Tojours la politesse

“Great to try an innovative brocoli latte with CSIRO staff yesterday,” Labor’s always-up for a research experience Kim Carr, Twitter yesterday. “Green and gold brocoli lattes are impressing,” Industry Science and Technology minister Karen Andrews added. Apparently the brew de jour is made from powdered brocoli. And they said it couldn’t be done – an ersatz coffee that makes Starbucks appealing.

Jobs now won’t always work out

The NSW Universities Admissions Centre reports non-year 12 applications are down, again – 20 per cent down on the 2012 figure. Yes, more people apply direct to university but the state of the economy might have more to do with it. Yesterday the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported trend unemployment is 5.2 per cent, the lowest since 2012. In NSW annual growth in trend employment is 3.4 per cent.  Good-o, for now. But the idea that studying is what you do only when you can’t get a job is a bad-one – which will become clear as jobs for low-skilled workers disappear.

What a coincidence

As regional universities confer this week the Department of Education and Training took to Twitter to remind the world of the government’s rural and regional scholarships programme (via Twitter).

UniCanberra professors push-back at staff-intensive research plan

The University of Canberra professoriate wants management to abandon its strategy to grow research by piling pressure on specially hired academics. “We consider the human, organisational, and cultural costs to the people involved, their colleagues, and the university outweigh any benefits that may accrue,” some 30 professors and aspros warn in a letter to VC Deep Saini.

The university plan is for “assistant professors” to have up to seven years to build their and the university’s research rep. They will face two performance reviews before they qualify for permanent positions or promotion. However, the professors say the plan:

* “causes undue stress and anxiety for many assistant professors, due to the uncertainty about the outcome following a lengthy period of contingent employment”

* “has discriminatory effects. Young academics who interrupt their career to start a family or to care for family members, and/or who have a period of fractional employment during their seven years, are potentially disadvantaged”

* “is ill-suited for staff in professionally-oriented disciplines,” who “must have professional backgrounds to teach in the area and are unlikely to have significant research on which to build during their assistant professor appointment.”

The professor also point out that if all 50 assistant professors make the cut, the university’s staff profile will “quickly become top-heavy.”

A campus-based analysis of the university’s research output also indicates UniCanberra is not outstripping the generality of Australian universities, which do not have such schemes.

The university branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has also bought into the debate, making job security for assistant professors an enterprise bargaining issue.

Swinburne U’s new chancellor

John Pollaers will become chancellor of Swinburne University in February, replacing Graham Goldsmith. Professor Pollaers is a senior business leader (former CEO of Fosters Group and Pacific Brands) with an extensive engagement in training reform. He is now in his second term as chair of the federal government’s Australian Industry and Skills Committee, which is charged with “demystifying the VET system.” Washington based (as of Jan 1) Anthony Mackay continues as deputy chancellor.

No accounting for research block funding proposal

The feds propose changes to the way universities provide research income information to the government. This has generated comment among people who speak accountancy but for the rest of us the Innovative Research Universities has explained what it means and what bits need work.

IRU argues the issue is that “policy objectives” for the Research Block Grant scheme differ from the purpose of accounting standards. The proposal will be more time-consuming and “will increase the time lag between when research grants and contracts are won, and when universities are rewarded via RBG.”

PM’s science prizes: achievements understated

The PM’s science prizes are out, atlhough the government had the announcement amplifier turned right down. Compared to the trumpeting of the Eureka Awards what should be the nations big science honours had all the community-impact of Schrodinger’s cat – the prizes were announced, unless they weren’t. Perhaps this was because officials understand knowledge is power and see no reason why people not on the awards guest list should know what went on.

Unless of course science is seen as so Malcom Turnbull and the government’s Malcolm Tuckers decided that honouring scientific achievement is too much like praising innovation – which some coalition supporters consider a synonym for job losses.  Whatever happened, outside the science community the researchers and teachers who won the PMs prizes did not get coverage their achievements merit.

UniMelbourne leads in new Times Higher subject rankings

The Times Higher Education subject rankings are out for business and economics, education, lawsocial sciences.

There are no especial surprises. The University of Melbourne is first in the ANZ ranking for three of the discipline groups and second, to ANU, in social sciences. UniMelbourne is in the world top 50 in three out of four groups and tenth in the world for law. All up there are 12 Australian universities in the global law top 100.

Overall, the Group of Eight do not hold all the top positions in every category. UTS is a strong performer, in the top Australian ten in three categories. QUT is twice in the first ten.

THE says these rankings use the same the methodology as the group’s all of university league tables.

The Australian and New Zealand rankings are:

Business and Economics: UniMelb 43. ANU 50. UNSW 70. UoQ =73. Monash U = 94. QUT 99. 101-125 band. UniSydney. 126-150 band. Uni SA. UTS. 151-175 band. Uni Auckland. Uni Canterbury. 176-200 band. Griffith U. UniNewcastle. UWA. UniWollongong. 201-250 band. UniAdelaide. UniCanberra. Deakin U. Macquarie U. RMIT. 251-300 band. James Cook U, La Trobe U. Uni Otago. UTas. Uni Waikato. 301-400 band. Bond U. CQU. Curtin U. Massey U. Southern Cross U. Western Sydney U. Victoria U of Wellington. 401-500 band. Auckland U Tech. Edith Cowan U. Murdoch U. Uni Southern Queensland. Swinburne U. Victoria U.

