Holy Science, Batpersons!, now that’s a dynamic duo

Science and Technology Australia has an unmatchable double act – two Nobel prize winners.

Elizabeth Blackburn and Brian Schmidt are speaking at a Science and Technology Event in Canberra on August 12. Tickets  here.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Deanne Gannaway on the need to revalue HASS education. “A techno-future requires a broader and deeper understanding of humanity – not a myopic focus on STEM,” she argues. It’s this week’s feature in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in learning and teaching.

Tyrants are a bad bet

“How often do dictators have positive economic effects,” Stephanie Rizio (Uni Melbourne) and Ahmed Skali (QUT) ask, and answer in a (pay-walled) paper

“We find that growth under supposedly growth-positive autocrats does not significantly differ from previous realisations of growth, suggesting that even the infrequent growth-positive autocrats largely ‘ride the wave’ of previous success. On the other hand, our estimates reject the null hypothesis that growth-negative rulers have no effects. Taken together, our results cast serious doubt on the benevolent autocrat hypothesis.”

International recruitment offices take note.

Going Google on research citations

Google Scholar is still not universally admired, with suggestions that it is not sufficiently selective in the sources it counts for citations

But like rankings, people still go to Google Scholar and its citation record is a good-ish guide to journal standing.

The new metric just announced rates articles per publication for 2014-18. Overall Nature leads for citations with a five-year H-index of 368. The next 99 publications are all in medicine/STEM with the 100th being, Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, with an H of 121.

Unis Aus’s powerful case for research funding

Universities Australia defends research in ways budget-cutters will not want to dispute

This morning Education Minister Dan Tehan launches a new series in UAs “university-research changes lives” campaign.

It follows last December’s burst of two-minute made-for-social-media vids in which cervical cancer vaccine’s Ian Frazer (UoQ), RMIT brain scientist Richard Williams and Monash U family law, family violence academic Becky Batagol, talked about their work, with equal billing for people they had helped, (CMM December 14).

The new series uses the same format and is about the work of:

* Mark Hutchinson (Uni Adelaide) who can create an objective measure of pain with a blood test. “This gives pain patients a voice, which can potentially lead to changes in clinical practise,” he says.

* Felicity Baker (Uni Melbourne) who uses music therapy to stimulate dementia sufferers. “Treating dementia is expensive, if music can have the same impact as other forms of treatment then it’s going to be a much more cost-effective approach.”

* Robyn Wheldall (Macquarie U) who works on ways to help kids who struggle with learning to read. “There is nothing more important than being able to read, it’s a basic human right.”

Powerful stuff, but not a patch on people helped, who appear in the videos. Ordinary people dealing with awful problems in ways that the average Australian voter will recognise and want fixed.

The series is simply produced but politically potent. Very potent, as Mr Tehan obviously understands.

Joyce to the world

Steven Joyce’s training review was widely ignored when released – not any more  

“How to improve the VET brand; print huge billboards with the annual salaries of electricians and metal fabricators,” VET analyst Kristen Osborne in her analysis of the Joyce Review.

In contrast, the TAFE community seemed so invested in Labor’s proposal for a ministry of all the talents post-school review that it did not pay much attention before the poll to Mr Joyce’s review.

Optimism before the election, shock and despair since. But now that the JR is going to shape Commonwealth training policy, sector people are paying attention – Mr Joyce will speak at TAFE Directors Australia conference in September.

Elite intake at ANU

ANU announces next year’s 25 Tuckwell scholars, school leavers who will receive $25 000 a year over five years for the cost of study. Anticipating the annual question, ANU assures us, “a majority (are) from state schools.”

The time training takes

Does VET course duration matter to quality and outcomes? Depends who you ask

The leaned Josie Misko and Patrick Korbel found out in research for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Research.

They used certificate III and IV courses in childcare, disability support and security (as in bouncers) to explore what teachers and students think.

They found that students do not think course length determines “training experience.”  However, providers, regulators and industry bodies “have little appetite for super-short courses” and there is “a widespread tension” between allocating enough time for student-learning and practice and, “the application of the fundamental philosophy of competency-based training, which is, in theory, not time-based.”

Overall, they find their statistical analysis;

“can provide some markers for action and decision-making, it cannot, on its own, tell us very much about the quality of the training delivered or experienced. Although we can speculate that students have withdrawn because they have been able to get a job without the qualification they originally thought necessary, or that work and other life commitments have become a priority, we require more information about the actual student experience in the training program to make any definitive comment on the link between duration and withdrawals and ultimately, course quality.”



Edward Chew, (Walter and Eliza Hall) has won a 2019 Picchi Award for cancer research. He wins for clinical research.  Amanda Oliver (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) wins for basic science. And Sibel Saya (Uni Melbourne) is honoured for population health.

 The Australian Historical Association announces the winner of the inaugural Ann Curthoys Prize for an unpublished article-length work by an early career historian. It goes to Skye Krichauff (Uni Adelaide).