plus Edith Cowan knows what it is selling and who is buying

A new plan to upset research content cabals

and No harmony in ANU music school report


Market forces

Competition for market share hots up in greater Sydney as universities defend their markets or move into new ones . In the west Edith Cowan U has another approach, focus on what students want. And how a market in ideas can break the power of elite journal editors.

At last, a use for Starbucks

Swinburne researchers have found coffee grounds can be used as embankment fill for engineering projects.

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Western Sydney U defends its patch

A bare three hours after the University of Wollongong announced a new campus at Liverpool in southwest Sydney, Barney Glover went live with a Liverpool announcement of his own.

Even before NSW Premier Mike Baird had launched the Wollongong initiative the Western Sydney University VC made it plain he would defend his patch. “Establishing a higher education centre within Liverpool is a pivotal part of the university’s strategy to open higher education opportunities for people across Greater Western Sydney. It will also help drive business development in the area and extend our existing connections with Liverpool, Professor Glover told staff.

GWS will open a higher education centre next year teaching UG and postgraduate courses in business, IT and health to an expected 1000 students.

While UniWollongong declined to comment on the WSU move yesterday the former’s VC, Paul Wellings did make it plain in a message to staff that southwest Sydney needs more university places. “UOW has taken a measured, evidence-based approach to making this decision, analysing demographic data and assessing community needs in order to establish a campus where we can have the greatest positive community impact while also accessing a region undergoing significant growth and renewal.” As a reader points out when you have the premier at your announcement you can afford to be dignified.

Uni Wollongong is not alone in moving onto WSU‘s turf. Last month the University of Sydney announced it would grow student enrolments at its Westmead campus by a factor of five, to 6000 (CMM April 1).

Griffith chair in child protection

The Queensland Government will fund a research chair in child protection at Griffith U for three years. It is named for Griffith chancellor Leneen Forde and will be held by Griffith’s Clare Tilbury.

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Free market in ideas

Peer reviewing produces more of the same, UoQ economist Paul Frijters and Benno Torgler (QUT) argue in a proposal for a market in research assessment. Insiders who peer review for journals promote the established wisdom and ignore work, which addresses the interests and opinions of outsiders, “non-peer clients” in government and industry. “As a result, new methods and concepts must be unusually persuasive to break through into top journals.”

“Admittedly, excluding the interests of society from article evaluation allows scientists to “dream out loud” without fear of societal disapproval, which sometimes generates discoveries not immediately recognised as useful but of enormous long-term social benefit. Nevertheless, given the huge societal resources flowing into science, the question of whether society receives valuable innovative research in return is more salient than ever,” the authors argue.

To address the failure they propose an open market in peer reviewing where a an independent organisation would create a credit point system, where authors would pay for qualified reviewers to report on their work on specified metrics. Reviewers would use points earned to pay other researchers to assess their own papers. The authors also suggest professional reviewers could convert their points into cash. And to prevent cabals of researcher and reviewers gaming the system a secondary market in reviewer quality would keep the experts honest.

Frijters and Torgler do not suggest that the market would replace journals, creating a high-quality content pool on a broader range of subjects, to select from. “A market set-up would not only professionalize the peer review process but also make it completely transparent, which should lead to higher quality peer reviews while hampering the formation of hidden cliques.”

Like Jason Potts and colleagues’ suggestion (CMM April 26) that value-chains could replace journals this paper is yet another contribution to the emerging alternative to for-profit journal publishing.

Barron out at GTA

After 15 years at Group Training Australia, CEO Jim Barron is out of a job with the chief executive role to be abolished. “GTA Ltd has achieved so much on behalf of the GTO network. We have certainly punched above our weight on behalf of the business of group training and I am very proud of that,” Mr Barron said in a message to group training network members. CMM understands the GTA board is yet to settle on a new structure.

Bang-on branding

Edith Cowan U has a new recruitment campaign, “get ready”. It features, nurses and teachers, sports scientists and coders stepping up at work. There is no suggestion that ECU graduates are shortlisted to be UN secretary general or that its degrees are about self-discovery. Instead the message is that ECU’s qualifications provide the skills graduates need to do the jobs they want. Light-on for idealism to be sure but the campaign is heavy on realism, focusing on what young people want when their circumstances dictate doing a degree that generates a job. Advertising for a brand that knows its market.

Role model for women in science

Super-active marine ecology researcher, TV presenter (Foxtel’s Coast Australia) and advocate for women in science, Emma Johnston is the PVC Research (designate) at the University of New South Wales. She replaces Brian Boyle who steps up to (acting) DVC R.

Sharp response to flat prospects

Andrew Podger’s discussion paper on the long-running dispute over the ANU music school is in and full and frank it is too.

There are school staff who loathe corporate managers and some are not too keen on their colleagues, he writes. But it is university management who Professor Podger singles out for criticism; “the whole situation has been poorly managed by the university at all levels allowing the distrust and emotional stress to fester.” The university should public acknowledge this and introduce a moratorium for alleged past misdeamors to clear the air, he adds.

But the heart of the matter is the school needs more students if it is too play-on without supplementary funding from the VC. Professor Podger says it will be five years before the target numbers, 200 undergraduates and 20 postgraduates, are reached. In the meantime continuing additional funding of up to $3m, (it is $2m now) will be needed. People familiar with the ongoing argument over funding the School of Culture, History and Languages at ANU are familiar with the problem.

Beyond governance and budget there is debate over who the school should teach and to do what. Some think it should train elite professional musicians, others argue it should provide for scholars who want to be academics in music-related research and teaching and a third group thinks it teach people who just want to learn an instrument.

In the end it seems everybody involved accepts that making music at ANU “a Juilliard of the south” “is not affordable.” But that’s about it.

Newcastle looks to grow

Like Uni Wollongong the University of Newcastle is also anxious to expand. It wants to open a branch of its medical school on the NSW Central Coast plus a new research institute in the Gosford Hospital redevelopment. And now the NSW state government has announced it will kick the tin with $20m for the project. The university is now looking towards Canberra for support. This strikes CMM as a sensible defensive play by UoN. The central coast community occasionally gets cross with UoN, suggesting it does not care about its southern catchment. This is an excellent way for the university to demonstrate it does, while freezing out other universities, which might be interested in expanding there. As long as UoN does not demand any more med school places deans of medicine, who think there are enough medical schools as it is might not protest.


Poll prediction of the day

University of Queensland journalism lecturer John Harrison predicts Glenn Lazarus will win a second Senate term (via the Brisbane Times). The senator has name recognition, is a populist on policy, works hard and faces less minor-party competition than in 2013, Dr Harrison says.