Takes one …

Outgoing Chief Scientist Alan Finkel praises retiring (as in departing) “master of the dark arts of consultation and collaboration,” Tony Peacock from the Cooperative Research Centres Association. Laurie Hammond Oration, Wednesday.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Judyth Sachs on the  lessons learned when Studiosity and partner universities took their annual “students first” symposium on-line.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) recommends celebrating the small achievements in lab-life.

Lynette Vernon (Curtin and Edith Cowan universities) on why STEM will go nowhere without more maths in senior schools. Another case-made in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U) reports more research articles written in Australia acknowledge funding from China than from the National Health and Medical Research Council.


No time to waste at RMIT

Staff who applied for voluntary redundancy were getting the news yesterday

Managers are being told to advise them, “in a 15-minute virtual meeting.”

HR certainly wants the meetings to go well, telling managers what they probably had already thought out for themselves; “we recognise this can be a challenging time as leaders; and we want to empower you to guide these conversations with sensitivity and care and to help manage staff expectations. “

It can’t be much fun either for people who get 15 minutes to digest life-changing news.

The science of listening

If outgoing chief scientists leave a letter on the desk for their replacement here’s what could be in Alan Finkel’s

“The special ingredient across all projects I have undertaken has been broad and deep consultation. Consultation with the research community, with investors, with industry. And also, with the government ministers and policy advisors for whom a report is intended. Taking their opinion into account does not compromise independence*. The independence of a report comes from the courage and experience of the chair and the panel members. Every time we go through a round of consultation, I come out wiser.” (in the Laurie Hammond Oration, Wednesday).

* emphasis in the original

What’s really wrong with the Tehan plan for unis

An all-star team from Uni Melbourne goes granular in pointing to problems in the Tehan student funding bill and spells out the big one

Authors* from the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education set out issues in four parts of the draft legislation, including;

* anomalies in grandfathering existing students

* “the minister will have discretion over the amount of Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding payable to any higher education provider, with no legislative guarantee that the amount will at a minimum be indexed or not reduced”

* uncertainty over process for the Indigenous, Rural and Low SES Attainment Fund in 2021.

What alarms them most is the proposed raft of rules in Schedule Five of the draft, originally developed to deal with the VET FEE-HELP shambles, but which now “risk some potentially adverse and unintended consequences for the operation of universities.”

In particular, they point to;

* a requirement that universities assess a student’s suitability for a unit before enrolling them, “this could be interpreted as requiring universities to assess every student for every unit of study for each year of their degree”

* “ministerial powers,” “imply constraints on university autonomy that may have unintended consequences”

* “new forms of oversight” that appear to duplicate functions of the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency

And then there is the profound one. The authors warn;

“The draft bill makes universities liable for a wide range of civil penalties, which alters the relationship between universities and government. This fundamental change has not been extensively articulated in the informational material accompanying the exposure draft.”

* Authors are, Gwilym Croucher, Frank Larkins, William Locke, Ian Marshman, Vin Massaro, James Waghorne and Mark Warburton

Not a lot to announce for CRCs

Round 10 of Cooperative Research Centre Project grants isn’t all that innovative

For a start, there is $10m available, way under half the money for rounds eight and nine. The reduced funding means probably no more than three or four bids will get up. But competition will not be as fierce as usual, only projects developing recycling products and solutions qualify.

Innovation observers suggest this is a setback for the programme. With the future of the research and development tax incentive still stalled in the Senate, industry is looking to CRC Ps, which are funded to answer immediate industry needs. They won’t be seeing much with this round.

Uni Sydney dean assures staff: savings scenarios aren’t plans

An internal memo asks FASS heads of schools how to reduce FTE workforce by 30 per cent

“Doing nothing is not an option. … There will be some decisions that we have no control over but we have a unique opportunity now to influence the principles and goals that underpin the financial decisions that will be made in response to the university’s financial position,” the memo to staff in a school of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences states.

The memo suggests academic staff could take one day a week as unpaid leave to, “deliver a reduction of 20 per cent,” returning to normal hours as the university’s finances improve.

