Bill Shorten piles on the praise of basic research

Flinders moves to keep VC Stirling

plus Careers that need degrees set to expand

Uni fundraising growth stalls

The week’s state science awards

and change coming for Macquarie business and economics

Just the facts

“There are enough opinions and pundits. The world needs more knowledge” University of Sydney DVC R Duncan Ivison expresses not-an-opinion yesterday, via Twitter

Stirling achievement

The Flinders VC charts a course for its future

At last night’s meeting the Flinders University Council extended VC Colin Stirling’s contract for seven years, from January. Professor Stirling is now half way through his original five-year appointment. While the move is explained as necessary for Professor Stirling to oversee his restructure plan, observers of Flinders suggest Council is keen to ensure the VC is not poached.

Shorten’s science pitch

Labor renews its call for science spending to be 3 per cent of GDP by 2030 and promises in government to create a four-year research visa

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called for a focus on basic research in a National Science Week speech in Canberra yesterday.

“We have to restore a view in this nation that basic scientific research is fundamental because it’s about pushing our knowledge to new heights … Government can’t lock-in discoveries over the forward estimates or fold breakthroughs into the budgetary forecasts” he told the Australian Academy of Science.

And to fund it Mr Shorten wants all sources of science spending – “this is a collaborative effort but we need to be ambitious” – to total 3 per cent of GDP by the end of the next decade.

Mr Shorten also promised a SMART, for science, medicine, academia, research and technology, four year visa, to attract “internationally-recognised specialists to collaborate with Australian universities, researchers, scientists and start-ups.” The visa would also “provide a pathway to permanent residency for educators, for innovators, for researchers of global standing.”

It was a speech from science spokesman’s Kim Carr’s playbook, which emphasises investment in basic research as a long-term employment creator. “Kim Carr and myself, my whole Labor team, see science as a growth strategy, an instrument for progress an irreplaceable, essential element in the transition of our economy,” Mr Shorten said.

And it was pitched to researchers uncomfortable with the government’s research impact and engagement agenda (although Mr Shorten did say there is no “binary choice” between basic and applied research.”) Even without any mention of actual money it was one for the science true-believers.

Upset at Open Day

University of Sydney unionists voted yesterday not to work on Saturday week’s Open Day as part of their enterprise bargaining campaign for what the union describes as, “secure jobs, decent pay, a fair say.” Open Day visitors “will be welcomed to the university by National Tertiary Education Union members on picket lines, who will offer them balloons and stickers.”

Where the work will be

Jobs will grow in industries that require education and training

There will be more new jobs in professional, scientific, and technical services than construction over the next five years, according to federal government projections. While construction will require more 120 000, workers demand for PSTS people will grow by 126 000.

However, all three will hire fewer workers than another skill-based industry, health care and social assistance, where employment will expand by 250 000. “The ageing population, and increasing demand for childcare and home based care services,” will drive the 16 per cent growth.

In the professional and technical services sector the overall 12 per cent growth rate masks even greater increases. Employment in computing increased by 89 per cent over the last decade and is projected to grow by 24 per cent over the next five years.

A 12 per cent increase in education and training employment, will be driven by increasing demand for school teachers and “continued strength in the international education sector, growing demand for adult and community education and continuing growth in part-time workers and non-teaching staff in the industry.”

Overall the figures make the case for acquiring skills – industry areas that do not need post school education and training will not grow by much, if at all. Retail employment will up by just 3 per cent and manufacturing will decline by 4 per cent.

Tasting notes

The University of Sydney’s Fisher Library yesterday hosted “live action brewing” of ancient beer recipes. CMM wonders whether the team from the excellent Young Henrys brewery in neighbouring Newtown was there to pick up pointers.

Defence tech talkfest  

But nobody mentions about the government’s naval shipbuilding college

It’s Defence Science and Technology’s partnership day for STEM researchers who are assembled at DST’s Edinburgh SA base, to compare death rays no doubts, and discuss the government’s $730m Next Generation Technology Fund. But what, CMM wonders, has happened to another partnership, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne’s proposed naval construction college. This is intended to involve education and training providers around the country to train the skilled workforce needed for the RAN building programme. The college was originally planned to be in business next year but there is still no word on participating institutions and what they will teach.

Business not as usual

Buseco at Mac U is changing

Macquarie U’s business and economics faculty is expanding live-streaming lectures for some undergraduate subjects with 150 plus enrolments. “Where lectures are being live streamed, the number of physical lecture theatre seats provided will generally be reduced, which will probably reduce the number of repeat lectures,” faculty teaching and learning interim associate dean Leonie Tickle tells staff. The technology allows lecturers to interact with students not in theatre.

There is no word on training for teaching staff, or what students will think about live, but not in person lectures.

Buseco dean Stephen Brammer is also asking alumni what they think about the faculty as part of planning for a new strategy. With the overall structure (rolling the graduate school of management, and the applied finance centre into the faculty) said to be decided this seems to be about branding.

