Science shuffle

Just weeks in office and already CMM hears the PM is about to reallocate responsibilities. The well-placed word is that science agencies are moving soon from Ian Macfarlane’s industry portfolio to a pleased Christopher Pyne’s patch.
Not that the press gallery will care. Minister Pyne did a Parliament House doorstop yesterday and none of the questions were about the Kemp-Norton review.

Treasure map

There is a debrief from Deakin on the success of its crowd funding of research projects earlier this year, via Pozible. An interesting read it is indeed, describing the way six out of eight projects were successful, raising $50,000 during the campaign, plus another $50k since. Thanks to acute analysis of social media marketing by Stuart Palmer, Deakin demonstrates how it’s down in ways other institutions can emulate (who says collegiality carked it?). All you need are projects that resonate with people, academics who can communicate with a mass audience and are prepared to work really hard at reaching and then extending audience via social media. Harder than it sounds but in creating new funding streams really worth the effort.

Big wrap for cap scrap

The industry-university “scrap the cap” campaign designed to end the previous government’s $2000 limit on self-education expenses won the best digital campaign at the Government Relations Awards last night. Makes the case for Universities Australia aligning with profession lobbies politicians listen to, in this case General Practice Registrars Australia, the Australian Medical Association and Engineers Australia. After the fate of its campaign against the Emerson cuts it must be a morale boosting win for Universities Australia. 

Didn’t somebody already do that?

University of Sydney VC Michael Spence has ideas on additional issues the Kemp-Norton review should address. Under current arrangements we can only sustain courses in high-cost disciplines such as medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, agriculture and various health disciplines, through a complex web of cross subsidies from other disciplines and increasingly fees from international students. The situation is not sustainable,” he writes. Great idea – they could call it the Base Funding Review II – and watch while it is ignored by the feds, like Mk I was.

Seen it coming

Long-time observers of University of Canberra Vice Chancellor Stephen “plebiscite” Parker suggest the NTEU should have seen coming the university’s move this week to put a wage and condition offer direct to a staff vote, without waiting for union agreement. Professor Parker used the same strategy back in 2009, when he held a straw poll on a draft agreement, which included more money and long-ish contracts for young and performing researchers. It was decisively endorsed by a campus vote, making it hard for the union to argue against it. Same strategy this time, except the vote is formal under Fair Work Australia rules.

Cracker campaign, slow sales

Fascinating IDP research shows what (almost all) Asian international students make of Anglosphere education providers. They see Australia as worse for affordability with Canada and New Zealand being the best. They rate Canada last for quality of education (go figure) and place the US at number one but the great republic is considered the least safe while Canada and NZ are most secure. The UK is last for graduate employment opportunities, demonstrating how badly its work rules hurt, while the USA, Canada and Australia are considered best prospects. When it comes to qualifying for visas the US and UK trail Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Overall Canada and NZ have the best ratings in more categories than the competitors. I put it down to better national brand marketing (certainly New Zealand’s country campaign is ahead of Austrade’s efforts). Not that it matters all that much. The students may see the shaky isles as a quality product buy they don’t want to study there. Just 3 per cent of the sample are studying in New Zealand or want to (compared to 48 per cent for Australia.)

Puppy love

CMM’s “I have now seen it all correspondent” writes that students at the University of Canberra are invited to deal with exam stress by playing with puppies. I didn’t believe it either but it’s true. What I want to know is do those dogs have continuing employment or are they just collared as casuals.

Now they wait

Interviews for CRC Round 16 funding wrapped up on Wednesday and participants are said to be generally pleased with the two-hour hearing they got on what they want to do and why it matters. There are 12 shortlisted bids, five continuing (or so they hope) and seven new proposals. They pitched to panels made up of the three members of the standing Cooperative Research Centre Committee that advises the minister plus a pair of content experts. The word is that they hope to have recommendations to Minister Macfarlane, (unless it’s Minister Pyne, as above) next week with an announcement this side of Christmas. The observer who says many presenting scientists struggled in suits that they had not worn for a while is unkind, if accurate.

Free but worth much more than you paid for it 

Colin Steele is a stakhanovite of the open access movement and explains where Australia is in a new paper and yes it is available to all. It’s a comprehensive analysis of the way bureaucratic caution and publishers’ commitment to the profitable status quo mean the long, slow march to open access is not over. “The domination of library budgets by publisher big deals and the current reward systems (with their limited metrics), imposed by research assessment exercises and university league tables, have, however, created a scholarly publishing environment that makes rapid change difficult,” he writes. And this even though all Australian universities run open research repositories and the two major research funding agencies mandate universal access for work they fund. He is, however, more optimistic about monographs, pointing to the publishing achievements of the e-university presses, not least his own ANU’s. (Mr Steele is far too diplomatic to tackle some print university publishers who are dismissive of their on-line colleagues). As to the future – the most he will imply is that we are at the end of the beginning. “Scholarly communication issues are in play at the highest levels of government and academia. The recent decline of the Australian dollar will also refocus debate on serial subscription prices in Australian universities, so that the scholarly communication end game will continue to be played out within universities.” Watch the steeley eyed space

You don’t say

US News and World Report explains graduate debt there; “High tuition at American universities is partly to blame.”