Less on science more on jobs

The feds are archiving the science.gov.au website, with science information now to appear on the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s site . That’s the one with the headline, “Our ideas and policy leadership shape the Australian economy to drive growth and create jobs.” By their priorities shall you know them.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features today, David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s happening in the world of higher ed.

Nothing lost in translation as Medical Research FF priorities announced

The Medical Research Future Fund Advisory Board has announced MRFF priorities the next financial year through to 2021-22. The board estimates $700m will be available to fund them.

The priorities include translational research infrastructure, to make Australian research “more investable.”

“Better integration with and access to (National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy) support and advanced biomedical translation assets is required to ensure that discoveries are converted to new drug candidates, devices and treatments with quality data and speed,” the board states.

And the way to do this is to; “design a targeted investment program that complements the MRFF’s existing proof-of concept supporting programs by providing timely and strategic access to expertise and infrastructure.”

Good-o, but surely research translation, which the MRFF defines as; “the process of moving research ideas from the lab to the clinic, ensuring new medical discoveries are part of the clinical practice of GPs, specialists and hospitals,” is core to everything it was set up to do.

The other priorities are; antimicrobial resistance, global health and health security, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, ageing and aged care, digital health intel, comparative effectiveness research, primary care research, clinical researcher capacity, consumer driven research, drug repurposing and public health interventions.

Reaction: The Group of Eight was quick to endorse the priorities, calling them, a “significant moment, a significant step” for medical research and for the community. Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said, “the result is a welcome balance between addressing community outcomes … and support for research that will underpin Australia’s capacity to deliver world-leading health outcomes.”

The Innovative Research Universities was also pleased with the priorities; “include various actions IRU advocated for, including dedicated priority status for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.”

Greg Craven’s breakthrough on the western civilisation front

Surely Greg Craven isn’t pitching for the Ramsay western civ centre to set up at his Australian Catholic University asks a learned reader, who noticed VC Craven is giving a talk at the Sydney Institute. “Greg Craven analyses the challenges that the culture wars present for western values, western politics and western art, and suggests how the culture wars in Australia might be brought to an end in a way that affirms western civilisation,” the Institute announces. No idea where the LR got that idea from.

Trainers ticked off: Feds fund Deakin U to develop VET programme

Days after the Business Council of Australia warned against a “cultural biasagainst VET, ministers appeared to make the point.

Yesterday education minister Dan Tehan and skills minister Michaelia Cash announced funding for Deakin U to develop training for Indonesia’s logistics system. Yes, that’s Deakin University, which was not missed by TAFE Directors Australia’s Craig Robertson, who last night said the grant was “in fantasy land”.

““Deakin is a laudable organisation but hardly has the credentials or experience to represent Australia in an industry engagement approach for vocational qualifications. … Efforts by universities in the vocational space often end badly. A natural bent to research and citations does little to enable genuine engagement with industry to develop their workforces, Mr Robertson said.

“It would be nice to think that there could be better collaboration between the sectors so that work goes to where it is done best, not to growing the balance sheet of a university, or to placate a sector annoyed by decisions to cap growth funds.”

His comments are in-line with Business Council of Australia Jennifer Westacott’s speech this week which warned of a “cultural biasagainst VET (CMM yesterday).

“A cultural bias that is created by teachers, our educational institutions, government, businesses, media and parents. A cultural bias that ‘smart’ people go to university, and the not so smart kids go to VET. … A cultural bias that continues into work where jobs that come from VET qualifications are seen as innately inferior and less valuable than jobs from university qualifications,” Ms Westacott said.

Leigh up in lights

Andrew Leigh, Labor Member for Fenner, has won the 2018 UNSW Bragg Prize for Science Writing for an essay on the history of surgery. It appeared in his Randomistas: How radical researchers changed our world, (La Trobe UP), which apparently is “in the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell.”

Dr Leigh was an ANU economist before becoming an MP and should be the shadow minister for renaissance persons.

National interest test for research: trajectory to a planet of pain

A learned reader wonders what government members on the House of Representatives committee inquiring into “the efficiency, effectiveness and coherency of Australian Government funding for research” might have to say on a national interest test, as promoted by Education Minister Tehan. It wasn’t big in submissions but there is certainly room in the brief for government members to include it in their to-come report.

Not that they need bother.

Mr Tehan has re-started an argument his predecessor Simon Birmingham ended by requiring the Australian Research Council to develop metrics for engagement and impact.  Engagement, “is defined as “interaction between researchers and research end-users outside of academia, for the mutually beneficial transfer of knowledge, technologies, methods or resources.” Impact, “is the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research.”

That should cover any relevance requirement. Unless of course Mr Tehan thinks of applying these criteria to individual ARC grants – which would buy him a blue with the basic research science community. Poking fun at the politically powerless humanities is unappealingly easy for politicians playing the populist but annoying STEM and medical scientists is a trip to a planet of pain

Edith Cowan U expanding

Edith Cowan U is expanding at its Joondalup campus, again, announcing a $48m “science facility” there. The five-story building will accommodate science, medical and nursing courses plus two floors for scientists and students “to engage with the cyber security industry.” Last year ECU was the lead partner in the successful bid for a cyber security CRC and in 2016 it shared federal funding for an “academic centre of cyber security excellence.” (CMM September 25 2017).

ECU bought a nine-hectare development site adjacent to the Joondalup campus in August.

Appointments, achievements

Jonathan Pickering from the University of Canberra, has won the Australian Political Studies Association’s Peter Hay prize for a paper on environmental politics.

Kate Henne (ANU) is the American Society of Criminology’s Critical Criminologist of the Year. Dr Henne has an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award and a chair at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

The UNSW business school has appointed five professors of practise to, “embed industry experience within the curriculum.”  They are; Nicolas Chu, CEO technology business Sinorbis. Elaine Collins, insurance industry non-executive director. Jennifer Granger, ex ATO and UK Revenue and Customs. Peter Leonard, business lawyer in data analytics. Su-Ming Wong co-founder of equity funds manager CHAMP Ventures.

The NSW Premier’s awards for cancer research are announced; researcher of the year, Georgina Long – Melanoma Institute Australia. Make a difference award: Richard Scolyer – Melanoma Institute Australia. Highly cited publication: Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative – Garvan Institute of Medical Research. Outstanding cancer clinical trials unit: Kinghorn Cancer Centre, Saint Vincent’s Health Network. Cancer research fellow: Anne Cust and Alexander Menzies, both – University of Sydney. Rising star: Antoinette Catherine Anazodo – UNSW.