Real tables not league tables

Adrian Barnett (QUT) will work a year without pay for an Aus uni that abandons league tables

He explains why in Features this morning. Plus, he has a suggestion on how better to spend the money participating in them costs. “Universities would be better taking their league tables budget and spending it on some actual tables where actual students could sit,” he writes.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Nicholas Fisk and Daniel Owens (UNSW) on their new Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities (not all the results are what you might expect).

James Guthrie (Macquarie U) reports on QUT’s finances.

Michael Sankey (Charles Darwin U) and Chris Campbell (Griffith U) on live-lectures and tech in teaching – what students want is what works.

The unpaid price of peer reviewing

Among the reasons for-profit research publishers can make a motza is not having to pay for in-puts – including peer-reviewing  

Balazs Aczel and Barnabas Szasz (both Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary) and Alex I Holcombe (Uni Sydney) used public data to estimate researchers’ time and salary-based contributions to the peer-review system.

They found peer-reviewing took 100 million hours in 2020 with estimated monetary values (in US dollars) of $1.5bn for work by US reviewers, $600m for researchers in China and $400m for work in the UK.

They suggest ways to make the process more efficient but acknowledge “peer review labour sticks out as a large cost that is not being addressed systematically by publishers.”

Funny that – given for-profit research publishers make a motza. The STM division of RELX (where its journal giant subsidiary Elsevier sits) had an operating profit in the six months to June of A$732m (CMM August 6).

Refining value for universities

Three days of big ideas at the last CMM-Twig event for the year

Day one: What makes a university brand and matching graduates to job

Day two: New directions in marketing and the end for open days

Day three: all over for the ATAR plus courses in demand (and not)

Check out the experts addressing the issues here.

Shining citation stars

Another bright year for Australia in Clarivate’s bibliometric analysis of research publication data

Australia rates fourth in the world for share of the 6600 highly-cited science and social science researchers, with 332 – one more than Germany. But there is a bit of gap between Aus and the big three, the US with 2622 (39 per cent), China with 935 (14 per cent) and the UK’s 492 (7 per cent).

Data analyst Clarivate creates the list from citations in its Web of Science index, including researchers with the most citations over a decade in the most cited journals per field.

The new ranking continues a strong run for Australian based researchers, up from 305 last year and 271 in 2019. Institutions that make Clarivate’s top 50 cut fr researchers are Uni Queensland with 44, Uni Melbourne and UNSW (both 36) and Uni Sydney (30, 29 people – Professor Dacheng Tao rates in engineering and computer science).

 The world top five is Harvard U (214), Chinese Academy of Sciences (194), Stanford U (122) the US National Institutes of Health (93) and the Max Planck Society (70).

Tomorrow: Angel Calderon (RMIT) digs into the HiCi data

Desirable property

The jewel of the Illawarra has its own version of Monopoly

Wollongong’s university is on the board as a quality buy. Ironic, a learned reader observes, that UoW is getting out of its own off-campus student-accommodation (CMM August 6)

The nine top national interest techs

Nuclear energy isn’t on this list

The Government announces the nine “critical technologies” for “initial focus” that it intends to protect and promote in the national interest; * critical minerals, * advanced comms * AI * cyber security * genomics/genetic engineering * antibiotics, antivirals, vaccines *biofuels *quantum tech and *advanced robotics/drones.

But what about nuclear energy, to propel the submarines the government wants? It’s there, buried in the “critical tech” long-list, grouped with space travel, scientific research and medical isotope production. Which seems strange given the government’s hard-sell on subs.

Saving unis from managements

The Greens propose capping vice chancellor salaries at $500 000, in a discussion paper from the office of NSW senator Mehreen Faruqi

The paper also proposes limiting “corporate appointments” to university governing bodies and boosting numbers of elected staff and students to, “refocus our public universities on facilitating quality education and research.”

Most of the many props in the paper call for more public funding, to “make our universities more democratic and accessible institutions, run by and for the community.”

But some address immediate IR issues, notably a call to abolish piece-work payments for casual staff and reduce teaching-specific academic positions, which “jeopardise the prospects of early-career researchers and threaten the foundations of a strong research base.”

Research translation quick as a quantum flash

The prime minister announces Chief Scientist Cathy Foley will lead development of a national quantum strategy based on CSIRO recommendations

The Commonwealth is kicking in $70m for a Quantum Commercialisation Hub.

It should not take Dr Foley long to get up to very fast indeed speed on this – she was CSIRO Chief Scientist last year when the agency set out “enabling actions” for a “quantum eco-system.”

The CSIRO roadmap emphasised university research teams talking to industry, investors and each other with support, “beyond the remit of ARC funding.”

“Key considerations include leveraging private investment, incentivising end-user engagement, and enabling access to finance options for quantum technologies that demonstrate commercial potential,” CSIRO suggested.

While the agency adjured investors to “ride out a hype cycle” this sounds like research translation at as close as possible to light-speed.

Dolt of the day


In yesterday’s email issue, he referred to Universities Australia’s president. Learned readers were appropriately outraged.  The position is chair.



Career Development Association of Australia 2021 awards include, Queensland: Michael Healy (Career Ahead) and SA: University of Adelaide Careers Service

Philanthropy Australia’s Gender-wise Award goes to the Trawalla Foundation, Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and the University of Melbourne’s Pathways to Politics Programme for Women