What’s in a name

For research funding, we are about to find out

Isabelle Kingsley (office of the Women in STEM ambassador) announces a trial of anonymised research funding proposals to look for gender-bias. “We have quite a few Australian research organisations on board, she says.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features, Shelley Kinash (Uni Southern Queensland) on why we need less lecturing-at-students. It is a new essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in learning and teaching.

Plus, Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on why good research departments benefit by teaching more.

And Sean Brawley explains how Macquarie U transformed its curriculum.

Group of Eight in elite coalition call for data open access

The Group of Eight joins other research university networks* to adopt the Sorbonne Declaration on Research Data Rights

“The conclusions of leading universities’ major research projects are typically published in prestigious and often open access journals, and usually developed using global teams comprised of some of the best researchers in their fields, the data underpinning such research is not often so readily available. The research results are set out, but not always the data specifics of how those results were arrived at; the proof,” the Eight state.

The Sorbonne Declaration calls on “the global scholarly and research community to join signatories in; “building interoperable instruments and appropriate data repositories to share research data as much as possible.”

And it requests funding agencies consider the management of research data as a fully eligible activity for funding.

The declaration also calls on governments to develop laws/policies to, “avoid a ‘lock-in effect’ from commercial platforms and data services to ensure the openness and the reusabilty for research data.”

* including the Association of American Universities, the Russell Group (UK), the U15 groups of both Canada and Germany and Japan’s RU11.

U Tas presents the MOOC of many mornings

“Understanding MS” is rated number in the world for user-reviews by MOOC aggregator Class Central  

It’s a JV by the Menzies Institute of Health Research at the University of Tasmania, MS Limited and the Wicking Dementia Education and Research Centre, also at the university. Wicking’s “Understanding Dementia” is one of Class Central’s world top-100.

Class Central reports the MS award is based on a “Bayesian average of the thousands of reviews” of courses starting in 2019.

Tech uni learning for the real world

“Authentic assessment, requires students to demonstrate what they have learned by completing a task they would face in the professional workplace” – it makes sense to the Australian Technology Network

ATN members (Curtin U, RMIT, Uni SA and UTS) have issued a joint statement committing to authentic assessment as a “core to enabling students to become the work-ready graduates Australia needs.”  Network members will;

* use authentic learning across all of a degree programme

* engage students in creating assessment tasks that are, “plausible, meaningful and relevant

* provide students with actionable feedback

* embed academic integrity in authentic assessment

* develop all-of-institution authentic assessment policies, practises and culture


Monash U’s coronavirus advice: calm, comprehensive, considered

The Commonwealth Department of Health has issued guidelines for universities and VET. Monash U has a much more comprehensive response

Students and staff who are, “a close contact of a confirmed case” of the coronavirus and have symptoms, “cannot attend the university or vocational education facility until Public Health informs them that it is safe for them to do so.” However, if they have no symptoms, “they should not be excluded from attending university or a vocational education facility the Department advises.

Students and staff who have been in China but have no symptoms, “may attend the university or vocational education facility and should not be excluded.”

It’s a pre-emptive help for the higher education sector, where no institution is panicking, at least not yet.

But it palls compared to a brief to staff by Monash U‘s Chief Medical Officer Vicki Ashton.  Late yesterday Dr Ashton, calmly and comprehensively set out  the risks as now known and the university’s travel precautions in place.

Dr Ashton advises classes are on but February supplementary exams aren’t, with alternatives to be advised. And anybody feeling crook should self-exclude from class without penalty.

It was a model other institutions could consider – calm, considered, comprehensive.

Super-duper computer

Wondering what to do with the super computer you built over the summer but is cluttering up the shed?

CSIRO can help. It has a tender out for a “aSuper-duper computer,” as the core component of the technology refresh for the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth. Tenders close on February 25th.

Reality of gig economy for graduates

Life-long learning may be essential just to have a job, any job

The short-term, contract employment gig economy can mean under-employment and precarious work for highly educated young people, warn Jenny Chesters and Johanna Wyn (Melbourne Graduate School of Education). And the “meaningful” work young people work can come at a price – it’s often in short-term jobs.