Fundraising growth stalls

But more international staff in the industry would have a “phenomenal” effect

New philanthropic giving to universities declined by 0.4 per cent last year, following a 27 per cent increase in 2014-15. And new visa restrictions, which are ‘a real threat to our ability to attract and retain experienced international professionals’ put a return to growth at risk. “If we could double the number of fundraisers the effect would be phenomenal,” the University of Sydney’s Tim Dolan says in a new report on fundraising in 24 Australian and one New Zealand universities.

The report, commissioned by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Asia Pacific, found participating universities raised $546m in new money last year, with continuing growth in $1m plus gifts, up 6 per cent on 2015, to 76. However, $1m plus pledges dropped marginally.

Across all participating institutions, return on investment of $121 000 per staff member was six-fold for new funds secured and by a factor of four for cash income.

While Group of Eight institutions continue to raise the bulk of money, accounting for just short of 75 per cent of the total, other universities are expanding their donor base, up 17 per cent. “It is heartening to see a range of institutions with different missions, ages and scale coming to the party … Look out for a widening distribution of significant gifts in the future,” Mr Dolan adds.

Heads up

Achievers of the week


Vito Forte joins Edith Cowan U as chief information officer. Mr Forte moves from Oracle. He replaces Elizabeth Wilson who has gone to the Victorian Department of Information and Training as CIO.

Irene Ioannakis is appointed a commissioner of the Australian Skills Quality Authority. Dr Ionnakis has a background in training in WA. She joins from energy company Chevron.

Deakin University professor Ian Gibson has won the Freeform and Additive Manufacturing Excellence prize, for work which started when 3-D printing was beginning.

Margie Jantti has a second term as president of the Council of Australian University Librarians. She is library director at the University of Wollongong.

Naomi Stead will become head of architecture in Monash Art Design and Architecture in January. Professor Stead joined MADA earlier this year.

Deb Verhoeven, is leaving Deakin U for UTS, where she starts next month as associate dean of engagement and innovation in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

University of South Australia has named four senior academic professor emeritus; David Corkindale was a founder of the vastly influential Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science. Kerin O’Dea is honoured, in part for her work on diet and chronic disease among Indigenous Australians. Roger Harris has researched vocational education for 40 years. Claire Woods founded the university’s narratives of war research group. Retired HR chief Ruth Blenkiron becomes a Fellow of the university, in tribute to her creation of a centralised recruitment function

Swinburne U’s Tom Spurling is the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science’s medallist for 2017.


State Science Awards


NSW Young Tall Poppy scientists of the year were announced last night

The YTP scientist of the year is Angela Crean (University of Sydney-evolutionary biology). Other winners are: Louise Mewton (UNSW-medical health), Louis Wang (Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute-cardiology), Emma Beckett (University of Newcastle-nutrition), Matthew Baker (UNSW-biophysics and bacteriology), Bridianne O’Dea (UNSW-mental health), Ivan Kassal (University of Sydney-chemistry), Jemma Geoghegan (Macquarie University-virus evolution), Emma Barrett (UNSW-mental health),

Queensland Young Tall Poppy scientists of the year

Crop scientist Lee Hickey from the University of Queensland-is YTP Scientist of the Year. Other winners are: Anjali Jaiprakesh (QUT-robotics), Sandip Kamath (James Cook U-allergy and clinical immunology), Indira Prasadam (QUT-musculoskeletal research), Ian McLeod (James Cook U-coastal restoration), Emily Callander (James Cook U – health economics), Tom Bridge (conservation biology – Queensland Museum Network), Ken Dutton-Regester (melanoma genetics- QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute), Alienor Chauvenet (conservation science-University of Queensland), Christopher Doropoulos (CSIRO, marine and estuarine ecology), Tom Bridge (corals-Museum of Tropical Queensland), Mostafa Rahimi Azghadi (electrical engineering-James Cook University) Kirsty Short (virology, University of Queensland)

South Australian Science Awards

The state’s scientist of the year is infectious diseases researcher James Patton (University of Adelaide)

Young Tall Poppy of the Year: Laura Weyrich (microbiome researcher-University of Adelaide).

Excellence in Research Innovation: Australian Centre for Visual Technologies, University of Adelaide and LBT Technologies

STEM Professional: Duncan Taylor, Forensic Science SA.

STEM Educator of the Year-tertiary: Claudia Szabo, University of Adelaide

STEM Educator of the Year-schools: Thierry Herman, Le Frevre High

PhD Research Excellence: Joel Fuller, University of South Australia

Unsung hero-science communication: Ian Musgrave, University of Adelaide

ACT Scientist of the Year

Is ANU plant biotechnologist Kai Chan

WA Premier’s science awards

Scientists of the year: Harvey Millar, UWA and Christobel Saunders, UWA

Early career scientist: Asha Bowen, Telethon Kids Institute

Science Hall of Fame: John Pate

Student scientist of the year: David Gozzard, UWA

Science Engagement Initiative: CoderDojoWA (coding clubs for kids)