Waiting for Godot at Parkville

Unionists at the University of Melbourne complain that after a year of enterprise bargaining, “we are hardly any closer to an agreement than when we started.” But no, they are not waiting for VC Glyn ‘Godot” Davis to arrive. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has convened a members’ meeting today to discuss what progress they will need to see and by when to stop them starting the processes that lead to industrial action. Unless of course they decide to wait until the new godot, next VC Duncan Maskell arrives in October

UTS appoints advancement chief

UTS has appointed its first VP for Advancement. Celia Hurley, now chief advancement officer at Curtin U, will start at UTS in April. The new role is created from a restructure of other portfolios.

UniWollongong plays to win in Sydney’s west

The University of Wollongong continues expanding into what was once Western Sydney U’s heartland. And it has enlisted some-time WSU poster-person Deng Adut.

UoW’s law school opens today at its fast-expanding Liverpool campus, way inland from the university’s scenic home on the Illawarra coast and in southwest Sydney, where WSU was long the only HE provider. But WSU does not teach law at Liverpool, only at Campbelltown 24km further out and at Parramatta 17km away to the north, (neither of which seems far, until you drive it in traffic).

Former High Court judge Michael Kirby and Mr Adut will do the launching honours today. Mr Adut has a law masters from UoW but took his first law degree at WSU, featuring in its student recruitment  marketing.UoW is playing to win in the west.

Good sports at Deakin U

Deakin U masters of sports administration students have won second place in the invitation-only (US) National Sports Forum’s Case Cup (it’s a standard business plan competition for sports business people). It is a smaller trophy to send straight to the pool room to stand next to Deakin’s world number one for sports science in the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2016 and 2017.   The Deakinites are: international student Arbaaz Akbar, distance student (in Germany) Lisa Crampton, who consults to BMW Motorsport, Canadian national AFL player James Duggan and Tom Humphries who is participation manager for Netball Australia.

Chief Scientist’s four rules (plus one) for convincing MPs

Alan Finkel has sure-fire suggestions so scientists are heard in Canberra. The Chief Scientist spelt put four of them when he launched the Science Meets Parliament lobbying event yesterday.

First: The rules of science apply when talking to politicians. “Every scientist needs to uphold the collective credibility of science by absolute integrity in all our dealings with the media, the community and politicians. Integrity means don’t exaggerate. Integrity means share the bad as well as the good. Integrity means don’t trivialise.”

Second: Accept and learn the conventions and culture of politics. “There are practices: protocols, conventions, expectations and rules. And there are patterns. The political seasons in Canberra are as rhythmic as summer to autumn, winter to spring. Autumn leaves: it’s Budget. Spring blossoms: parliament returns. If you know the patterns, you can till the ground, plant the seed and grow the flowers.”

Third: “Communication is key.” “Communication is not independent of the audience. Otherwise, it’s not communication, it’s just content. Thinking of your audience doesn’t mean changing the content to suit the other person’s worldview. It means explaining where the content fits, in the context of the goals you share. Start not with ‘I want’ but with ‘we can help each other to achieve’. Ignore anyone who tells you that politicians or people in general are incapable of absorbing complex ideas. Not true: they can and they do.”

Fourth: Keep infrastructure on the agenda. “The way to get things done is to identify the priorities and plan the investments.”

It was standard Chief Scientist stuff; engaging and erudite, informed and entertaining – a pleasure to hear with benefits from listening closely – which is what hearing the fifth suggestion required. Dr Finkel did not say “don’t waste a minister’s time by whingeing.” But CMM suspects that is what he meant.  “People tell me that 2017 was a terrible year: the worst year on record” before rattling off six research achievements. “Every one of the above is a result of decades of scientific research. Funded by government, undertaken by scientists. Science met Parliament, and the offspring was progress. And its sibling is potential.”

They said it

“The Social Sciences and Humanities Library is running tours all this week, no need to book.” UoQ yesterday, there must still be a few on the shelves.