Blame the gig economy: “The expansion of higher education during the past few decades has encouraged larger proportions of the population to invest in their futures at the same time that employers have embraced the gig economy. Consequently, fewer full-time permanent jobs are available for the increasing numbers of highly qualified job seekers,” they write in a paper for the Journal of Sociology,

What’s happened: Their qualitative and quantitative analysis of the work-experience of Australians eleven years out from school finds;

* high levels of education provide little protection against insecure work

* occupation was not associated with employment status, suggesting that non-permanent employment occurs across the occupational spectrum

* there is “no association” between education level and a permanent employment with high job satisfaction

* after controlling for level of education, women are less likely than men to have, “secure, meaningful work.”

Bad for educated young people: “For many young adults, attaining their first qualification did not pay off in terms of their expected employment outcomes and their disillusionment with the promises attached to higher levels of education is clear. … Even those with high-level degrees traditionally associated with highly prestigious careers felt betrayed.”

More quals may not work: Chesters and Wyn suggest people studying more in the hope of the job they want can be “chasing rainbows.” Nor do policies focused on job-related courses help. “Exhorting students and tertiary educational institutions to ensure that educational qualifications and skills are attuned more to the ‘future of work’ is also chasing rainbows – the gig economy has eclipsed the idea that there is a linear relationship between education and work.”

So, it’s life-long learning to stay employed: “Rather than chasing rainbows, new labour market entrants may accept that the constant upgrading of educational qualifications is necessary to maintain employment in any form and in any field,” they write

VET not ready for digital disruption

“Last year’s Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency conference reaffirmed for me that higher education is much further advanced than VET, in understanding the opportunities and risks from digital disruption”


 In her conference address, Jane Den Hollander summed up the challenge for tertiary education institutions with this quote from Christine Lagarde “All countries need to reinvent their education systems for the digital age. This is not just about adding a few coding lessons.”

Those words crystallised for me the challenge the VET sector faces. The upshot is that on 19 March 2020 I will be hosting a one-day conference in Sydney, Reinventing VET for the digital age. 

 While there are some government initiatives in place which aim to tackle parts of the challenge facing the VET sector (e.g. the Digital Skills Industry Reference Committee) I remain concerned that with the extent of digital disruption emerging across the world, we need to be having a broader conversation.

The conference program involves a series of fireside chats with:

* leaders of TAFE Institutes and private providers who are engaged with digital transformation

* international experts addressing the overseas experience and emerging trends

* senior representatives from ASQA and Skills Service Organisations discussing change in the sector as a result of digital transformation, and

* representatives from global organisations providing digital services to the education sector.

If you’d like an invitation to attend please email [email protected]

End to U Cal-Elsevier no speaks

Journal giant Elsevier and Uni California dug in no-deal heels over open access to research journals last year – but now they are talking about talking

Last year the two ended negotiations on a new journal contract – with open access to U Cal research the deal-breaker, (CMM March 4).

But since then Elsevier has struck OA deals in Europe and in the US.  And now it seems it is willing to start talking to U Cal, with its Office of Scholarly Communications stating, “the parties are planning to hold a meeting to explore reopening negotiations.”

U Cal also reports OA progress with other organisations, including publishers Wiley and Springer Nature, and two scholarly associations who publish journals. “Conversations with other publishers are also in the pipeline,” U Cal add, presumably to assist Elsevier think through its OA issues.

Appointments, achievements

The Australian Academy of Science announces its inaugural STEM women change-makers;

* Emma Camp (UTS). * Ruwangi Fernando (STEM Sisters). * Momeneh Foroutan (Monash U). * Muireann Irish (Uni Sydney). * Tishiko King (Indigenous Women in Mining and Resources Australia). * Marit Kragt (UWA). * Jerusha Mather (Victoria U). Mary McMillan (UNE). * Kirsty Nash (aKIDemic Life). * Jessie Panazzolo (Lonely Conservationists). * Catherine Royans (Uni Adelaide). * Tanya Smith (Griffith U).

CMM missed the early January appointment of Steffen Faurby as MD of NSW TAFE. Mr Faurby moves from running NSW’s State Transit Authority.

Jayanthi Jayakaran becomes dean of people and resources for Flinders U’s College of Medicine and Public Health. She moves from ED medical services for the Barossa Hills-Fleurieu Local Health Network.

University of Notre Dame Australia announces that as of next month John Lippitt will be the new director of the Institute of Ethics and Society, at the Sydney campus. His wife Sylvie Magerstäd will also take up a position there, in the School of Arts and Sciences. They both move from the University of Hertfordshire.

Alta Schutte joins UNSW as principal for a new research area – cardiac, vascular and metabolic medicine. She joins from North-West University in South Africa.