Praise in parliament

Even people unhappy with Education Minister Dan Tehan’s push for coalition MPs to announce research funding should like this  

In the House of Reps yesterday Celia Hammond (Liberal – Curtin) had an immensely valuable slot in members’ statements. MPs generally use it to praise local heroes in their seats.  Which Ms Hammond did, celebrating Discovery Early Career Research Award winners at UWA.  (Yes, that Celia Hammond, the former VC of Uni Notre Dame Australia).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning Kylie Colvin on why strategic investment is the way to work the big three rankings.

Lambert Schuwirth (Flinders U) on the five disruptors unis have a decade to deal with.

ANU de-platforms and then re-platforms Hong Kong speakers

Hong Kong union leader Lee Cheuk-yan and two colleagues were set to speak at ANU yesterday.  Then the university cancelled the booking and then it didn’t

The National Tertiary Education Union was sponsoring the event, billed as a discussion “of the current situation in Hong Kong, including the role trade unions play in issues of human rights and social justice.”

All was well yesterday morning when university staff confirmed the booking but it was cancelled by the ANU venue team at 3pm, which reported that Strategic Communications and Public Affairs advised the event was “not approved.”

It sounded like the sort of situation to be covered by Education Minister Dan Tehan’s national free speech on campus code.  But it wasn’t;

ANU advises CMM that last month four academics from Hong Kong spoke on the political situation there at and that yesterday’s event was also approved. “When the full details of the event were provided to the university, and after a thorough risk assessment, it was deemed necessary to provide security. This is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all staff, students and visitors attending the event. ANU has now provided security for the event at no cost to the organisers and it is going ahead.”

At 10 pm last night ANU Media expanded on its position, (via Twitter), “to be perfectly clear, there was no issue with today’s event, including the speakers and subject matter, from the university’s perspective. … rather it was an issue of security and ensuring appropriate notice was given to ensure security.”

Not that ANU had any choice, given chancellor, Gareth Evans remarks last year about free speech on campus; “lines have to be drawn, and administrators’ spines stiffened, against manifestly unconscionable demands for protection against ideas and arguments claimed to be offensive,” (CMM October 4 2018).

There were conflicting reports last night on whether the speakers spoke when and where as originally advertised by the union.

School leavers going nowhere

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research shares depressing stats 

The NCVER reports Gen Z post-school outcomes from 2018 in new data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Youth.

The not-great news for the training sector is that university still is the destination of choice. Of the 59 per cent of Zers who said they planned to go to university after finishing school 69 per cent did. Of the 11 per cent who thought they would go on to some form of training only 51 per cent did.

But the bad news for everybody is the numbers of young people who are not engaging with education and training at all.  Exaggeration, you think. Cop these shockers CMM says.

* some 16 per cent of 18-year-olds did not compete Y12 (admittedly down from 24 per cent in 2009)

*  of early leavers, 20 per cent had a job or training lined up, another 16 per cent left to look for them, but 24 per cent gave school away because they did not like it or thought they weren’t doing well

*   of people who planned to go to uni after school 16 per cent are working, with no study/training and 6 per cent aren’t in education, employment or training at all

* among people who planned to work 14 per cent aren’t training, in jobs or education

* of those who planned to go into training after school 8 per cent are busy doing nothing

Not good – there are a lot of young people who are setting themselves up for a life of unskilled, under or outright unemployment.

Call for more oversight in medical research

It’s not just more money it’s who decides where it goes

Labor’s Chris Bowen wants changes to Medical Research Future Fund allocations, in particular to the policy of targeted calls for applications for research in priority areas.  He suggests once MRFF priorities are set the National Health and Medical Research Council could “identify the most efficacious bids for research,” (CMM November 29).

It’s an idea as old as the MRFF and it still has supporters. Following Mr Bowen’s suggestion, the Australian Society for Medical Research  warned “years of static investment” is having “devastating impacts” on the full-time NHMRC-supported research workforce, down 20 per cent between 2012 and 2017.

The association added that NHMRC funded projects are “subject to rigorous peer review and return over $3 in health and economic benefits for every $1.00 invested.” However, MRFF research, “in the later stages of the discovery-to-translation pipeline … are not necessarily subject to expert review.”

ASMR calls for an immediate increase of $400m for the NHMRC research fund and for the government to “ensure transparency and an overarching principle of peer-review for MRFF disbursements.”

What works at the chalk-face: depends who you ask

A parly committee did not report because of the election but the word on what it heard is still upsetting experts

Where this comes from: While everybody waited for the widely-expected election of the Shorten Government then (and now) education minister Dan Tehan gave the House of Reps education committee something to do – inquire into the community standing of classroom teachers.

Which the committee duly did, only to be beaten by the issuing of writs for the election. Their report circulated, just not formally (CMM April 8). But now the committee of the new parliament has published a guide to its predecessor’s work, suggesting the government consider issues raised in hearings.

What’s involved: For teacher education this included; * ATARs as a guide to teachers’ ability * reducing masters to one year with a second on-salary year placement * including education research methods in UG degrees * the need or otherwise for maths and English to be pre-reqs for teacher training.

Teacher ed experts aren’t impressed:  The Media Centre for Education Research Australia quotes experts who do not rate the report at all.

Michelle Simmons (Western Sydney U): “This report falls short in its understanding of the complexity of attracting, retaining and developing a quality teaching workforce. Australia should take care not to focus on ‘fixing’ parts of the profession in the hope that this will then permeate the whole. The students in our schools deserve better.”

Anna Sullivan (Uni SA): “Research clearly shows that there are complex reasons for the changes in the status of the teaching profession. Yet research also indicates that poorly conceived ‘solutions’ to this perception are likely to lead to unintended negative consequences. We don’t need this.”

Barry Down (Murdoch U): The report missed a golden opportunity to develop a coherent understanding of the changing nature of teachers’ work and the kinds of policy settings, resources, actions and accountability required to enhance the status of the profession”.

Where to file new research

The ANZ research agencies’ review (CMM March 25 and June 12) of fields of research codes proposes a bunch of changes, to update for the state of scholarship and create space for new disciplines

The big one is new codes for Indigenous research “as a unique knowledge domain,” classifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Māori and Pacific Peoples researchFollowing submissions, the agencies now present two practical options;

* move subordinate six-digit fields of research codes to four-digit discipline codes, with addition discipline descriptors at both levels

*  create a new two-digit research division. Research agencies say this would provide, “increasing visibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Māori and Pacific Peoples’ research for government reporting activities as well as recognising Indigenous research as using a unique methodology and knowledge system.”

A new division would include four-digit codes comparable with other research classifications and “much wide range” of six-digit fields.

There are also a bunch of discipline-update proposals: The review has changes in all research divisions, with significant numbers of new fields and relocations of existing ones in environmental sciences, biological sciences, ICT, technology, health sciences, human society and law.

A push by members of the education analysis community (CMM May 28) looks like it may be successful, with the review proposing a new code, 13043, for data analytics.

Appointments, achievements

Flinders U promotes Sarah Harmer-Bassell, to become its first woman professor of physics

Melitta Hogarth (QUT) and Sally Patfield (Uni Newcastle) are joint winners of the Australian Association for Research in Education’s Ray Debus award for doctoral research.