Education: UniMelbourne 24. UniSydney = 33. Uni Auckland = 35 UoQ = 39. Monash U =57. UNSW=57. UTS = 69. UWA = 75. Macquarie U = 84. Victoria U of Wellington = 94. 101-125 band. Curtin U. Deakin U. Griffith U. QUT. Uni SA. 126-150 band. Uni Otago. Uni Wollongong. 151-175 band Uni Adelaide. Flinders U. Uni Newcastle. 176-200 band. Uni Canberra. Murdoch U. Swinburne U. 201-250 band. ACU. RMIT. Western Sydney U. 251-300 band. Auckland U of Tech. La Trobe U. Massey U. Uni of Canterbury. Uni Waikato. Victoria U. 301-400 band. CQU. Charles Darwin U. Edith Cowan U, James Cook U. Southern Cross U. Uni  Southern Queensland. Uni Sunshine Coast. U Tas.

Law: UniMelbourne 10. UNSW 23. UniSydney 32. UoQ 40. ANU 53. QUT 63. UTS =68. Griffith U = 71. Monash U = 79. Uni SA = 81. Uni Tas = 85. Uni Wollongong = 90. 101-125 band. Uni Auckland. 126-150 band. Uni Adelaide. Curtin U. Macquarie U. UWA. 151 + band. Deakin U. Western Sydney U.

Social Sciences: ANU = 27. UniMelbourne = 52. UoQ = 84. UniSydney = 99. 101-125 band. UNSW. 126-150 band. UWA. 151-175 band. Uni Auckland. Monash U. 176-200 band. James Cook U. 201-250 band. Uni Adelaide. Uni Canterbury. Curtin U. Griffith U. Macquarie U. Murdoch U. Uni Otago. UTS. Victoria U of Wellington. 251-300 band. Uni Canterbury. Uni Waikato. Western Sydney U. Uni Wollongong. 301 – 400 band. Deakin U. La Trobe U. Massey U. Uni Newcastle. RMIT. Southern Cross U. Uni Sunshine Coast. Uni Tas. 401-500 band. Auckland U Tech. CQU. Edith Cowan U. Flinders U. Swinburne U. Victoria U. Bond U. 501 – 600 band. Charles Darwin U

Appointments and achievements of the week

Jim Nyand (ACU) has taken over as chair of Engagement Australia and Callista Thillou (Flinders U) is the new deputy chair.

Matt Brett is leaving La Trobe U, where he is higher education policy manager. He is moving to Deakin U, to become director, academic governance and standards.

Cancer researcher Phoebe Phillips (UNSW) is a 2018 Eisenhower Fellow, which funds seven-week programme in the US.

The two CSL Centenary Fellows are Connie Wong (Monash U) and Daniel Pellicci (Peter Doherty Insitute). Dr Pellicci will use his $1.25m to study “unconventional: T Cells in tuberculosis.  Dr Wong will use hers to investigate connections between brain and immune system.

Astrophysicist Lisa Harvey-Smith is the Commonwealth’s inaugural Women in STEM ambassador. She will “advocate for girls and women in STEM education careers.

Sue Keay from QUT is named by  Robohub one of 2018’s 25 women in robotics one needs to know about. Dr Keay is CEO of the university’s robotic vision centre.

The UK and Ireland Society for French Studies announces Natalie Edwards from the University of Adelaide is its 2018-19 international visiting fellow.

La Trobe U has appointed a new head of LT U Asia. Euan Graham joins from the Lowy Institute. He replaces Nick Bisley, who moved up to run the university’s HASS school.

UNSW announces Dimity Kingsford Smith is the inaugural MinterEllison chair in risk and regulation.

Ian Musgrave (pharmacology at the University of Adelaide medical school) wins the Australian Skeptics 2018 Thornett Award for, “the promotion of reason.”  Last year Dr Musgrave was named un-sung science communicator at the SA Science Awards.

Robyn Dowling will become head of school and dean of the University of Sydney’sSchool of Architecture, Design and Planning as of January 1. She steps up from associate dean, researchProfessor Dowling will be the first woman to lead the school. She replacesJohn Redmond, dean since 2010.

The new team at the National Tertiary Education Union is in place. Alison Barnes (Macquarie U) is now federal president, with Matt McGowan, general secretaryand Gabe Gooding his deputy.

Michelle King joins consultants KPMG as director of the education practice. Ms King moves from Monash U where she leads alumni and external engagement.

Winners of this year’s Prime Minister’s science prizes are:

PM’s Science PrizeKurt Lambeck from the ANU

PM’s Prize for Innovation: Finisar Australia (Simon PooleAndrew BartosGlenn BaxterSteven Frisken)

Frank Fenner Prize for life scientist of the yearLee Berger (James Cook U and University of Melbourne)

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for physical scienceJack Clegg (University of Queensland)

New innovators prizeGeoff Rogers, Wintermute Biomedical

Primary Science teacher: Brett Crawford, Warrigal Road State School, Brisbane

Secondary Science teacher: Scott Sleap from the Cessnock Learning Community.