There’s more in the Mail

Much more this morning, with David Myton’s engaging profile of Australian maths maven, Geordie Williamson. Even if time is tight make enough to read  about a bloke, “carving out a small path into the unknown.”

All in the timing

The Australian Research Council launched a publication on the good that flows from its funding – at Parliament House yesterday. Shame about the timing. For a start there was also a seeing-eye dog event on the Hill and cute doggos beat clever scientists every time. And then there was the Liberal Party circus performance. The ARC’s publication is called, Making a Difference, which must have resonated in the Liberal Party room.


Discovering who’s doing what in quantum computing research : like herding Schrodinger’s cat

There was a big UWA announcement yesterday on quantum computing, the still unproven technology that could create exponential increases in computer processing speed. Most media ignored it – probably because they struggled with the not especially informative university announcement. CMM also struggled, who had a go, reporting that qubits, the basis of quantum computing can run on the silicon chips used in conventional computers.

Later in the day UoQ physicist Timothy Ralph reported the same research, which he also worked on, explaining the University of Bristol-led team has created a silicon chip that can move photons, particles of light, along tracks, encoding and processing qubits.

“The real trick is creating a quantum computing device that is reprogrammable and can be made at low cost. … What this means is that we’ve effectively created a programmable machine that can accomplish a variety of tasks,” Professor Ralph says in an announcement even CMM could understand.

Sounds and undoubtedly is, impressive. But where does it fit in the worldwide research race, including Australian efforts, to create practical quantum computers? “Understanding where competitive research fits, and doesn’t, together is like herding Schrodingers’ cat” a learned reader who knows a qubit from a quokka, says.

Alpha appointment: Belinda Robinson to chair ACARA

Belinda Robinson is the new chair of the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which manages the NAPLAN school tests. Her appointment was announced by Education Minister Simon Birmingham yesterday.

Ms Robinson recently stood down as CEO of Universities Australia and is now vice president for university relations and strategy at the University of Canberra.

She replaces former vice chancellor Steven Schwartz who steps down after a three-year term.

This is an astute appointment. Ms Robinson is a policy wonk, one of the wonkiest –she understood the labyrinth of HE funding and will quickly be on top of school curriculum content and assessment. And she is a consummate explainer and negotiator, demonstrated by years of keeping 40 or so VCs if not happy then at least acquiescent. A good move on a bad day for the government.

Labor and the Greens appoint new HE spokeswomen

Foolery in the Liberal Party aside, the big political news for higher education is Louise Pratt is the new shadow assistant minister for universities and equality. According to Labor leader Bill Shorten, the WA senator is, “passionate about fair, affordable and accessible higher education,” which makes this an excellent appointment, because until now her parliamentary responsibilities have not given her any chance to engage with her passion. Her Senate service so far has not covered higher education.

Yesterday she “committed to continuing the fight against the Turnbull Government’s cuts to university funding, cuts which effectively cap university places and mean thousands of young people will miss out on the education they want and deserve. I will also be working to keep the pressure up on our universities to make our campuses and university accommodation safe.”

Previous assistant shadow Terri Butler moves to employment services, workforce participation and future of work.

The Greens also have a new higher education spokeswomen, new NSW senator Mehreen Faruqi, sworn in on Monday. She replaces Sarah Hanson-Young who tweeted yesterday, she “is stoked to take on the environment portfolio.”

Lots of on-line likes in new uni ranking

There’s a new edition of the Spanish National Research Council’s bi-annual  Ranking Web of Universities. The Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas uses web presence and visibility as indicators of global performance of a university. Indicators include teaching commitment, research results, perceived international prestige and industry and community ties.

Critics complain a web presence is no sure measure of quality but supporters ask if surveys and citation analysis are. If there is credibility in conformity the CSIC rates reasonably, with its top-performers being much the same as in the other major rankings. Harvard U is one in the world, with the anglo-sphere accounting for all of the top 20.

The highest Australian unis rank roughly where they are in the Shanghai based Academic Ranking of World Universities. On the new CSIC list, Tsingua U is number one in the Asia-Pacific and 43rd in the world, followed by the University of Hong Kong at 44th, National University of Singapore at 51st, Peking University at 52nd and the University of Tokyo at 58th.

Then the ANZACs arrive with UniMelb at 60th in the world, UoQ 65th, UNSW 67th, ANU 70th, UniSydney 79th, Monash U 97th, UniAdelaide 126th, UWA at 142nd and UniAuckland at 157th. There is less a gap than a chasm to the ninth Australian uni, Curtin U at 234th.

Appointments achievements

The University of Queensland has filled two of three senior comms jobs. Chief communication and officer Kelly Robinson  announces Sandra McMullan is deputy communications director and Pip McConnel-Oats is head of brand and creative servicesMs McMullan has extensive corporate comms experience and Ms McConnel-Oats is experienced in brand strategy, design and implementation.

Media scholar Amanda Lotz will join QUT early next year, moving from the University of Michigan. Professor Lotz researches media platforms and channels and is interested to explore “the connections and differences among various internet-distributed media and social media services.”

Ilona Charles is CSIROs new Executive Director, People. Since 2010 she has had HR roles at Medibank Private, Telstra and tech company Aconex. Nigel Warren also joins CSIRO as ED, Growth. He has previously worked in public sector agencies including Austrade and the Australian Trade Commission.