Curtin U wants to be the one

At least it wants to be the one WA uni Chinese students choose

Meng Fei, start of Chinese dating show “If you are the one” (it’s on SBS) is in Perth, which gives Curtin U the opportunity to announce three $10 000 Meng Fei Innovative Future Leadership Scholarships.

This has to be a plus for Curtin U attracting students from China, who are fewer than they used to be. In 2017, there were 1880 students from China enrolled at Curtin U Australian campuses, down from 2800 in 2013. The university says that while it has no previous relationship with Mr Meng Fei, “we are investigating innovative ways his expertise can be shared with Curtin in the future. Curtin’s involvement in Meng Fei’s visit is an indicator of our deepening understanding of modern Chinese culture, and our strong desire to engage with the young people in China, many of whom are our current, past and future students.” And no, the university is not paying him a fee.

Thankfully, there is no China version of “Married at first sight.”

Big defence meets peak research

The defence research establishment convenes in Adelaide today

In Adelaide today the Group of Eight today hosts a closed meeting of 130 defence researchers and industry leaders, plus planners and policy thinkers. Ethicists and engineers, minister and mandarins and all sorts of scientists will discuss how the national defence is served by their communities and how they can serve it better.

The Go8 also launches its capability statement of defence research projects and partnerships at the event.

U Tas staff say they want to stay at Sandy Bay

The University of Tasmania wants to make Hobart CBD home

UTas has been expanding in town for years but now it has decided to build a $600m city campus instead of rebuilding on part of the existing Sandy Bay site. “The university will act as the steward for the existing Sandy Bay campus land into the future, knowing that it has an important part to play in the life and future of our city,” U Tas states.

This has not gone down well with some Sandy Bay staff. According to a National Tertiary Education Union survey 80 per cent like the existing arrangements.

Reasons why they do not want to move into town include;  “a series of office blocks does not make a campus,”  staff and students in silos, the loss of the existing campus identity and – who would have thought – parking and traffic.

Quiet on campus free speech code

Unis Australia liked what Mr French found but what he recommended, not so much

Robert French review of campus free speech was met with sepulchral silence yesterday. It was left to Universities Australia to say not much about Mr French’s deeply researched and closely argued proposal for universities to adopt his proposed voluntary code.

UA noted, that Mr French, “found claims of a free speech crisis are ‘not substantiated’” with other groups staying silent.

UA CEO Catriona Jackson went on to politely thank the former chief justice of Australia, “for his comprehensive and detailed approach” adding;

““Universities will give careful consideration to the recommendations in the 300-page report. However, we remain concerned that sector-wide legislative or regulatory requirements would be aimed at solving a problem that has not been demonstrated to exist and any changes could conflict with fundamental principles of university autonomy,” she said.

Given that Mr French proposed a voluntary free speech on campus code for universities perhaps Ms Jackson anticipates somebody else advocating it should be compulsory.

When you don’t need what the doctor ordered

There is no such thing as too much health spending in Australian politics, which can’t be  good for consideration of new Bond U research on over-diagnosis in healthcare.

Bond U assistant professor Ray Moynihan and colleagues argue in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine that expanded definitions of disease lead to unnecessary treatment.  The creation of pre-diseases, for example pre-diabetes, classifies “healthy people who are at risk of being at-risk”.  The authors suggest disease specialists doing the defining is part of the problem, as is the role of drug companies.

As Ramsay degree content is considered Uni Queensland staff say no

The University of Queensland humanities and social sciences board of studies meets today to discuss a Ramsay western civ degree, 250 of their colleagues say they should reject it

HASS staff and colleagues in the law school (which would also teach a proposed Ramsay course) repeat previous points against the conservative funded sponsoring UoQ courses. In particular, they argue;

* for all the assurances of academic freedom, there is an inevitable “implied threat” that funding will cease “if the political and ideological aims” of the Ramsay Board are not met

* “the programme is implicitly hostile to contemporary currents in the humanities and social sciences which aim to decolonise the university”

* the “great books” approach, “detached from any grounding in contemporary humanities scholarship is not an appropriate fit for a modern research university”

Last week a (very) learned reader reviewed a draft of the proposed University of Queensland Ramsay courses, and the University of Wollongong degree here.

