Plus ACU cuts or cancels research time for half applying staff

More allegations at Murdoch

The continuing crisis at Murdoch University deepened last night with news that more staff face allegations. The news follows  the resignation of former vice chancellor Richard Higgott, who resigned after the state Corruption and Crime Commission launched an investigation after the university provoded it with information . Yesterday Tim Dodd announced in the Fin that Murdoch is investigating Provost Ann Capling, “as requested by the CMC” (about what the university will not say). And last night the university advised that “it has considered matters concerning a limited number of senior staff, including Professor Capling.” Yes there are more people with questions to answer. But who are the staff  “who have been advised of the allegations particular to them”? I understand that none are deans – which rules out a group of Professor Capling‘s strongest supporters.  Whoever they are, the matter is serious enough for the university to advise that the CCC has told the university it will “undertake a collaborative investigation with Murdoch into certain matters, including allegations of misconduct.”

Run out of research

Australian Catholic U management moved fast yesterday to calm down the uproar over new research allocations. Provost Pauline Nugent and DVC Research Wayne McKenna wrote to staff, again explaining how research time was decided and reassuring the aggrieved that allocations are made annually, not for life. “Based on research performance, the number of transitions to research-only pathways may increase,” they told staff. Of those who applied for research time, some 25 per cent will have the same hours next year as this and 15 per cent more. But 40 per cent of staff will receive less and 15 per cent will not be able to research in working hours at all. No wonder there is an uproar – that’s over half of teaching and research staff who are losing some, or all, of their research time. No one at ACU argues that many staff are not active researchers but what burns some is the size of the cut in research time they have copped plus the sense that management sees them as second-class staff. The university has bet the farm on Professor McKenna’s research institute strategy and he has bought-in talent to staff them. The unsurprising result is other staff feel they are seen as second-rate and worry the university wants a caste system where the elite research and the others teach. “Research Intensification recognises and supports quality research that is competitive on an international level. Anticipated outcomes from this process include better performance in priority research areas, improved reputation, ERA results and overall research rankings,” Nugent and McKenna wrote yesterday.


Speed thrills

The New York Times reports that a team led ANU Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt will share a $3m physics prize funded by Russian businessman Yuri Milner. The researchers found the universe is expanding faster, rather than slowing, as (apparently) is widely assumed.

 CRCs stuffed?

Submissions to the Cooperative Research Centre programme review are due on Wednesday but supporters of the programme are not especially optimistic about much help more rave responses will be. Reviewer David Miles is said to be running an entirely independent process but the terms of reference indicate that powerful people wants a smaller (at best) programme. The announcement of the industry growth centre plan (CMM October 15) before the CRC review is complete certainly suggests the government wants a new approach to research-industry interaction.

Jury is in

University of Tasmania legal academic Kate Warner is the state’s new governor. Professor Warner has a long research record, winning ARC Discovery and Linkage grants last year on public opinion and sentencing. Just as she was the first woman dean of law at UniTas she is the first female governor – an appointment that generated a bunch of pleased comment in Hobart yesterday.

It’s not what you tweet it’s the way that you tweet it

ANU will host a seminar on social media for academics on November 28, which will ask “do you have to tweet and blog to be relevant?” There is evidence that standard metrics “are amplified” by social media use, the organisers say, which is good. But “academics have been suspended or even dismissed because of their activities on social media, and many are concerned about the blurring of private and professional lives that may eventuate when using these forums.” The first is a suitable subject for study but the second not so much. Yes people get into strife when they use university channels to say putrid things, or purport to speak for their university. That’s is easily addressed – say what you like, just not via a university account. But otherwise surely academics, writing as academics, can use social media to explain and announce their research. The organisers of this event are. The booking form includes “connect to see which of your Facebook friends are going to ‘the risks and rewards of academic social media engagement’.”

For researchers interested in tracking coverage of their work Monash researcher Lisa Lavey has led the development of a new template to cover conference papers and media exposure as well as journal articles and, the magic Minister Macfarlane word, “impact.”


Insecure young

Yesterday’s report from the Foundation for Young Australians was bad news for Education Minister Chris Pyne, even though he did not cop a canning. While it pointed to increased course costs after deregulation it still emphasised the lifetime value of doing a degree. And there was direct criticism for providers rather than the minister, “more than one fifth of people between 20        and 34 are not using their education in the jobs they have suggesting that the education system is ill preparing them for the workforce.” The problem is that from housing to taxation FYA suggested young people will have a tougher time than their parents – and it is this sense of disquiet that is feeding in to the community concern at what deregulated degrees could cost, rather than the Pyne plan itself. And there is not much the minister can do about it other than keep on selling deregulation as a major national change.

ACPET stands up for deregulation

As expected (CMM yesterday) Australian Council for Private Education and Training chief Rod Camm came out swinging yesterday, warning that the public sector VET lobby is trying to derail deregulation. “Some supporters of the public provider network sight the growth of the private sector as evidence of unscrupulous activity. The fact is in all contestable markets across Australia, students are overwhelmingly selecting private providers over TAFE. I refute that, with the exception of the problems we are encountering at the margins of the industry, this is for any reason but that the student is making an informed choice in their own best interest.”

And he made the case for private providers having access to Commonwealth supported places, “Real reform will come from competition and only this market pressure will ensure quality courses are made available, while keeping downward pressure on prices and student debt.” Chris Pyne could not have put it better.