Whales’ tale,  snakes’ story

Exmouth Gulf home to secret whale nursery,” UWA announces. Not anymore. James Cook U also reports the Gulf “is a global hotspot” for sea snakes, including one species previously thought extinct. Presumably peaceful coexistence prevails.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Deanne Gannaway on the urgent need for revaluing HASS education. “A techno-future requires a broader and deeper understanding of humanity – not a myopic focus on STEM,” she argues. It’s this week’s feature in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in learning and teaching.

James Cook U set to appeal Ridd unfair dismissal judgement

The university was in court Thursday-Friday for a penalties hearing following the federal Court ruling that it had unfairly dismissed scientist Peter Ridd

JCU says, “its current intention is to appeal” but adds,

“no appeal has been filed as the matter is subject to ongoing court processes and no final orders have been made from the court, from which the university could appeal.”

An appeal will not surprise followers of the case, given JCU provost Chris Cocklin strongly criticised the original judgement. In April Justice Vasta rejected the university’s dismissal of Dr Ridd for breaching its code of conduct by criticising research at the university.  The judge found Dr Ridd’s comments were protected by the JCU’s Enterprise Agreement (CMM April 19).

Mindful of peer-reviews

Uni Queensland economist John Quiggin isn’t impressed with the uni going for a world record for participants in a “mindfulness exercise, tomorrow. “I’ll spend the time looking at the peer-reviewed research on the claimed benefits (inconclusive, at best),” he tweeted Friday.  


Humanities strike back at La Trobe U

From La Trobe U Nick Bisley announces ‘a degree unlike any other in Australia”

“We put the human at the centre of rapid technological change,” says Professor Bisley (head of humanities and social sciences).

He’s talking about next year’s new Bachelor of Humanities, Innovation and Technology, with which LTU says graduates will, “gain the skills you need to become a future leader and guide the progress of society.” Big call, but whether it actually delivers when graduates start hitting their career straps, course content certainly looks like challenging fun. There are, among others, units on economics, history of innovation, on globalisation, “persuasive communication” and creative intelligence, plus “the science fiction imagination” and “virtual reality as philosophy”.

And if it turns out to be too challenging for UGs. not to worry – the units will have big MOOC appeal.

That was quick

Flinders U train on track

Back in 2015 state and federal governments promised to extend a suburban rail line to Flinders U. Nothing much happened (apart from the project cost increasing from $85, to $120m) until April this year, when the SA Government said the project was set to start. And lo, it has – with the first sod being ceremonially turned on Friday.

The less than kilometre of track over a main road is a very big deal for Flinders, it will provide a train to campus. with a new health research complex, housing for 3000 international students, a hotel and retail to be built at the station.

Why a wider science research gender gap

Despite many more women researching science since the ‘50s, gender differences in productivity and impact increased but it’s not because women publish less work, with lower impact.  So, what gives?

Four researchers from US, Chinese and Danish institutions found out by reconstructing the publishing history of 1.5 million gender-identified authors working in 13 disciplines and 83 countries between 1955 – 2010.

Junming Huang, Alexander J. Gates, Roberta Sinatra and Albert-Laszl o Barabasi, state that, “to our knowledge, our efforts constitute the most extensive attempt to date to quantify the gender gap in STEM publications and citations, offering a longitudinal, career-wise perspective across national and disciplinary boundaries.”

They find, “the gender gap in total productivity rose from near 10% in the 1950s, to a strong bias towards male productivity (35% gap) in the 2000s. The gender gap in total impact actually switches from slightly more female impact in the 1950s to a 34% gap favouring male authors in the same time frame.

It occurred, they argue, because of gender-based, “differences in dropout rates and career-length,” which, “explain a large portion of the reported career-wise differences in productivity and impact.”

They claim that each year an average 9.0% of male scientists stopped publishing over the study time-frame, compared to 10.8% of women.

