Their dark materials

Breakthrough in dark matter underground labUni Melbourne announces. Some beyond-mere-mortals’-comprehension-of-the universe discovery?” you ask. Sadly no, it’s about a more mundane breakthrough, connecting two caverns, a kilometre down. They are in the ex-goldmine in Stawell, where the Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics will work.

There’s more in the Mail

In CMM this morning, Gary Velan and Patsie Polly (UNSW) on creating teaching excellence metrics, here.

And Gretchen Dobson and Dirk Mulder, on how to find the lost international alumni opportunity, here.

All politics is local, especially research announcements

Dan Tehan and local-ish MP Kevin Andrews announce an $8.3m research spend for Monash U

It’s the Australian Research Council Training Centre for the Development of Tools for Fragment Based Design (drug research) at Monash U. The Commonwealth is kicking in $4.2m with Monash U and 12 partners matching the government money.

The news is presented as part of Education Minister Dan Tehan’s new strategy to give the glory for projects to local members – a great way to win support for research.

In this case, Mr Andrews represents the electorate of Menzies, (relatively) near to the Monash U campus at Parkville, where the centre is already established.

Parkville itself is in the seat of Melbourne, held by Adam Bandt for The Greens.

The pace is picking up as government members announce research funding

The third announcement of the new round of DECRA funding is by Liberal member for Curtin (and former Uni Notre Dame VC) Celia Hammond. (UWA issued the statement but Ms Hammond gets the quotes).

It covers Discovery Early Career Research Awards for UWA researchers; Catie Gressier (rare breed farming), Hugh Wolgamot (offshore engineering design), Ben Grafton (anxiety-linked negative expectations), Emilie Dotte-Sarrout (role of women in the history of archaeology) and Sajesh Thomas (electronic properties of molecular crystals).

The fourth, also yesterday, came from James Cook U – which announced Gergely Torda has $416 000 in ARC funding, “to examine whether coral reefs will be able to adapt to the pace of climate change as conditions for their survival deteriorate.”

 Local MP, Phillip Thompson (LNP) joins Minister Tehan in a separate statement, speaking in favour of the research. “In Townsville we understand how important it is to protect this incredible natural wonder. Dr Torda is also a wonderful inspiration to local students that you do not have to leave town to conduct research that can make a difference in the world,” Mr Thompson said.

Political? Too right

The new announcement system is not going down well with people who think the government is politicising announcements and should just leave it to the ARC to release one long-list.

But as a way of engaging local members with research, by giving them good-news to sell to their constituents this is hard to beat – Phillip Thompson gets it. And members who get research will be its friends when Minister Tehan goes into budget-bat .

Yet more change at Uni Newcastle

Learned readers report CMM (Tuesday) missed another potential restructure at Uni Newcastle

Word is that Senior DVC Kevin Hall last month briefed members of his 100 strong Global Engagement and Partnership division on changes that could impact staff. Uni Newcastle observers say staff on fixed-term contracts worry what any changes may mean for them.

Professor Hall now leads alumni and philanthropy, international strategy, the university’s China office and Confucius Institute. Any job changes are expected in the new year.

The university advises the marketing unit, formally in the VC portfolio is now “sitting in” Professor Hall’s organisation, “to explore opportunities to connect the marketing and communications function more closely” to alumni, advancement and international recruitment.

Government’s DIY security guide: read it or weep

The government releases the promised guidelines for universities to detect and deter foreign interference

Education Minister Dan Tehan announced a group of officials, vice chancellors and HE lobby to create the advice (CMM September 4).

They establish issues to address and actions to take, for universities, and presumably research institutes, facing international opportunities that may be threats; managing contact and communication, collaborations with researchers and organisations offshore, dealing with IP and cyber security.

The guidelines explicitly state that they do not “impose additional compliance or regulatory burden. Universities may determine how best practice considerations may be applied and incorporated given their operations and proportionality of risk.” Good-o but they are comprehensive to the point that any institution which finds itself cyber-comprised or loses control of research will have a job to do in explaining how it happened.

What might, or might not, occur at UWA

Vice Chancellor Dawn Freshwater started the job during a restructure – she is set to leave during another one

Last week UWA announced it would replace UWA Press, with open access publishing of university research, making staff redundant.

It is adding to anxiety on campus, where there are rumours of management looking for significant savings in recurrent spending from the Services Transformation Project.

This does not cheer up staff who remember Vice Chancellor Dawn Freshwater’s round of job cuts, part of her comprehensive reorganisation of the university, (CMM July 14 2016). As originally planned, that involved a 230 FTE reduction to professional staff numbers (CMM August 25 2016). It also included academics who took VRs as part of the restructure.

However, this time may not be so tough. According to UWA, “in coming months the university will propose a small number of voluntary redundancies in Campus Management and Finance, along with the presentation of plans for development and investment in its future workforce.”

Whatever a “small number” turns out to be, Professor Freshwater will not be there to oversee the process– she leaves in the new year to become VC of the University of Auckland.

Macquarie U management listening but still acting on faculty closure

The Vice Chancellor is not for turning

Over a hundred senior academics at Macquarie U wrote to VC S Bruce Dowton asking for details on the financial need to close the Faculty of Human Sciences (CMM November 11) and reallocate its constituent departments. In reply he points to his all-staff message (CMM November 4) ) on the university’s financial circumstances, but assures them his intention  is to “engage and listen in order that any formal change proposal can build in the feedback from many people we are already receiving.”

“In designing the rollout out of this proposal, careful consideration was given to how we would engage with staff. … In this period of informal consultation, colleagues from the executive and I can listen to, understand and acknowledge the concerns and the ideas from the many perspectives I have now heard over the last week both in meetings and on email.”

But having met and listened, the plan to close the faculty and reallocate its departments still seems certain. “Once this process of informal consultation has run its course, we will move into a more formal and structured approach,” the VC writes.


Appointments, achievements  

At QUT, Christopher Barner-Kowollik is appointed DVC Research and Innovation. After appointments at UNSW and in Germany he joined QUT in 2017, founding the Soft Matter Materials Laboratory.

Also at QUT, Robina Xavier becomes DVC Education. She is now executive dean of the QUT Business School.


 Awards season rolls on, with UTS announcing its teaching and learning honours

Teaching:  Mohsen Naderpour (Engineering and IT).

Team teaching:  Cornelia Betzler, Kristine Aquino, Ann El Khoury (Humanities and Social Sciences)

Early career teaching: Job Fransen (Health)

Early career teaching (commended):  Bernard Saliba (Health)

Casual/sessional teaching:  Raechel Wight (Business)

UTS model of learning: Allison Cummins, Christine Catling, Deborah Fox, Vanessa Scarf (Health)

UTS model of learning (commended): Kate Delmo (Arts and Social Sciences)

Learning futures: Gavin Paul (Engineering and IT)

Indigenous professional capabilities into curriculum:  Megan Heyward, Natalie Krikowa, (Arts and Social Sciences)

Citations: * Paul Kennedy, Mukesh Prasad, Aedan Roberts (Engineering and IT). * Cat Kutay, Paul Brown, Jarnae Leslie, Tyler Key (Transdisciplinary Innovation and Engineering and IT) * Babak Abedin (Engineering and IT) * Robin Bowley (Law) Christopher Croese (Law) Delia Falconer (Arts and Social Sciences) * Kristoffer Glover (Business) * Anna Loyeung, Yawn Shan, Peter Lam, (Business)