ARC keeping opinions under wraps

There’s a review of Australia’s research reputation making and breaking performance metrics

This is a very big deal indeed for the research community, which will make reading submissions to the review very interesting indeed.

But the interest will be historical. The Australian Research Council advises that submissions will only be published “when the review is completed”. That will be, pandemic permitting, first half 2021.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Angel Calderon (RMIT) on the enduring uncertainty the government has engineered for universities.

Airdre Grant (Southern Cross U) argues Master Chef has the student assessment recipe. On Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s menu this week for her series, Needed now in Teaching and Learning.

Warren Bebbington (Uni Melbourne) on the transformation of teaching and learning the pandemic the pandemic has imposed.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on why Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna deserve their Nobel Prize in Chemistry and what CRISPR does.

Still standing, getting moving: what’s next for higher education

Twig Marketing and CMM invite you to an HE conference, with a difference – on-line, time-efficient and cost-effective

We’ve assembled expert speakers who don’t have the answers but plenty of ideas on how to deal with whatever happens. Take an hour or two out of your day over a week to get a head start on preparing for a post (or continuing) pandemic world. Details here.

James Cook U pay rise deferral approved

The university meant what it said when it promised staff that if they deferred a pay rise due last month, it will be paid in December 202

Staff agreed (just – 51 per cent of the poll on a 59 per cent turn-out) to the delay, along with other COVID-19 savings measures, in an enterprise agreement variation proposed last month (CMM September 21).

But the National Tertiary Education Union, which opposed the EAV argued the wording was such that the university need not deliver the pay rise.

And so off to the Fair Work Commission the parties went, where Commissioner Johns has found the EAV stands.

“I have some sympathy with the NTEU’s interpretation of the Agreement if the Variation is approved. However, there is simply no evidence that James Cook  intended to mislead employees voting on the Agreement. All the evidence points to a clear intention by JCU to defer the 30 September 2020 pay rise to December 2021 … it is more a matter of inelegant drafting rather than any sinister sleight of hand by JCU.”

Happy feats in digital creation

Three ANZ institutions make the world top 50 in this year’s Rookies

They are the awards for “non-professional” digital arts creators working in film, games, animation, and related.

Flinders U and partner CDW Studios are 15th, Media Design School is 41st and Uni SA is 50th. The ranking is based on student work assessments.

 Fewer stars at Southern Cross U

The university wants 63 FTE positions gone

The proposed redundancies are on top of 71 voluntary departures that followed staff voting down a management COVID 19 savings proposal to end and vary enterprise agreement pay rises (CMM July 14, September 15).

The proposed new job losses appear linked to an academic restructure, with the six existing schools becoming four faculties – business, law-arts, education, health, and science-engineering. Finance, marketing and HR are proposed to, “evolve into centrally-provided shared services.”

Overall the plan will “impact” 83 positions. The Lismore campus is targeted to lose 50 positions, with 22 at the Gold Coast and seven at Coffs Harbour. The other four are vacant.

The university faces a $33m revenue shortfall in 2020-21.

Larkins warns: ERA not so excellent

The Australian Research Council is reviewing its two research performance measures (CMM August 20)

Policy maven Frank Larkins has firm views on the older of the two, Excellence in Research for Australia.

Professor Larkins suggests while the first three ERAs rounds helped better target research and research training, its “effectiveness, credibility and impact on decision-making,” “declined markedly” in the 2018 edition.

Included in a comprehensive analysis he suggests;

* apparent improvements in research quality may be due to “more professional administrative reporting structures”

* lack of transparency about the metrics used to establish the world standard benchmarks curtails informed discussion of actual improvements in research outcomes

*  superior ranking performance of STEM disciplines over HASS may be due to different reporting methodologies. “The problem has been recognised for many years but apparently not addressed by ARC.”

* “an undesirable outcome” of the ERA exercises is universities increasing research standing in science-related disciplines, which “provide a better dividend” than HASS. “The approach may not be in the national interest of preserving breadth and strength in research programmes”

If government does insist with continuing ERA and the newer Engagement and Impact survey, Professor Larkins suggests combining them and running them once every five years.

“Accountability to government for the research investment being made is necessary, but more streamlined and less labour-intensive methodologies are available and should be implemented using the publicly available data bases and search engines with some refinements.”

Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences elects new fellows

28 researchers are selected in “recognition of their outstanding contributions to the health and medical research landscape in Australia”

David Adams, Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute. Lisa Askie, World Health Organisation.

Melanie Bahlo, Walter and Eliza Hall. Julie Bernhardt, Florey Institute. Nicholas Buckley Uni Sydney.