What to do when research results don’t replicate

Uni Melbourne staff have US$6m to work out how and why researchers decide

Duke University is  paying the US government $112m to settle claims a researcher used dodgy data in funding applications. On which CSIRO Chief Scientist Cathy Foley comments, “All the Australian science sector must avoid creating a science culture that leads to loss of integrity as our foundation – Duke University’s huge misconduct fine is a reminder to reward rigour,” (via Twitter). Can’t argue with that but even with honour among researchers there is the perpetual problem of research with results which don’t replicate.

It makes a case for open access to research data, and failing that running reality checks. Easy to say expensive to do. So, the US Defence Department is funding work on “automated tools” to assign confidence intervals on social and behavioural research results and claims that interest the military.

The University of Melbourne is participating in the project, with US$6.5m to crowdsource “thousands” of social scientists to evaluate research claims using “a structured group deliberation approach.” Associate Professor Fiona Fidler says the project is about understanding how researchers reach conclusions and deal with uncertainty in processes.

Expert agreement on contract cheating law

Agreement on stopping contract cheating

Tracey Bretag helped write the  book on contract cheating so her support for the government’s bill (CMM yesterday) to prosecute providers really matters.

“Woohoo! The Australian Government has drafted legislation ‘to make it an offence to provide or advertise academic cheating services’ with criminal penalties (fine & custodial sentence). Thank you TEQSA, HE Standards Panel, researchers & media. Four years of activism paid off, she tweeted yesterday.

The lobbies also agreed. Universities Australia “welcomed” the bill. As did the Group of Eight, which was quick off the blocks Sunday, with CEO Vicki Thomson saying, “a strong legislative solution is warranted – and one that sends a strong message to those seeking to profit from students in this way.”

And in a statement rarely seen, the National Union of Students, “supports government action.” NUS adds that while contract cheating providers should be targeted students shouldn’t. The government agrees, the proposed legislation is not directed at students.

Stawell gift to understanding the universe

Dan Tehan has found high-science research he likes – with the budget allocating $5m to searching for dark matter

It’s part of a “global effort to answer some of the biggest questions about the universe,” the education minister announces. So how, pray does building a physics lab in an old gold mine under the Victorian country town of Stawell meet Mr Tehan’s national interest test, which require research to provide, “economic, commercial, environmental, social or cultural benefits to the Australian economy.”

Beyond ticking the economic benefit box for Stawell, suffering since the gold mine stopped being a goldmine, it probably doesn’t. But it does deliver on something bigger – humanity likes to know stuff and stuff does not get much stuffer than dark matter – which apparently, the universe is full of, but nobody knows what it is.

Yes, Stawell is in Mr Tehan’s electorate of Wannon, but it wasn’t when when the project received federal funding, in the 2015 budget.

(Lisa Clausen wrote a great story on Stawell’s new gold mine for SBS, here.)

The ethics of learning analytics: how not to be like Facebook

Facebook the use of learning analytics data isn’t – yet. But experts are onto the emerging issues 

 discussion paper for the University of Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education explores the existing environment and emerging issues in the ethical management of study data. Linda Corrin (Swinburne U) and eight colleagues consider, “the ethics of how and why data is collected and used.”

“While the ethical use of student data for research purposes is well covered in established institutional research ethics guidelines, protocols and processes, the ethical implications of the use of data and analytics in the day-to-day practices of educational institutions are less clear,” they write.

They outline areas where data analytics are used, set out the ethical issues engaged, demonstrate how institutions address them and present issues to address now, including:

* “clear principles and guidelines” on data use in learning and teaching

* “community-based” conversations, including, staff and students on the ethics of data analysis

* share existing principles and projects so institutions do not start from scratch

* pick up the pace; “The Cambridge Analytica scandal (among others), the regular news reports of data breaches … are yet more reminders that, aside from everything else, the ethical use of students’ and other data is a legal issue for universities. There is a need for action in order to prevent this area becoming a significant legal risk for institutions.”

Overall the proposals focus on taking the arcane out of teaching and learning analytics, “advanced educational technologies that employ complex learning analytics and AI should not regarded as ‘black box’ tools to be trusted but should be transparent and able to be challenged.”

All good, but surely manufacturers marketers and commercial users of data need to accept the same principles as colleges and universities.