Rejected takeoff

RMIT researchers point to the contradiction of Australian universities emphasising environmental sustainability while relying on the “unsustainable hypermobility” of air travel for researchers and international students. “Across Australian higher education, “air travel is implicitly normalised and encouraged,” Andrew Glover, Yolande Strengers and Tania Lewis write in a new journal article.

It certainly is at RMIT which  says it has trained 1000 pilots since 1994 and has four aircraft.

Monash U to fix academic workload models says union

The NTEU says the academic workload dispute at Monash University will be sorted, with management agreeing to a collegial process to review all models and ensure compliance with the enterprise agreement.

Back in June, the National Tertiary Education Union claimed all 43 agreements were centrally imposed and deficient. The comrades complained, “with increased emphasis on meeting research metrics, it is vital that such academic staff have a proper unallocated time in which to undertake their research and scholarly activities.”

But Monash management was not having it, replying “it is disappointing to see this suggested because in the university’s view discussions have been continuing with a great deal of goodwill demonstrated by both sides, in trying to find a resolution,” (CMM June 1).

The goodwill ran out and by mid-July the matter was before the Fair Work Commission, with the union citing dozens of faulty models and faculty-wide failures in IT, pharmacy and law. But on Friday the union was reporting the university would fix workload models by February. The union urges staff to raise problems “and pursue a collegial process to fix the model.”

The deal allows union and management to focus on arguing about the next enterprise agreement.

UTas announces new VC

Rufus Black is the incoming vice chancellor of the University of Tasmania. Professor Black is master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne and a fellow of the university’s management and philosophy departments. His business experience includes nine years at consultants McKinsey and he has extensive public policy and governance experience, including a 2011 review of the intelligence services.

Researchers who used fake email names acted in good faith says University of Sydney

The University of Sydney has found researchers who sent emails under fictitious names to gauge bias among academic recipients acted in “good faith.”

Earlier this year Benjamin Goldsmith and Megan Mackenzie conducted an experiment for their project, “An open door: experimental measurement of potential bias in informal pathways to academia.” They sent messages under “different sender names” to “a large number of academics across Australia,” to test response rates.

The project had ethics committee approval but when the fiction became known outrage ensured among researchers who felt duped. The university suspended the project in June and set up an inquiry.

Yesterday DVC R Duncan Ivison reported its results. “The hypothesis was important and valid and the researchers sought and followed ethical approval for their study. I found also that the (human research ethics committee) acted in good faith whilst considering the proposal. There were vigorous debates at several HREC meetings around the use of deception, the conditions for waiver of consent and ability for participants to withdraw,” he emailed.

However, he added, committee and researchersdid not foresee the impact the study had on participants and the volume and strength of the complaints that were made.”

Professor Ivison tells unhappy participants in the project they can have their responses pulled and that further research is stopped. If Mackenzie and Goldsmith want to work with the data they now have they must apply to the HREC for approval.

“We have all learned valuable lessons from the concerns raised and will use them to improve both our approval process and the support and training we provide to researchers. With the benefit of hindsight, significant improvements could be made both to the way that the research was developed and conducted and to the way in which it was reviewed and approved,” Professor Ivison wrote.

UniCanberra names alumni award winner

Nancy Odegaard is the University of Canberra’s alumni award winner. Dr Odegaard is an “internationally recognised conservator” who is now a professor of anthropology and of materials science and engineering at the University of Arizona.

Business as usual will mean bigger profits for Western Sydney U, union warns

Western Sydney University unionists have pulled their plan to withhold student marks as part of their enterprise bargaining campaign. But National Tertiary Education Union branch president David Burchell has a message for students who kicked-up at the idea. If withholding had occurred the union would have made exceptions for students who really needed their records, but the union’s cause is important.

Industrial action is a last resort but sometimes the only tool for staff to protect themselves and the integrity of our important public institutions. If we let business continue as usual, universities will sadly continue to focus on making bigger profits, while staff working conditions and your learning conditions decline.”

“Bigger profits?” Um, surely WSU ploughs its surplus into growing the university including research. Then again, the way student-funding subsidises research at all universities is one issue that nobody much wants to discuss with undergraduates.

Karoly to CSIRO

Climate scientist David Karoly is moving to CSIRO. He is now professor of atmospheric science at the University of Melbourne. At CSIRO he will lead the snappily titled National Environmental Science Programme Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub.

UNSW appoints its own foreign correspondent

UNSW has appointed its second reptile of the press in residence. Matthew Hutson a free- lance science writer from New York is the Faculty of Engineering’s second Ingenuity Fellow. Mr Hutson says he hopes “to be inspired to write stories on UNSW projects,” an aspiration Dean of Engineering Mark Hoffman may share.

Mr Hutson succeeds BBC global science correspondent Rebecca Morelle who spent three weeks at the university earlier this year, ( CMM May 15).

In terms of coverage by Ms Morelle, faculty media advisor Wilson da Silva tells CMM “it’s not so much the stories Rebecca herself did after her return from the fellowship (she went on maternity leave a few months after completing it), but the stories for which she advocated for internally for BBC science coverage.”

He points to yarns on the BBC on UNSW work on quantum computing engineers, space minig, its Sunswift solar car and opposition to autonomous weapons.

“The point of the fellowship is to familiarise a leading science journalist with the quality of research at UNSW, creating an awareness of the research excellence at UNSW in a way that will flow into their work.”

Teacher training in many languages

The NSW government is giving the University of Sydney $7.6m for training, engagement and research into community languages education. Projects include supporting new syllabuses and curriculums for 54 languages. There are 35 000 students at community schools taught by 2700 volunteers in NSW, which sounds to CMM like a market for MOOCS. But the university says while it will run a scoping study on supporting language learning on-line MOOCs are not the menu.  They aren’t anywhere else either, that CMM knows of. While there are open online courses for learners of all manner of languages  (notably via edX) there aren’t MOOCs on teaching them. People at the University of Queensland say they have “talked extensively” about a MOOC for teachers of languages but nothing is in the works.

Chill librarians, journal price hikes not so red-hot

A learned reader suggests the latest warning of journal price hikes is over-blown. Last week CMM reported information service provider EBSCO’s new estimate that Australian libraries face a 1-2 per cent price rise for journals in $US and 9-10 per cent for those billed in Euros and stg. Cover prices, ex currency fluctuations, will move up 5-6 per cent.

But the reader suggests, “the real point is that no-one is paying 5-6% on average, and certainly not the additional amounts “projected” in this and earlier EBSCO reports.  … For the bulk of library subscriptions the price increases are between 0-4% generally, and with the exchange rates there can be some variation, but not in the direction projected by EBSCO.”

This matters for librarians in environments where their spending growth lags the overall increase in universities, which they manage without cancelling major journal collections. “Exchange rates do play into annual distribution of expenditure, more so than the price increases.” Overall the reader counsels caution in accepting headline increases. “There is a lot of heat and often not enough underlying evidence.”