There is more in the Mail

In Features this morning Gary Velan and Patsie Polly (UNSW) on teaching-excellence measures created at UNSW @  here. Plus, Dirk Mulder and Gretchen Dobson’s first essay in a five-part series on making and keeping friends with offshore alumni, here.

UWA’s excellent App of the day

“Understanding Superannuation” is useful and free – way better than messages from many super funds 

Elizabeth Ooi, with UWA colleagues, created the app for “a general audience” particularly young people, to understand the basics of the system. “Australians are confused about superannuation and this can be attributed to the fact that the information currently available is often complex,” Dr Ooi understates.

Translations into eight languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Hindi are on the way. Development was funded by UWA and CPA Australia.

It’s here.

Smart politics slow start: just two uni’s ARC research grants announced

The government wants the glory on research announcement to go to local members

On Friday USQ reported two Discovery Early Career Research Awards, in a statement as overstated as it was inelegant, “young researchers win big bucks.” (The amount is $1.4m).

The university attributed the news to Education Minister Dan Tehan and it was followed by an announcement from the Australian Research Council quoting the member for the local electorate of Groom, cabinet minister John McVeigh (Lib Nat).

This is the way it is done now, as the Australian Research Council explains, “announcement may occur via media release or other public statement or announcement by the minister and/or government representative.”

Education Minister Dan Tehan’s political strategy is sound (CMM November 7). MPs love announcing money and what’s not to like about research, such as for money USQ’s Min Hong (electricity by energy conversion) and Fabian Zander (air-breathing supersonic engines)?

The Liberal member for Higgins, Katie Allen, certainly gets it. On Friday Dr Allen (a medical researcher) launched the Australian Research Council’s Training Centre for Medical Implant Technologies. “The Morrison Government is funding research that fosters collaboration between Australian universities and industry to deliver outcomes that benefit everyone,” she said.

Good-o, but with two DECRA announcements a week so far (Griffith U grants were on Tuesday) researchers will be well into projects before the last is announced.

Macquarie professors call for detail on uni’s finances

They have written to the Vice Chancellor expressing, “grave concern” over the proposed job losses and restructures

The letter, said to be from half the professoriate, asks S Bruce Dowton to present the financial modelling used to create the case for the intended closure of the Faculty of Human Sciences.

“As key members of the university we are not satisfied with the information and justification provided for this decision, nor with the manner in which it has been presented,” they write.

Professor Dowton made his case for cuts in an all-staff message Wednesday, which did not detail the projected decline in enrolment income but did specify a $4m-$5m per annum saving by abolishing the faculty and reallocating constituent departments.

Press not the point: UWA’s new approach to publishing

UWA plans to close its press, but why would anyone think it’s getting out of publishing?

Perhaps by reading the change proposal from the university’s Global Partnerships portfolio, which proposes closing its publishing arm and making staff redundant. “Only a small proportion of the authors and content published by UWA Publishing relate directly to the university and its work.”

Sounds like the end for the Press, which will not make it to its 85th birthday, next year.

This appals petitioners, who say the end of the existing publishing programme will, “undo years of publishing innovation and stunt the current flourishing of creativity in our country’s literature”.  Melbourne University Press head Nathan Hollier agrees, “UWAP is a vital part of national cultural life. It is an asset that belongs to UWA and the WA community and celebrated and supported,” (via Twitter).

But the university says publishing will continue, just differently, that the money saved will be reinvested in, “open and digitised access to information and knowledge in its support of the university’s academic writing and research.”

University management confirmed the approach late Friday, stating, “should the proposal proceed, over coming months UWA will look at ways to provide even more equitable access to publishing opportunities, to highlight further works with real-world impact, and to continue the proud tradition of contributing to our cultural foundations.”

But perhaps the university meant “when” rather than “should the proposal proceed.”  The announced consultation period runs to tomorrow week, not long for staff and allies to come up with a case for the Press to make it to 85.

Bunker bucketing

The Bunker Effect occurs when a leadership group is mocked in sub-titles to the famous conference scene in the movie Downfall, where Hitler is told Berlin is about to fall.

It kicks-in when management does not impress people, and occurs in all sorts of organisation, including education.  A Victorian TAFE copped it in 2012, as did Federation University in 2016 and now there is one about Murdoch U.

Doctors’ data dilemma: the case for more biostat experts

Much medical research depends on the analysis and interpretation of data – which Australia is not well resourced to do  

“The emerging era of big data heightens the need for biostatistical expertise, with more decision makers and researchers aiming to extract value from complex messy data, and increasing use of packaged software by individuals with insufficient understanding of the underlying methods,” Katherine Lee (Murdoch Children’s RI) and a squad of colleagues write  in the Medical Journal of Australia.

They warn Australia lags the US, Europe, and UK, in developing biostats capacity, although they do acknowledge universities which teach postgrad subjects, Adelaide, Macquarie, Monash, Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne.

Overall, they propose universities and research institutes create the critical mass of biostatisticians working on methodology and collaborating with researchers lest medical research is overwhelmed with data no one quite understands.

Scaling up for more UG mentors

Universities struggle to find enough mentors for all the students who want help – Uni Queensland alumni have a solution

Peer tutoring programme provider Vygo is developing open-source training for peer mentors. It’s Mentor Academy, expected to launch in July, is designed to assist institutions that struggle to train enough mentors to meet student demand.

Vygo CEO Ben Hallett  and colleagues recognised the need for such a programme as a mentor at the University of Queensland. Vygo is keen to work with specialists in peer-learning and people who manage mentor coordination, contact the company @, [email protected]

Appointments, achievements

Debra Bateman starts at Flinders U as dean of education in the college of Education, Psychology and Social Work.  Her recent CMM essay, “Unis behind a compliance rock and a quality hard place,” is here.

Curtin U technology is the basis of the WA Innovator of the Year award. Jacques Eksteen, Elsayed Oraby and colleague in the university’s WA School of Mines developed an environmentally friendly system for extracting metal from ore. It is licenced to company Mining and Process Solutions which won the award.  Andrew Guzzomi and Carlo Peressin from UWA, with colleagues from the University of Sydney, designed the winner of the Emerging Innovation category – a weed chipper, which can be an alternative to herbicides in large-scale cropping.

Annie Fogarty is the West Australian of the year. Dr Fogarty is founder of the UWA Fogarty Scholarship Programme.