Just weight to Jenny Craig hears about this

The National Measurement Institute reports there will be a vote today on a, “landmark redefinition of the kilogram.”  The General Conference on Weights and Measures is meeting at Versailles, chaired by its president and NMI Australia CEO, Barry Inglis. A kilo is now defined by a platinum-iridium cylinder, stored in France for 130 years, which has changed over time and could be unstable.

Dan Tehan, friend to teachers

Education Minister Dan Tehan has asked a House of Representatives committee to inquire into “the status of the teaching profession, considering opportunities to improve outcomes in a range of areas.”

The Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training will consider; support for teachers, including people and IT, ways in which “the burden of out-of-hours, at-home work can be reduced” and improving teacher retention and avoiding burnout.

This is smart politics. Signalling support for rank and file teachers can position Mr Tehan as a friend of practical education. His predecessors, Christopher Pyne and Simon Birmingham did the same sort of thing, backing young teachers, keeping clear of state minister deplore-a-grams about low ATARS, while encouraging community confidence, notably with pre-classroom literacy and numeracy tests for new graduates.

This is an inquiry the teacher education establishment will have to embrace, and the Australian Council of Deans of Education knows it, saying they expect the inquiry to, “help curb the frequently negative political rhetoric about the teaching profession. ACDE is well aware of how the ongoing public commentary, that often blames teachers for all education ills, adds to the many challenges that deter potential teachers from entering the profession and demoralises many of those already in our nation’s classrooms.”

Before the committee gets going on this there is the report on research funding it is yet to release. All of a sudden people are very interested in this.

App of the morning

Brisbane’s hay fever and seasonal asthma sufferers can know when to brace for misery, with a QUT app showing the level of grass pollen in the air and forecasting it for the next six days. Peak pollen runs from mid-January to April. The app uses NASA satellite data which show “green-ness”, indicating grass growth. The app comes from the National Health and Medical Research Council’s AusPollen Partnership, led by QUT’s Janet Davies. Nothing to sneeze at (sorry).

Ample outrage: Greens and Labor speak up for research independence

Yesterday Labor research shadow minister Senator Kim Carr called on the government to table the Australian Research Council’s new-minister brief to Dan Tehan, presumably to discover if it made mention of previous minister Simon Birmingham’s veto of grants to humanities academics.

If it did we do not know. Bridget McKenzie (acting for Mr Tehan in the Senate) told Senate President McKenzie yesterday the government declined to release the brief, on public interest immunity grounds. “The release of this information would prejudice commercial discussions that are being made, or will be made, some of which may be between the Commonwealth and the states.”

“This was simply not credible,” Senator Carr responded in the chamber, adding it was part of the government’s “assault” on universities, and undermining research capacity. He was just getting going when his time expired but the Senate got the idea.

Greens education spokesperson and former UNSW academic Senator Mehreen Faruqi was also speaking up yesterday, introducing a bill to end the ministerial veto on research funding. That Mr Tehan has committed to making public any vetoes he may exercise is not good enough for the senator. “We need to take concrete action to protect academic independence and that means taking politics out and leaving it to the experts. … It is patently clear that politicians simply cannot be trusted to put the interests of the community ahead of their own political agendas,” she said.

Senator Faruqi added her bill would bring the Australian Research Council “in line with other research bodies, like the National Health and Medical Research Council. The NHMRC says its legislation “precludes the minister from directing or recommending the allocation of funds to a specific individual or organisation.”

Well run, hardly used

The positive audit report for the Commonwealth’s new VET student loan scheme (CMM November 13) does not impress TAFE Directors Australia’s Craig Robertson, who points out that while it is well-designed it is not much-used. The Australian National Audit Office reports 42,000 students borrowed last year 43 000 in the first half of this. “The world class hospital with no patients in Yes Minister springs to mind,” Mr Robertson says. Readers under 40 consult YouTube.


Business deans announce new, nothing to offend, journal ranking

The Australian Business Deans Council announces unremarkable changes to next year’s year journal ranking, which do not include the big proposal put by expert reviewers Kim Langfield Smith and Geoffrey Wood (CMM Wednesday).

The new ranking will be undertaken late next year, by five to eight expert panels, using citation metrics and peer review.

The council rejects Langfield Smith and Wood’s suggestions for a “regional significance indicator” and a new ultra-elite A** journal ranking. And the deans do not mention at all the idea of the Australian ranking being a spoke with the hub being the UK Chartered Association of Business Schools’ journal quality list.  This last suggestion was ignored by the Business Academic Research Directors Network in its response to the Langfield Smith and Wood review.

Government does not rule out threat to uni funding following free speech review

Education Minister Dan Tehan was on RN with Fran Kelly yesterday talking about the French Review, into  campus freedom of speech, during which she asked. “If the French Review does find there should be some kind of code, if the universities don’t enforce it, would their funding be under threat, what would be on the table here?”