A university-wide decision on staff savings is expected after student census on September 29.

However, FASS Dean Annamarie Jagose tells staff, heads of schools are “not instructed to implement 30 per cuts across the faculty.”

“Heads of School and I are, however, having discussions together and with colleagues about how we can best safeguard our institution from the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are initiating a variety of scenario-planning exercises. Given the impact of COVID-19 on our sector, it would be irresponsible not to do so. Let’s not mistake these for plans, however; they are a continuum of scenarios developed for eventualities that may not arise,” Professor Jagose adds.

New academic structure at QUT

Vice Chancellor Margaret Sheil announces another calmly considered set of changes

With Council approval yesterday, the new model for faculties goes to consultation according to the Enterprise Agreement.

“Council acknowledged the collegial way in which staff have engaged with this process and the hard work and contributions of all the staff who have provided feedback,” Professor Sheil told staff last night.

The new top-level structure is

* new Faculty of Business and Law: (School of Justice moves to Creative Industries)

* new Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice: (Education is now a separate faculty)

* new Faculty of Engineering (previously combined with Science)

* Faculty of Health (remains unchanged)

* new Faculty of Science: (six schools now separated from engineering)

Appointments, achievements

Of the Day

Tropical disease researcher Michael Alpers (Curtin U, emeritus professor) received the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science Medal

WA Young Tall Poppies of science for 2020 include;

* Hayley Christian (Telethon Kids Institute) – child health. * Adam Cross (Curtin U) – biodiversity on mine sites. * Raffaella Demichelis (Curtin U) – carbon dioxide into clean energy. * Adrian Gleiss (Murdoch U) – deep ocean megafauna. * Paola Magni (Murdoch U) – biology in forensic science. * Zoe Richards (Curtin U) – coral biodiversity. * Nina Tirnitz-Parker –  liver cancer.

Of the week

 James Arvanitakis moves up PVC Engagement, from PVR Research and Graduate Studies, at Western Sydney U.

The Australian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities has a new executive; Cathy Coleborne (Uni Newcastle) is president. Nick Bisley (LT U) is secretary. Annamarie Jagose (Uni Sydney) is treasurer and Tony Ballantyne (Uni Otago) represents Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Clive Baldock joins Uni Wollongong as dean of graduate research. He moves from U Tasmania where he was PVC Researcher Development.

CQU announces Grace Vincent (previously SA) and Alex Russell are named in the 2020 Young Tall Poppies science awards for Queensland.

Sarah Chalmers (James Cook U) is the new president of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.

 Billy Griffiths (Deakin U) wins the Crawford Medal from the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Dr Griffiths is the author of Deep Time Dreaming: uncovering ancient Australia

 Kevin Hall (DVC R) will leave Uni Newcastle in November to become vice chancellor of the University of Victoria, in British Columbia – where they lay welcomes on with a trowel.

Junichiro Kawaguchi becomes an honorary fellow at ANU, the first appointment to its Research School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Environmental Engineering.  He was a project manager on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Hayabusa project that got a craft to an asteroid and back.

Kerri Lee Krause (Uni Melbourne) is programme award committee chair for the 2020 Australian Awards for University Teaching.  David Sadler (UWA) is deputy chair.

Asha Rao (RMIT) becomes interim director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute. Tim Brown announced in May that he would stand down in October.

Anthony Tuckett is to join Curtin U in January as director, learning and teaching, He will move from Uni Queensland.

The 2020 Victorian Young Tall Poppies for scientific achievement include; Nir Eynon (Victoria U0, Ben Henley (Uni Melbourne and Monash U), Francine Marques (Monash U). And among the South Australian YTPs are – Maria Inacio (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Uni SA) and Janet Sluggett (UniSA and SAHMRI).

CQU announces Pierre Viljoen becomes associate VP for North Queensland campuses.

Tracey Wilkinson joins MTP Connect as stakeholder engagement director for WA. MTP C is the federal government’s industry growth centre for med-bio tech and pharma.

Tayyaba Zafar (Macquarie U) is one of the science Young Tall Poppies for NSW.