“In other words, each year women scientists have a 19.5% higher risk to leave academia than male scientists, giving male authors a major cumulative advantage over time. Moreover, this observation demonstrates that the dropout gap is not limited to junior researchers, but persists at similar rates throughout scientific careers.”

The authors don’t comment on why women have shorter publish careers but they do point to its policy implications;

“It is often argued that in order to reduce the gender gap, the scientific community must make efforts to nurture junior female researchers. We find, however, that the academic system is losing women at a higher rate at every stage of their careers, suggesting that focusing on junior scientists alone may not be sufficient to reduce the observed career-wise gender imbalance. The cumulative impact of this career-wide effect dramatically increases the gender disparity for senior mentors in academia, perpetuating the cycle of lower retention and advancement of female faculty.”

Ever more indispensable EAs

There’s a new network for executive assistants in higher education

Nick Ginsburg, EA to Monash U Provost Marc Palange is the founder. “It’s a place for executive assistants, personal assistants and executive officers who work in the higher education sector to network and share tips and tricks, he says.”  And certainly not, CMM is sure, to share advise on dealing with irascible employers.

Researching where dementia is worse

There is $21m for 13 projects on risk reduction, prevention and tracking dementia, including one covering the minister’s electorate

The always-announcing Greg Hunt has released two rounds of dementia funding.

The University of Melbourne leads with three $1.6m grants; to Yen Ying Lim for strategies to prevent memory decline, Amy Brodtmann for a project on cardiovascular exercise for stroke victims and Lisbeth Evered is funded for work on cognition and surgery.

Monash is funded for two projects at its Peninsula campus, where the university is going big with an investment in allied health and primary health (CMM September 27 2016). One is $600 000 Velandai Srikanth for, “leveraging electronic medical records and routine administrative data towards a population approach for monitoring dementia frequency, risk factors and management.”

According to Mr Hunt it, “will use the unique aspects of the Peninsula region to conduct a pilot study for a program that will be rolled out across Victoria and nationally if successful.”

Yes, the Peninsula region is in Mr Hunt’s seat of Flinders but that’s not why its unique. Dementia Australia reports that in 2017 the seat had the highest prevalence of persons with dementia in Victoria.

Open Day of the day

Swinburne U is fast off the blocks with VR in sports science

CMM July 10 2017). On Sunday, the Hawthorn campus is featuring sports science with top billing for a VR experience where people are wired up to motion and pressure sensors, which demonstrates how they move through different tasks and can improve athletic performance.  Swinburne U always does a good OD event.

Uni Wollongong jobs for western civ true believers

Uni Wollongong is hiring staff to teach its Ramsay Western Civ Centre funded degree

The university is advertising for an associate/ full professor and two lecturers to teach its BA Western Civilisation, which will start next year. The jobs are offered fixed term from January 2020 to December ’27, however, “it is anticipated that funding under this partnership will extend considerably beyond its initial eight-year period, and that all of these positions will be extended accordingly.”

UoW adds “the partnership” with Ramsay will fund six more staff, to be appointed 2020-21.

Applicants for the initial three positions, “should have strong liberal arts or humanities credentials with a relevant background in philosophy, possibly coupled with literature and/or classics and/or religious studies.” They should also “aspire to producing world-class research.”

And they will “actively participate” in “governance activities including promotional and professional engagement,” – which may mean talking to members of the academic senate, who opposed the fast-track approval process management used to ensure a 2020 start, and to members of the National Tertiary Education Union – the campus branch was considering going to court, arguing the approval breached process.

The university has only advertised following university Council invoking its legislated authority to approve the degree, last month, (CMM June 25).

Appointments, achievements

Peter Meikle from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute is appointed co-director for precision medicine by the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance. The Baker’s Garry Jennings will lead implementation research and policy for the ACvA.

The British Royal Academy has announced its 2019 Fellows, including Sarah Coakley (ACU – among other appointments). Cynthia Hardy (Uni Melbourne) becomes a corresponding fellow.