By their sneezing shall ye know them

QUT warns wet and warm is making for a shocker of a grass pollen season

The university’s allergy research group provides a four-day forecast and is recruiting grass gazers to provide data on where to avoid.

They are already on to it at ANU where natural history professor Simon Haberle, (“that pollen guy”) was on ABC local radio yesterday warning the GP season so far is way above average.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Madelaine-Marie Judd (Uni Queensland) and colleagues on staff-student partnerships. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift in her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning,

 Tim Winkler  reports  the embrace of change reported last week’s ReMaking HE conference.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the three roles that ensure learning will always be a human game.

Big call for small support to help international students

State government agency Study NSW is funding projects, “to help ensure the future of international education”

Examples include, $20 000 for UNSW to “combat scams targeting international students.” Sydney Football Club gets $31 000, “to educate and integrate international students using the universal language of football.”  Sydney Institute of Business and Technology has $50 000 to connect international students with harvest work.

With the PM saying off-shore internationals will have to stay there the programme look as relevant as,  “What to do in New York” guides on the Titanic. But as Study NSW points out there are 144 000 international students in the state now.

Some of these will be CRCs

The short-list for Round 22 of the Cooperative Research Centre programme is announced

The five projects are,

Digital Finance CRC: “to develop and commercially exploit … the universal digitisation of all assets so they can be traded and exchanged directly and in real-time

One Basin CRC: “connecting communities, industry and researchers to manage climate and water risks in the Murray-Darling Basin”

Longevity CRC: to drive economic growth from the bonus of Australians living longer

Marine Bio-products CRC: “from bio-marine discovery to markets in health, nutrition, agriculture, aquaculture, and biomaterials”

Heavy industry low carbon transition: “expedite the decarbonisation of Australia’s heavy industrial processes”

Bids are due in January, with interviews expected late February.

ECU’s new research leads

They are charged with charting “strategic areas of strength”

John Olynyk has health, Kerry Brown, natural and built environments, Paul Arthur, society and culture and Tony Marceddo, digital futures.

This looks like a new aspect of VC Steve Chapman’s overall research strategy. When he arrived, Professor Chapman launched a campaign to recruit 20 research professors, not necessarily from ECU’s then existing research strengths, health, education, electron science and forensics/security, (CMM August 12 2015). The last of them, aged-care expert Beverley O’Connor arrived in May ’19 (CMM May 15).

Last year ECU announced it was recruiting 40 early and midcareer research fellows for four year appointments in core ECU areas (CMM December 9 2019).

Who knows what works in schemes to encourage girls and women into STEM

The evidence is anecdotal – if it exists at all

There have been 337 programmes in Australia to “support the attraction, retention and progression of girls and women,” into STEM careers.  Just seven have provided “evidence of impact or an evaluation of effectiveness.”

Merryn McKinnon (ANU) argues “understanding what initiatives are most effective, and why, is fundamental to making any significant progress in increasing the participation of women in STEM studies and careers,” and so she examines who programmes have targeted, plus why and where.

But as to what they have achieved – evidence, when recorded at all, is often anecdotal, focusing on participants enjoyment and enthusiasm. This can be unavoidable, the success of an activity that convinced a girl in primary school to become a mathematician won’t be apparent for 20 years.

So, what is to be done? Dr McKinnon proposes, “mandating a certain percentage of any grant awarded” to evaluation and making reports public, so that “policymakers have an opportunity to create a culture of evaluation, where rigorous examination of impact and open sharing of results is considered the norm rather than the exception.

“Evidence collected here suggests that any existing requirements are not effective – or stringent – enough,” she concludes.

Really good sports at Deakin U

The university medals, again in the Academic Ranking of World Universities new league table for sports science

Deakin U rates third in the world in the 2020 ranking, released yesterday. It’s behind Uni Copenhagen and the Norwegian School of Sports Science. Uni Queensland (six) and Victoria U (nine) are the other local heroes in the top ten.

There was also a strong ANZ contingent at the head of the pack, Australian Catholic U, (22nd), Edith Cowan U (23rd), Curtin U (24th), Uni Newcastle and UWA (=25th), with QUT (30th) La Trobe U (36th), Auckland UT (39th), Uni SA (=41st).

Another seven Australian universities were in the 51=100 band.

It’s another big win for Deakin U, which was first in the world in 2016 and 2017 and third in 2018. (There was no ranking recorded for 2019).

Jobs gone at Curtin U and more to follow

In August Curtin U management set a $41m savings target for staff costs – it’s half way there

The university announced the results of its voluntary redundancy scheme yesterday, accepting 137 applications. Teaching units with large numbers of staff set to go are Business and Law (15), Health Sciences, (37), Humanities (17).  While admin, teaching and support staff make up a significant proportion of the departures, there are 20 aspros and professors who will go.

Some 64 staff in central services are also exiting.

However, VC John Cordery says the university still needs to save another $21m in staff costs, to, “to secure the university’s future sustainability.” Management has released a time table for proposals to achieve “workplace change and compulsory redundancy to ensure the total savings goal is met.”

Workplace change proposals for academic and admin operating units will be released this week and next.

Professor Cordery adds that if staff had voted for management’s proposed enterprise agreement variation to forego the 2021 2 per cent pay rise $11m would have been saved.


Jana Vukovic (Uni Queensland) receives $1.25m over five years from the Viertel Foundation to study brain injury. The foundation makes the same award to Chen Davidovoch (Monash U)  for cancer research. With additional funds from other trusts there is a third award to Michelle Halls (Monash U) for work on targeted drugs for chronic pain and cancer.