NTEU loses bid to enlist medical researchers

The National Tertiary Education Union has lost a bid to cover staff in medical research institutes in a decision by a full bench of the Fair Work Commission. The union was opposed by the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes and the Association for Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia which sought to have MRI staff covered by the Professionals rather than the Higher Education Academic Staff award.

Overall Vice President Catanzariti, Deputy President Kovavic and Commissioner Johns concluded both sides overstated their arguments but on balance they were convinced by the medical scientists.

“Having considered the industrial character of the work performed (by MRI staff) we accept that it is similar to that performed in universities and that there is turnover of employees between the two sectors. We also accept that some medical research institutes are co-located within universities (although a greater number are co-located within hospitals).”

However, while recognising the similarities, we reject the NTEU submission that the work of medical research institutes is essentially the same as that of universities. … The differences outweigh the similarities.” The commissioners decided to vary the professional employees award to suit the circumstances of MRI employees.

Last night NTEU Assistant National Secretary Matthew McGowan called the announcement, “a poor one for many of those people involved. The conditions in the Professional Employees Award are substantial weaker than the Higher Education Award … it will be to the detriment of many hard-working staff who deserved better.”
“We are now looking at how we can extend collective bargaining protections to researchers and others who rely upon the awards for their underlying conditions of employment,” Mr McGowan said.

More achieving institutes

A learned reader points out that CMM did not run all the think tank rankings in the new league tables. Correct, there are quite a few, but one the LR suggests merits attention is university affiliated regional studies centres; the Griffith Asia Institute (18th in the world), the UTS Australia China Institute (23rd), ANU’s China Studies Institute (24th),

Losing learning research

Where are the education academics CMM asked yesterday, reporting a Grattan Institute proposal for a new schools’ research federal agency. Well, some of the work Grattan proposes was being done by the ARC  Science of Learning Research Centre, a learned reader reports.  “Education faculties are starved of research funding and buried under the enormous and growing burden of accrediting teacher education programs. We had the foundation for such an agency with the SLRC but funding is about to end, just as we are starting to get traction,” the LR laments.

Still no mention of shipbuilding college

It was business as usual for Christopher Pyne yesterday with the Defence Industry Minister spruiking spending and announcing investments. In particular, he talked-up the renewal of a STEM pathway programme in WA and SA for school students interested in defence industry careers. It will “help support the development of a skilled workforce for the delivery of the continuous naval shipbuilding program,” Mr Pyne said. Good-o, but on the subject of skills the minister is still silent on the naval building college, which was supposed to start this year.

Plus ca change

“The White House has requested that Congress appropriate approximately $42 million to NEH for the orderly closure of the agency,” National Endowment for the Humanities on President Trump’s 2018 proposed budget, May 23 2017. “The White House has requested that Congress appropriate approximately $42 million to the National Endowment for the Humanities for the orderly closure of the agency.”  NEH on the president’s 2019 budget, Monday.

It’s not the job that will kill you

“For a large group of workers in the US, retirement may have an immediate, negative relationship on an important health income,” Maria Fitzpatrick (Cornell U) and Timothy Moore (UniMelb) conclude in a new Journal of Public Economics article.

As health outcomes go the outcome identified is about as important as it gets – they crunched the numbers to find a 2 per cent increase in male mortality at 62, the age when Americans qualify for social security (there is an increase among women but it is not statistically significant). What is interesting, especially for men turning 62 and thinking of retiring is that  when that birthday was not the qualifying one there was no increase in deaths. And the per centage of men accessing social security at 62 is too big for it to be a case of blokes at risk of early death due to physically tough jobs retiring as soon as they can and promptly turning Norwegian Blue. Fitzpatrick and Moore explore a bunch of factors that occur to men retiring and are careful not to claim causality for retiring killing blokes but they are quite clear; “stopping work elevates mortality by 23 per cent.” So, is there a better age to retire or does retirement itself raise the risk of meeting the reaper? The authors suggest more research is needed – men contemplating retiring will agree.