Impeccable balance

“The coalition’s announcement of a refocused national science and research advisory council has been welcomed by the university sector,” Universities Australia statement, 3.23pm yesterday.

Labor’s recommitment to lift spending on research and development to 3 per cent of the nation’s economy by the end of the next decade has been welcomed by Australia’s universities, Universities Australia, statement, 3.23pm yesterday.

It’s see you Sydney and hello Hawai’i for Advancer Dolan

Tim Dolan is leaving the University of Sydney after a decade leading advancement. He is returning to the US, to become VP Advancement at the University of Hawai’i.

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence thanks him for “the continued enthusiasm and wisdom he has contributed, both to this program and to the wider university community.” And then there is the money, under Mr Dolan fundraising grew from $30m per annum to $100m a year. His Inspired campaign (as in its name not the quality of the idea), which launched in 2013 has raised $955m. “We are well on our way to achieving our goal of becoming the first university in Australia to raise $1bn,” Dr Spence says.  Mr Dolan will leave in February. (Scroll down to appointments, achievements for what happens next at UniSydney).

 Agreement at Newcastle, a pay rise at Flinders

Enterprise agreement is achieved at the University of Newcastle, with a thundering endorsement of the deal done by management and unions with campus members. Some 94 per cent of the 1110 professional staff voting approved the agreement, with 90 per cent of the 684 academics who turned out voting for it.

Over at Flinders U however, there is a bit still to do before any proposal is put to the people. Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling tells staff that after 17 months of management and National Tertiary Education Union bargaining there are still matters to resolve. But because negotiated pay rises can’t occur in the absence of an agreement the university is providing a 1.7 per cent administrative increase, backdated to July. The last rise under the now expired agreement was in July ’17.

Take note of work at Edith Cowan U

Edith Cowan U has 130 historic pianos, a gift from Sydney collector Stewart Symonds (CMM May 27 2016) and is offering a PhD scholarship to chronicle a research and restoration project for the collection. It will pay $35 000 plus a travel allowance per annum for four years. December 12 is the closing date for pitches (sorry).

Shorten comes over all Aretha and the lobbies love it

The science lobbies loved Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s Wednesday night speech in which he came over all Aretha making the case for government respecting scientists.

The Group of Eight is “encouraged by Labor’s promised commitment to a complete reset of how Australian science and research is treated, valued and capitalised upon.” The Australian Technology Network agrees, “an important step in guiding the long-term direction for science and research in Australia.” The Academy of Science is pleased “to see Bill Shorten commit to a number of the Academy’s recommendations. So is Science and Technology Australia, “STA has been calling for a whole of government plan to support research and development and Mr Shorten appears to have heard our call.”

The reason why is respect. “No funding announcements were made and in fact in the Q&A, none of the scientists asked questions about money. The speech was more about respect, process and priorities. As a former industrial advocate, Shorten seems genuinely shocked at the conditions under which Australia’s science community works,” a Learned Reader in the audience reports.

Shorten’s plan is to go back to Howard in terms of a prime minister’s science, engineering and innovation council with serious ministerial clout. He goes further in proposing a charter whereby a Labor government would publish scientific advice it receives and, if it rejects that advice, publish why. Labor is betting that the science community will back being respected and taken seriously over promises of any new dollars – although those might come too as we get closer to the election.”

The Shorten speech stole attention from the prime minister’s science announcement, of a new smaller and focused peak science policy committee – which absence, the Learned Reader suggests might be good for the government.

The new National Science and Technology Council excludes the ministers who spend serious money on science, health, education, defence and agriculture. “Given the current council has not met for 15 months, the undertaking to increase meeting frequency from twice a year to four times a year looks like it was added for comedic effect,” the LR adds. In contrast, “Labor is betting that the science community will back being respected and taken seriously over promises of any new dollars.”

A rosé is a rosé is a rosé

Charles Sturt U researcher Eddie Oczkowski finds that different names for pretty much the same sort of wine can command a premium. A bottle labelled syrah can sell for 27 per cent more than a shiraz, although the two are “acceptable synonyms”. The same for pinot gris (14 per cent pricier than pinot grigio) and fume blanc, 9 per cent higher than sauvignon blanc. Professor Oczkowski says “there is an expectation amongst winemakers and some consumers that there are stylistic differences between the alternate names. However, there’s evidence in blind tastings to suggest that these differences may not always be apparent.” CMM just buys the pretty labels.

Griffith U’s big idea for comms creative

Griffith U wants to restructure its Office of Marketing Communications. This does not appear not be about cost-cutting, the university says “there are no plans to reduce the overall number of continuing positions.” Rather it is about functional change, because focusing “on traditional media” is no longer reliable in reaching target audiences.

Good-o but what makes the plan courageous is the idea of ending an agency arrangement.  The change prop paper states that now, “communication officers are ‘tethered’ to their assigned academic group and over time, this relationship has morphed into a client-service approach in which the priority for communication officers is to service staff in the academic group which steers the focus away from research outcomes and reputation.

“The client-service model does not adequately prioritise strategic communications or newsworthy storytellingContemporary communication teams need to detect, delve, produce and curate engaging multimedia content.” the change plan states.

Good-o, again. But what happens when the dean of alchemy does not get the media statement they want when they want it? Or a recruitment campaign does not address a struggling faculty’s fears.

Nothing says summer like a VET inquiry

While details are scarce, it seems the government’s VET inquiry has a less wide than vast brief. According to officials it will investigate how government, “can strengthen the VET system to ensures Australians have the skills they need to succeed in a changing labour market.” Apparently, reviewer Steven Joyce will consult widely with interest groups and agencies and accept submissions – although he might be light-on for company. Consultations will run from mid-December to January 25. Ah summer, Christmas, the cricket, the tennis and a VET inquiry.

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

At the University of Sydney Rossie Ogilvie will move from chief of staff to VC Michael Spence to act as VP Advancement, following Tim Dolan’s departure. Kirsten Andrews will move from director of media and government relations to the chief of staff role. Her government team will move with her to the VC’s office. An interim head of media will be appointed and Dr Spence says he will lead an “extensive search” for Mr Dolan’s successor.


And of the week

John Hunt will become head of the University of Sydney’s School of Medical Sciences in January. Professor Hunt is now head of operations at UNSW’s medical science school.

Jenine McCutcheon (University of Queensland) has won ANSTO’s Stephen Wilkinsmodel for research with the Australian Synchrotron. Dr McCutcheon explored using “microbially controlled cementation” as a way to protect Great Barrier Reef islands.

Hamish Graham has won the CSL Florey Next Generation Award. Dr Graham is a paediatrician working to extend in Africa the use of oxygen in treating pneumonia in children. Dr Graham works with the Murdoch Children’s Research InstituteRoyal Children’s Hospital, and the University of Melbourne.

Jennifer Martin is announced as the new DVC R at the University of Wollongong, starting in March. Professor Martin is now at Griffith U where she is director of the university’s Institute for Drug Discovery.

Aileen Morton-Robinson from QUT is president of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education ConsortiumPeter Anderson, also QUT, is VP research.

Griffith U’s Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik and Donald Staines have professorial research fellowships to work on chronic fatigue syndrome. Their work will be supported by $2m from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Fellowship.

Rongyu Li is conformed as DVC external engagement at the University of Queensland. He has acted in the role since March. He joined UoQ as PVC future students in January, moving from the University of Canberra where he was DVC students and partnerships.

Chris Rudd is James Cook U’s new DVC for its Singapore campusProfessor Rudd will join from the University of Nottingham, where he is provost of its Ningbo campus, in China.