Mr Tehan replied, “Well let’s just let the former chief justice do his work and see what he comes up with,” before talking about the importance of free speech.

CMM asked the minister’s office if he wanted to take university funding of the table, which did not reply, referring the inquiry to the Department of Education and Training. According to the department, “The Australian Government will not pre-empt the report of Mr French.”

Deal not yet done at QUT

Last week QUT management tabled a pay-offer which the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union criticised, but did not scoff at. However other issues were outstanding, including job security, targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, change management and discipline procedures. A week on the union reports there is still no enterprise bargaining deal on span of hours for some staff, fixed-term conversion, change management and back pay. There is a member stop-work today, to discuss strategy and “show the strength of our solidarity.”

Edith Cowan University announces staff awards

Early career researcher: Deirdre Collins, Medical and Health Sciences. Research engagement: Lisa Whitehead, Nursing and Midwifery, Vahri McKenzie, Arts and Humanities. Teaching & Learning engagementFrances Barbe, WAAPA. Inspirational Staff: Carol Richardson-Dale, Strategic and Governance Services. Susan Morrow, Development and Alumni Relations. Bruno Santarelli, Business and Law. Personal Excellence: Tracey Taraia, Kurongkurl Katitjin, Jo Scardigno, Student Life. Inspirational Teams: Student Recruitment team, Human Resources Change Team. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Advancement: Rosemary Saunders, Bev Ewens, Michelle Pedlow, Nursing and Midwifery. Health and Safety Practice: Sue Reed, Jacques Oosthuizen, Martyn Cross, School of Medical and Health Sciences.

Appointments and achievements of the week

Higher education policy veteran Robert O’Connor is the incoming ED of the Council of Australian University Librarians.  He starts in February.

 Lorraine Mazerolle from the University of Queensland is honoured by the American Society of Criminology for achievements in criminology, policing, drug law enforcement, regulatory crime control, and crime prevention.

 Research Australia’s health and medical research awards are announced, including: Peter Wills Medal: Nicholas Talley, UniNewcastle. GSK award for excellence: Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer, Melanoma Institute. Griffith U discovery award: Sarah Best, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Data innovation: Craig Dalton, Uni Newcastle. Health services research award: Sue Kildea, UniQueensland. Research champion award: Matthew Grounds, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

The University of Wollongong’s Jindaola programme has won the first Australasian Academic Development Good Practice Award, from the Council of Australasian University Leaders in Learning and TeachingJindaola, “weaves indigenous knowledges and perspectives through UoW’s teaching practice.” The Jindaola team is Julie AvenaPaul ChandlerBonnie DeanJanine DelahuntyJade KennedyMaarten de Laat, Alisa PercyKathryn Harden-ThewLisa Thomas.

Deakin VC Jane den Hollander has won the Business Higher Education Round Table’s peak award for individual leadership in university-business collaboration. “Professor den Hollander’s leadership has enabled Geelong to both respond to the challenges and embrace the opportunities associated with a new wave of innovationadvanced manufacturing and the digital economy,” BHERT states.

Sebastion Marx from the University of Queensland is the incoming chair of the Queensland chapter of the National Association of Prospective Student Advisers.

Amanda Barnard is appointed interim head of the new Charles Sturt U-Western Sydney U joint programme in medicine. She joins from ANU and a GP practice in regional NSW.

The panel to review the Australian Qualifications Framework is now complete, with Marie Persson, (NSW Skills Board), Allan Blagaich WA DET and Leslie Loble, NSW Department of Education appointed. They join previously announced chair, Peter Noonan (Victoria U), Megan Lilly (AI Group), Sally Kift (JCU adjunct professor) and Elizabeth More (Australian Institute of Management).

Flinders U chemistry PhD student Samantha Pandelus has won the American Chemical Society’s Coryell Award for original research by an undergraduate nuclear and related chemistry. Ms Pandelus is honoured for quantifying radionuclides, used in nuclear medicine procedures, in South Australia’s wastewater system.

Cyber security researcher Debi Ashenden will join Deakin U in the new year. Professor Ashenden will continue to hold a position at the University of Portsmouth.

The Australian Research Council has announced (very quietly) the 2019 College of Experts.

The medical research funding Viertel Foundation has announced $3.75m in mid-career fellowships, for Kim JacobsonMonash U Biomedicine Discovery InstituteLaura MackayUniversity of Melbourne’s  Doherty Institute and  James Ward from the  South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Flinders University. There are also five one year clinical investigation scholarships ($85 000 each) which go to, Claudia de Bella (UniMelbourne), Gareth Gregory (Monash U)Piero Perucca (Monash U)Charlotte Slade (Melbourne Health) and Craig Wallington-Beddoe (Flinders University).