In breaking news

“We have a new banner, so excitingJason Potts announces a new logo for his RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub, via Twitter. They need to get out more at the BIH.

Universities Australia always on message

Catriona “the message, whole message and nothing but the message” Jackson is off to the UK this week for “high level talks,” including a conference. This gives the Universities Australia CEO an opportunity to point out that while the Brits are in Brexit-bother the UK government is still, “forging ahead of Australia on R&D investment.”

Research is vital to create the future jobs and industries we will all rely on. But the most recent figures show that business investment in R&D has gone backwards in Australia for the first time in almost two decades,” she says.

Ms Jackson could get references on funding for research into a bebop cantata of Beowulf.


Drone’s eye views

UTS has picked up a first prize at the Australian Information Industry Association’s iAwards. The university’s school of software, in partnership with the Ripper Group, won the AI/Machine learning prize for Sharkspotter, an application loaded onto drones, to do what it says. And sharks are largely all it spots, with the university claiming 90 per cent accuracy in identifying sharks rather than 16 other objects in the ocean, from whales to people. The AI alerts beachside controllers who decide what to do. The technology is already in use on NSW and Queensland beaches.

In other iAwards, CSIRO’s Data61 won the industrial and primary industries category for Hovermap (drone-mountable mapping) and an undergraduate team from the University of Adelaide won the student category for deep learning technology to detect hip fractures

Unions set manageable conditions on support for Adelaide unis merger

Union members at the University of South Australia have signalled no adamant opposition to the possibility of a merger with the University of Adelaide, now being discussed.  With the UniAdelaide union leadership adopting a similar stance it seems two crucial stakeholders are on-side.

The University of South Australia branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has responded to the merger discussion paper produced by the two universities by focusing on protecting and enhancing staff wages, conditions and job security. Nor does the union reject a merger because it could could cost jobs. Instead it says this should be, “addressed with staff clearly and honestly.”

In particular, the NTEU calls for no compulsory redundancies, measures to assess research performance in the context of teaching loads at UniSA and upgrading positions which are classified at lower pay grades than at UniAdelaide.  There seems a comradely consensus across both universities that the same jobs are sometimes better paid at UniAdelaide.

The union also calls for a new enterprise agreement for any merged institution.

The UniSA union position is largely in-line with that at UniAdelaide, where the NTEU branch says, “it is meeting regularly with management” on the merger.

The union there demands are a specified period without forced redundancies, “genuine” staff and union participation in any merger process, a new enterprise agreement for the super-institution and “clear processes” for creating policies and procedures at a new university.

A trade deal with Indonesia: Group of Eight sets out what universities will need

Expanding Australian education in Indonesia will take much more than settling on trade terms.

“A new agreement is long overdue, Indonesia is a significant emerging market both in students and research, says Group of Eight CEO Vicki Thomson. However, she warns there are still big issues in education and research to work through.

The Go8 says Australia needs to secure three things in the study space

* a comprehensive accreditation framework including on-line courses

* provisions for both countries to establish campuses in the other

* addressing visa processes and conditions to encourage Indonesians to study in Australia

There are broader issues to address in research. Indonesia ranks 59th for ARC funded collaborative research projects, plus Indonesian academics look to the US and Europe rather than Australia for partnerships; “there is a perception in Indonesian universities that collaboration with European and North American partners is likely to provide the greatest return in terms of publications and citations,” Ms Thomson says.

The Group of Eight says Canberra can strengthen research ties by:

* joint research incentives, including targeted, competitive grants scheme

* convincing the Indonesian Government to make it easier for foreign companies there to hire skilled Australians for long-term contracts

*  ensuring “greater opportunities” for Indonesian graduates to work in Australia.

Women in science: underpaid and sick of it

Women with science doctorates cluster in low and middle income pay brackets for PhD-required jobs, according to a new report  on STEM employment by Professionals Australia.

Women in doctorate-required starter jobs, as  a per centage of those with higher degrees employed in science, exceeds men in all six surveyed fieldsphysics/astronomy, chem sciences, earth sciences, biological sciences, ag sciences and environmental science.

The per centage of the total female science workforce in middle pay grades is also higher than for men.

However, men cluster at the top, with 59 per cent of men with doctorates in earth sciences in the highest pay group, compared to 33 per cent of women.

Dissatisfaction and frustration with a range of workplace practices including lack of career advancement, pay and conditions, lack of professional recognition and lack of opportunity to gain experience or undertake increased challenges were factors contributing to women considering leaving their profession for both women with and without children.”

Attrition at mid-career stage means that the sector is losing valuable female talent,” PA warns.

Agitation to ban teaching the western canon warns La Trobe’s John Carroll

A “small, very influential and very noisy minority” is agitating to ban the teaching of the western canon, La Trobe U emeritus professor John Carroll, has told the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Quoting Edmund Burke on leaders of the French Revolution, Professor Carroll described opponents of the Ramsay Centre plan to fund degree programmes in an Australian university, as “the loud and troublesome insects of the hour,” whose opinions are magnified by sympathetic arts, media and education institutions.

His speech was published as University of Sydney vice chancellor Michael Spence launched campus consultations on opening negotiations with the Ramsay Centre to fund courses.

Professor Carroll’s address covered similar issues to those he addressed in June, when ANU ended negotiations with Ramsay.

In this new address he argues that “the western canon is apolitical … politics in any political sense has nothing to do with it” and that “it is completely unjustified of lecturers to intrude their own political views in the classroom.”

And he makes the core case presented by supporters of the Ramsay proposal “the university is not possible without a deep belief in the universal value of truth, goodness and beauty and that they have some transcendent value – the great works of the western canon explore that. The great works help us in that central life task.”

Appointments, achievements

Larry Neale is the new director of studies in QUTs business school. Professor Neale reports Bill Proud, who retired on Friday.

Miranda Rose is appointed to lead the National Health and Medical Research Council’s new Centre of Research Excellence on Aphasia at La Trobe U. She previously directed the university’s aphasia lab.

Curtin U is establishing a 40-strong centre to investigate “the future of work.” Mark Griffin will be director, joining from UWA.

Learning Management System, Blackboard has its own awards to “recognise honour and achievement” among users. Winning teams (with individuals way too numerous to mention) are:

Leading change: James Cook U, Western Sydney and Carey Baptist Grammar School, Victoria

Student success: one team and an individual, Jo Holland, from Western Sydney U and Deakin U.