plus Deakin loses another high-profile law academic 

Two cultures: Business and researchers clueless about each other 

and heads up :winners at work this week 

Lord of the flies

“The ‘Holy Grail’ of fruit fly traps has been launched,” Griffith U understates a new pest control.


Another loss for Deakin’s law school

In the second major departure in weeks Christoph Antons is leaving Deakin University’s law school. Professor Antons announced he is going yesterday, telling colleagues he had accepted a post at the University of Newcastle. He follows Professor Mirko Bagaric, who announced last month his move to Swinburne U CMM September 19).

Professor Antons is the sort of scholar a law school keen to build a research reputation will not want to lose. He is an ARC chief investigator and an affiliated research fellow at the Max Planck Institute, among a range of appointments.

Like Bagaric, Professor Antons said the move was about new challenges however Deakin watchers say there is disquiet in the law school over a new policy, which requires staff to focus on traditional discipline areas for teaching and research.

“We have formally consolidated existing staff research and teaching strengths to align with each discipline area. In doing so, most of our staff have been grouped together based on their publication history to enable better team work, co-authorship, and grant applications. The discipline areas also coincide with the core areas of the law mandated for accreditation and staff in a discipline have taught in that area previously,” management told school staff last month.

Great thinker gone

Des Ball, one of Australia’s most significant thinkers on defence strategy is dead. The Australian National University’s Professor Ball started work on strategic studies when they were a matter of life and death for all humanity – explaining there could be no such thing as limited nuclear war when people with the power to start one thought there was. His most recent work is a co-edited (with Andrew Carr) collection of essays on the history and achievements of the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre published by the university’s excellent press. (Download it without charge here).

Genomics funding

Project applications are open for Round One of the $25m state government funded Queensland Genomics Health Alliance. It’s managed by the University of Queensland and details are here.


Birmingham’s big ombudsman win

The Government will establish a VET student loans ombudsman as part of its regulatory reform of the sector. The post is not in the bill to replace the discredited VET FEE HELP, system introduced into parliament yesterday, but was mentioned by assistant minister for Vocational Education and Skills Karen Andrews in her second reading speech in the House of Representatives. Ms Andrews promised “further information on this in due course.”

There is widespread support for the idea of an ombudsman but late yesterday Greens Education spokesman Sarah Hanson-Young was taking credit for the proposal. “This is an important win that will help to protect vulnerable students from exploitation in the future,” the senator said.

Is this a sign of a Greens-government deal on training? Heavens, it would never have occurred when Christine Milne was leader. But if it reflects a new Greens willingness to treat on education and training by her replacement, Richard Di Natale, it is as bad news for Labor as it is good for the coalition. The Opposition would have been looking to extract concessions from the government and kudos from the community to pass the bill in the Senate. Not now if the ombudsman is part of a broader deal. If one is done it is a big win for Education Minister Simon Birmingham who will have a choice of Senate parties to negotiate with, rather than being at the mercy of Pauline Hanson, Nick Xenophon and erratic independents.

Singapore success

If the Rachel award for Facebook friends (CMM yesterday) included offshore campuses – James Cook Singapore would win. It has 580 000 likes – some 80 000 ahead of domestic leader UNSW and ten time JCU’s Australian operation. Perhaps the local social media team should ask their Singapore colleagues how they do it.

Murdoch unionists vote for industrial action

Members of the National Tertiary Education Union at Murdoch University have voted by margins of up to ten to one to take a range of protected industrial actions as part of the NTEU’s enterprise bargaining campaign. With fewer than 500 staff voting late in the academic year the decisions are unlikely to have much practical impact over the summer and there was no move to ban marking or processing exam results. However national union and management IR leaders watch the dispute at Murdoch closely and both will claim the vote as a win.


Talk about two cultures

The Early and Mid Careers Forum of the Academy of Science has produced a guide for academics and people in industry who want to work with each other. But it seems C P Snow’s famous “two cultures” case still applies, with the guide assuming the two tribes  have absolutely no idea about the other. Makes a change from the government’s breezy optimism about a new cooperative national research system.

The price of politics

Rod Camm warns that legislation for the new VET student loan scheme, introduced into the parliament yesterday is “likely to lead to another poorly-designed scheme that is not fit for purpose.” The CEO of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training is especially unhappy with the as yet unspecified “course provider charge,” a user-pays levy which private colleges will have to pay towards funding the scheme annually.

Mr Camm has a point, just not one that anybody in government or opposition will pay attention to. That officials now decide which courses qualify for student loans instead of leaving it to the market contradicts the government’s call for an innovative economy, which responds to technological change. But, and it is an insurmountable but, the rorting of VET FEE HELP has crippled the credibility of a vocational education market for years, many years, to come. Paul Bastian from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union nailed public opinion yesterday when he said; “Our industries need skilled workers and private training providers are not delivering for the nation.  As a nation we should be transitioning away from private training providers.” No, it’s not fair, private providers are essential to the training system, but it is what people think.

Another achiever

A learned reader points out Andrea Morello is not the only academic at an Australian university to be honoured by the American Physical Society. University of Melbourne physicist Nicole Bell is also cited in the 2017 awards, for “fundamental contributions regarding the interface of astrophysics and particle physics.”


the week’s winners at work



Social historian of violence in war and emotions Joanna Bourke will join the University of Newcastle as a visiting scholar in December for five years. Professor Bourke is based at Birbeck, University of London. 

University of Newcastle chancellor Paul Jeans will serve a second four-year term, commencing next July.

University of Tasmania cultural sociologist Nicholas Hookway has received the vice chancellor’s award for outstanding community engagement.

Lisa Given from Charles Sturt U is the next president of the (international) Association for Information Science and Technology.

Graeme Jameson has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Mineral Processing Congress. The University of Newcastle researcher is the creator of the Jameson Cell, a minerals separation technology, which is also used in agriculture. According to UniNewcastle, the Jameson Cell has earned $100bn for the national economy.

Mary Faraone is the new chair of TAFE Directors Australia. The CEO of Holmesglen Institute replaces Tasmania’s TAFE chief Stephen Conway. Jodi SchmidtCEO of TAFE Queensland is the new deputy chair. Warren Tapp, chair of TAFE Queensland is the inaugural head a TDA’s new chairs’ council.

ANU astronomer Ken Freeman was awarded the UNSW Dirac Medal for Theoretical Physics last night.

Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas is leaving the University of Southern Queensland to become VC at New Zealand’s Massey U. She will take over in January, replacing Steve Maharey, in the post for eight years.

Gareth Myles is moving from the University of Exeter to UniAdelaide. He will become head of the school of economics in January.

UNSW electrical engineer and quantum physicist Andrea Morello has won the American Physical Society‘s Rolf Landauer and Charles H. Bennett Award in Quantum Computing.