From the “you couldn’t make this stuff up” desk

An Australian university has a print subscriptions to journal, The Internet and Higher Education.

A coronet for income contingent loans

There would have been a case for Tony Abbott’s honours system if he had made Bruce Chapman a duke for designing income contingent loans for study

Professor Chapman is still thinking about ICLs, with colleague Dung Doan (ANU) he has edited an issue of the Economics of Education Review, on student loans. It launches at ANU today.  

Chapman and Doan point to problems with student loan schemes across the world, especially in the US where unpaid student debt is close to $US1.6 trillion and 20 per cent of college debtors default on fixed-term loans.

They suggest that ICLs are an answer, but only when customised to national needs.

The journal issue accordingly includes, case studies for Brazil, China, Ireland, Japan and the US, illustrating, “how an ICL could be customised to suit a country’s specific labour market characteristics and idiosyncratic fiscal and administrative circumstances.”

Resources you can bio-bank on

La Trobe and Griffith U, plus partners, announce research resources

La Trobe U, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and chronic fatigue syndrome charity Emerge, “plus many other institutions” have $1m for a biobank to store blood samples and DNA for research into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The cash comes from the Mason Foundation.

According to the NHMRC, “whilst Australian research is starting to make an impact, the lack of significant research funding and clear treatment pathways has led ME/CFS patients and advocacy groups to call for increased funding for research, treatment and support as well as greater awareness and recognition of the condition in Australia.” They were heard.

There’s also a new biobank at Griffith U’s Gold Coast campus, in partnership with the Menzies Research Institute, Queensland. It’s designed to hold biological samples for clinical research and already has 3000 samples from breast cancer patients and 1500 placenta cord specimens.

Massachusetts makes MOOCs of the morning

edX cooks up cuisine and coding from MIT and Harvard U

MIT’s most popular MOOC is running again (via edX) – introduction to computer science and programming, using programme language Python. It’s one million users so far.

Back from the river a bit, Harvard U is offering a MOOC (also edX), on cuisine, not coding. “Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how traditional and modernist cooking techniques can illuminate basic principles in chemistry, physics, and engineering.”

Win for humanities research infrastructure

HASS lobbies feel left-out

The Australian Academy of the Humanities is pleased indeed the Department of Education has decided to “expedite” a feasibility study of investment and infrastructure for HASS research. The government originally planned for the study to start next year but now it will be this. It is one of eight scoping studies for the Research Infrastructure Investment Plan, most of which are very sciencey.

It’s a small win, but a win nonetheless for the humanities, which with the social sciences, often laments being left out of the national research agenda.

In May last year the feds announced around $600m for nine major infrastructure spends over ten years which are STEM, strong – the only social science funding was around $25m for linking data sets for urban infrastructure and transport research (CMM May 16 2018).

This upset the humanities academy, “for a nation to be smart, we need to be smart about how we support our cultural institutions and our HASS researchers to be world leaders. Decisions like this hold back Australian research and impacts our international contribution and standing,” academy president Joy Damousi said (CMM May 17 ‘18).

The social scientists aren’t happy either.  In May, the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia responded critically to a review that found the nine official national research priorities* are well-served by the allocation of public funding. It’s not the priorities themselves but the way STEM research is favoured that annoyed ASSA. “The objectives behind the priorities and challenges would often be as well or indeed better addressed by integrating social science research, (CMM May 29).

* food, soil and water, transport, cyber security, energy, resources, manufacturing, environmental change and health.

NSW science Tall Poppies

The Australian Institute of Policy and Science announces its NSW tall poppies, “recognising outstanding early career researchers in Australia who share science with everyone”

Sally Gainsbury (Uni Sydney) is the TP scientist of the year in NSW, for her research on responsible gambling. Others include;

Majid Ebrahimi Warkiani (UTS) – non-invasive cancer diagnostics

Qilin Wang (UTS) – sustainable wastewater management

Chris Reid (Macquarie U) – complex biological systems

Ronika Power (Macquarie U) – ancient human mortality

Noushin Nasiri (Macquarie U) – breath tests for disease detection

Angelica Merlot (UNSW) – cancer drugs

Natalie Matosin (Uni Wollongong) – medications to improve quality of life for people with mental illness

Rebecca Guy (UNSW) – public health interventions related to HIV/STIs

Simon Clulow (Macquarie U) – conservation biology

Emma Camp (UTS) – coral reef cover

Appointments, achievements

Phil Bland (planetary science – Curtin U) and Robert Newton (medical and health sciences – Edith Cowan U) are WA’s scientists of the year. Adam Cross from (mine site restoration – Curtin U) is early career scientist.

The 2019 Victorian Premier’s awards for health and medical research are announced * Excellence and basic science awards: Kate McArthur, Uni Melbourne and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. * Clinical researcher: Mary Ann Anderson, Uni Melbourne and WEHI. * Public health researcher: Vincent Cornelisse, Monash University, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and The Alfred Hospital. * Health services: Kylie Dyson, Monash U. Aboriginal researcher: Mishel McMahon, La Trobe U.

James Wallman joins UTS as head of the School of Life Sciences. He moves from the University of Wollongong.

Tim Roach joins Edith Cowan U to lead professional development in the School of Business and Law. Mr Roach joins from the Australian Tax Office.

Gene Bawden becomes head of design in Monash U’s faculty of Art, Design and Architecture. He is now deputy head.