 Peter Cistulli, Uni Sydney. Susan Clark, Garvan Institute. Ian Constable, Lions Eye Institute. Sarah-Jane Dawson, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Andrew Forbes, Monash University. Alistair Forrest, UWA. Lin Fritschi, Curtin U. Mary Galea, Uni Melbourne.

Guy Marks, UNSW. Jennifer Martin, Uni Newcastle. Kirsten McCaffery, Uni Sydney. Hylton Menz, La Trobe U. Dianne Nicol, Uni Tasmania.

Anton Peleg, Monash Uni. Roy Robins-Browne, Doherty Institute.  Andrew Steer Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Timothy Stinear, Uni Melbourne. Carolyn Sue, Kolling Institute. Merlin Thomas, Monash U.

 Carola Vinuesa, ANU, Steve Vucic, Westmead Hospital. Andrew Wilks, SYNthesis med chem, SYNthesis Research, Catalyst Tx, SYNthesis Research. Naomi Wray, Uni Queensland

Uni Adelaide looking for a “true leader”

Uni Adelaide begins recruiting for a new VC, to replace the departed in disgrace Peter Rathjen (CMM July 21).

The process follows university council asking the campus community to rank the attributes they want in a VC (CMM September 29) – which they did, with 720 completing a survey

Chancellor Catherine Branson says the new VC must be “a true leader.” That should make the recruiters’ job easier.

Macquarie U chancellor speaks up for management’s approach  

Martin Parkinson defends university management for not speaking out publicly against the federal government’s funding changes

Megaphone diplomacy is almost always a pathway to failure,” he states in a letter to campus president of the National Tertiary Education Union, Nikki Balnave.

Dr Balnave wrote to the chancellor asking him to comment on the university’s savings measures. Dr Parkinson responded to questions which “go to the governance of our institution” and as such sit with him and the university council.

In particular, he addressed the union concern, “there is no definitive target for voluntary redundancies or the actual annual savings … through hundreds of jobs.”

Dr Parkinson acknowledges “uncertainty can be damaging and dispiriting” and “anticipates” further information on what the conclusion of the present voluntary redundancy round, “might mean for any further reduction in staffing level.”

He responded to a question on why the university executive has not taken a salary cut that “with a very few minor exceptions to address clear anomalies,” the executive has not had a pay rise since January 2019. The chancellor adds he does not expect the executive “to be treated more favourably” on yearly salary adjustments than the rest of the university.

As for defending the university from government policy, Dr Parkinson states VC S Bruce Dowton is “actively involved in advocacy at the highest levels of government … experience has taught me that working quietly, behind the scenes, with well-marshalled arguments is the most effective way of influencing change at the decision-making level of any government.”

International postgrads back to NZ

As of November, New Zealand will allow 250 international PhD and masters students who need to be in NZ for their studies into the country

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says this is a “good portion” of people now offshore. “I acknowledge other international education providers … will be disappointed that their students are not a part of this border exception group,” he said.

Appointments, achievements

The Analytical Scientist magazine announces its 2020 pick of global analytical talent. The Australian list (in order published) is; Anthony Purcell (Monash U), Emily Hilder (Uni SA), Debbie Silvester-Dean (Curtin U), Gavin Reid (Uni Melbourne), Jeremy Nicholson (Murdoch U), Jessica Pandohee (Curtin U), Michael Breadmore (U Tas), Philip Marriott (Monash U), Simon Lewis (Curtin U), William Alexander Donald (UNSW)

The Association of Australian University Secretaries announces new executive appointments;

president: Gioconda Di Lorenzo (Uni Melbourne), VP: Alyssa White (Uni Sydney), secretary: Nicole Beaumont (Uni Adelaide), treasurer: James Fitzgibbon (UNSW).

The 2020 L’Oreal ANZ women in science fellows are, Marzi Barghamadi-lithium battery technology (CSIRO), Emma Camp-marine science (UTS), Shari Gallop–marine environmental science (Uni Waikato), Adele Morrison-oceanographer (ANU), Kate Nguyen-chemical and civil engineer (RMIT)

 Jonathan Morris becomes chair of Universitas 21’s deans and directors of graduate studies.

The Georgina Sweet Awards for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science are announced; Antje Blumenthal (Uni Queensland), Michelle Dunstone (Monash U), Elin Gray (Edith Cowan U), Guozhen Liu (UNSW), Jessica Mar (Uni Queensland), Makrina Totsika (QUT)

The awards were created by Leann Tilley (Uni Melbourne) as part of her 2015 Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship programme.