The National Health and Medical Research Council announced its awards last night

What if you gave a lecture and nobody came? Ask Adrian Raftery


Should government intervene to promote gender diversity? Depends which economist you ask


The government is interested in teacher education but it isn’t asking teacher educators


The VC who will steal Christmas

Ever see The Grinch and Brian Schmidt in the same room, hmm?

The ANU branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is holding a Christmas in July lunch on the 26th in response to management’s enterprise bargaining proposal that staff take leave for non-public holidays over the Christmas (the one in December) campus shut-down. “By forcing staff to use their own leave to cover the Christmas shutdown, ANU’s proposal would effectively reduce the amount of leave given to staff,” the appalled union explains.

Live and in-person

At Deakin U Adrian Raftery likes lecturing to a live audience. He isn’t happy

Deakin business academic Adrian Raftery is upset about students not turning up for a start of trimester lecture,  letting fly on LinkedIn;

“After being pumped up to give a great class, I am deflated that they couldn’t bother their arse to show up. The subject I am teaching is estate planning – a mixture of law, superannuation, tax and financial planning – and would be one of the hardest they will encounter in their whole course. Students don’t realise that their lecturers could be their best advocates for getting a job.”

Perhaps the subject’s complexity is why students want to watch the digital version at their own pace, if it is available via the Cloud Deakin Echo System. Or perhaps they assume Dr Rafety’s lecture will appear on YouTube, like him introducing Deakin courses, here.

Star power

It’s a big week for star watchers

On Tuesday science minister Arthur Sinodinos signed an agreement (based on $129m in the May budget) to give Australia astronomers access to the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

Yesterday Warrick Couch was named the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Robert Ellery lecturer for 2017. The head of the Australian Astronomical Observatory is cited for numerous significant research awards, as well as “many important roles of service to the astronomy and physics science communities in Australia”.

And last night Australian Research Council CEO Sue Thomas launched the snappily titled $33m Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics in Three Dimension, at ANU. Announced last year and based at Mount Stromlo the centre will, “help unlock the secrets of the early universe.”


Debating delivering gender diversity
The Economic Society of Australia asked a panel of esteemed members if there is a role for government in addressing gender diversity in the workplace

Some 35 per cent strongly agreed, with another 46 per cent agreeing. Margaret Nowak from Curtin U (VC Deborah Terry) was a strong agree;

“It is time that we dispensed with the often-quoted excuses such as ‘we select on merit’, ‘women do not have the right qualifications’, ‘women are not taking the right qualifications’, ‘women do not have the requisite experience’. Each of these can be demonstrated to be flawed, though they have continued to be provided as excuses for the past 50 years! Get the market place signals right and the women will follow! Don’t blame women, blame the market and those with the power to set and change the signals as to what will be rewarded.”

Among the disagrees Brian Dollery from the University of New England, (VC Annabelle Duncan) made an especially frank case. “Affirmative action inevitably generates inefficiency and inequity since state intervention is invariably captured by persons the policy was not intended to benefit. Thus, for example, in contemporary Australian universities senior management positions have been awarded to highly organised well educated women rather the most suitable candidates because these women have ‘captured’ the policy process. The net result is a very badly run university system.”

MOOC of the morning

The shark has much more than pearly teeth, dear

Ian Tibbets from UofQ and a shiver of scholars from Cornell U are teaching a MOOC on sharks, via edX. And enthusiastic they are, “learn about the most fascinating animals on Earth, their sophisticated senses and how sharks and their relatives have impacted human history and culture,” the blurb promises. As Roy Scheider famously put it, “you’re going to need a bigger boat.”

NHMRC announces awards

It was a big night for Monash and ANU at the NHMRC awards  

A Monash University team won the top ranking Project Grant at The National Health and Medical Research Council awards last night. The Project Grant Scheme funds collaborative multi-disciplinary research projects. The Monash Eliminate Dengue Project is working on protecting north Queensland from the disease and developing technology for international use. The project received $7m from the NHMRC in March.

ANU picked up two especially notable awards, with Carola Vinuesela, Anselm Elders and Simon Jiang, from the John Curtin School of Medical Research, winning the Project Grant application award. Dr Vinuesela also won an Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship for a second time.

Other winners included David Paterson from Wesley Medical Research who received the Practitioner Fellowship Award and Associate Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani from the University of Queensland. The top development project award went to Penny Allen and colleagues at the Centre for Eye Research Australia for their bionic vision project.  

Teacher ed not asked

The government announced members of the new Gonski Review of school education yesterday with no teacher training academics included – but this will not stop the panel considering what teachers are taught

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has named the seven Gonski II review members, including people who have run schools and school systems, but nobody who trains teachers. However, teacher education is likely to come up.  “In terms of the actual proficiency, capabilities of teachers coming into the classroom, and those already there, I fully expect that David Gonski and the panel will take a look at this. It’s about really the next stage,” Senator Birmingham said on Adelaide radio yesterday.

That they will do so without the expert advice of a teacher education academic – and nobody seems to mind says something about the standing of university faculties of education.

App of the hour

Tim Corney wants to know if an app can reduce risky drinking at university residential colleges

The Victoria U researcher will use a Burnett Institute app with students living across the 100 residential colleges at Australian universities. Aspro Corney is interested in the impact of SMS texts sent to people who log plans for their night out in advance.

Headline of the day

“Innovative lures to improve rat control,” Victoria University of Wellington assures us. Apparently, PhD researcher Michael Jackson has come up with five chemical compounds rats relish. Success is assured, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, “build a better rat trap and the world will beat a path to your door.”

Big year for some TAFEs

The training system grew last year, mainly due to NSW

New national figures show a 3 per cent increase, to 1.3m, in the number of Australians in publicly funded training programmes in 2016 on the previous year. However, the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research reports that the growth driver is older Australians and short course skill sets. Enrolments in courses outside the Australian Qualification Framework were up 65 per cent to 193 000.

The number of 15-19 year olds in the system dropped by 1.9 per cent, while people aged 25 to 64 in training increased by 7 per cent plus.

Overall 2016 was a big year for the TAFE system, with national enrolments up by nearly 15 per cent. The public system accounted for over 50 per cent over enrolments, while private providers lost 7 per cent of enrolments, down to 40 per cent.  However growth in overall numbers mainly occurred in NSW, up 38 per cent to 454 000 students, while Victoria declined 13 per cent to 338 000 and SA dropped 5 per cent to 70 000.