range of Australian industries including agriculture, pharmaceuticals and biofuels. And, in line with the present government orthodoxy, it is less about abstractions than applications.  “Synthetic biology has a strong focus on providing workable solutions in a wide range of application areas,” the report states.

Australia is also well-placed to develop synthetic biology applications with research strengths in the disciplines it is based on. “Australia’s university system is strong in physical sciences, life sciences, engineering and technology, and computer sciences. The number of Australian universities in the top 100 in these fields compares favourably on the basis of population size with other science and research-intensive countries such as the US, the UK and Germany.”

To create a sustainable Australian research effort ACOLA urges:

Prepare to explain benefits and risks of technology with as yet unknown opportunities and implications

Convince the community. “Public awareness about synthetic biology is low, and a shared vision will not be attainable if communication channels are not open to all and if the processes for conveying knowledge and building trust are poorly developed.

Get the regulatory balance right. “important to ensure that the level of regulation is proportionate to the risks that are posed to provide a regulatory environment that also enables Australian innovation to flourish.”

Trade enrolments up, a bit

VET trade teaching is off the bottom, with 174 000 enrolments in the March quarter, according to new figures from the estimable Centre for Vocational Education and Training. This is the best figure since mid 2016, but way down on the highest recent figure, 213 000 in the September quarter of 2013. Non-trade course enrolments are 100 000 down over the same period, to 98 000. Commencements for both groups were up 1.5 per cent YTD for the March quarter in 2017.

Appointments, achievements

Lisa Jackson Pulver is the new DVC Indigenous Strategy and Services at the University of Sydney. She joins from Western Sydney U.  UniSydney says Professor Jackson Pulver is the first known Indigenous Australian to receive a PhD in medicine from the university.

Joe Trapani is the inaugural head of the Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy, a collaboration of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre alliance, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the University of Melbourne. Professor Trapani has led the cancer immunology and immunotherapy at Peter Maccallum for 18 years.

Deakin DVC E, Beverly Oliver will stand-down from her full-time appointment at year end, after six years. She will continue to work on short-term projects at Deakin U.

The Royal Society of Victoria has chosen joint winners for this year’s Phillip Law postdoctoral award. Nishar Hameed is at the smart polymers and composites research group at Swinburne U. Sumeet Walla works on nanoelectronics at RMIT.  Dreams beyond avarice the awards will not fulfill – the prize is $1500 each.

The NSW history publishing prizes are announced:

Australian history: Christina Twomey (Monash U). The battle within: POWs in postwar Australia (New South Publishing)

General history: Sean Scalmer (UniMelbourne). On the Stump: Campaign Oratory and Democracy in the United States, Britain, and Australia (Temple University Press)

Community and regional history: Paul Irish (Coast History and Heritage). Hidden in plain view: The Aboriginal People of coastal Sydney

Young people: Simon Mitchell (author). The fighting stingrays (Penguin)

Digital history: Warwick Thornton and Brendan Fletcher (filmmakers). We don’t need a map (Barefoot Communications)