At last! Snow for Saini

Uni Canberra VC Deep Saini was pleased with weekend snow in the city

So pleased that he tweeted video of what did not like blizzard conditions, “after a three-year wait!”. Professor Saini will certainly see more when he becomes president of Dalhousie U in Nova Scotia, next year. It snows an average 44 days a year there.


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week, Jessica Vanderlelie (La Trobe U) on the why and how of engaging with alumni. It’s a new contribution to commissioning editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Super-solar CRC powers up in new project round

The feds announced (very quietly) CRC Projects Round Seven on Friday

CRC Ps are funded for three years to address a particular industry programme. Total private and public funding for this round ranges from $1m to $28m – for AI to integrate solar power into the electricity grid. The team for this project comes from a range of public and private investors, with CSIRO, UNSW and UTS involved.

Overall, 18 universities and research agencies (CSIRO, Walter and Eliza Hall) get guernseys. UNSW and CSIRO are members of three projects, Deakin and La Trobe universities are in two each.

Other CMM’s faves in the new round are:

* a privacy platform for education data analytics, (Navitas, CSIRO, Uni SA, plus commercial partners)

* hybrid batteries using “priority” Australian minerals (Deakin U and partners)

* nitrogen recovery from livestock for fertiliser (Uni Melbourne and partners)

* next gen antibiotics (La Trobe U and partners)

* quantum data protection for internet of things use (UNSW and partners)

Uni isn’t always the answer for grad jobs (VET isn’t either)

Friday’s PM and premiers meeting agreed that VET is so important that they want to hear about “a new plan” for skills training early next year.  Excellent – it will give them time to read Andrew Norton and Ittima Cherastidtham’s new paper

What higher education won on the swings of demand driven funding it is losing on the policy roundabouts, with capped growth in UG places and suggestions that universities have enrolled too many students unsuited to bachelor-level study.

But working on the principal that evidence should get in the way of a good story, the learned Norton and Cherastidtham conclude, “most low-ATAR higher education students are not giving up big opportunities in vocational education. Like higher education, vocational education has risks as well potential rewards.”

They find that training is not always a better career-commencing option for men and women with low-middle Academic Tertiary Admission Ranks.

While some such men who study at university would have better pay and employment prospects with a training qualification, for example in in commerce or engineering, for women with low ATARs, university qualifications in nursing and teaching lead to higher lifetime earnings and rates of professional employment than in other fields.

“Women have lower appealing vocational education options than men. Not many women choose traditionally high-paying vocational fields, such as engineering and when they do their outcomes are often poor. Hiring practises that favour men and rigid working condition prevent many women from realising their potential with these qualifications,” they conclude.

Overall, Norton and Cherastidtham argue, “a perfect match between the supply of graduates and qualification holders and demand for their services will never happen.”

But, and it is a very big but indeed, they warn this does not give the education system a pass and they call for students to receive personalised career advice.

A good tertiary education system steers prospective students towards courses that increase their opportunities and minimise their risks. Australia’s post-school system does not always achieve this goal.”

The good oil

The English soccer season started Saturday (it runs until forever) but Uni Adelaide petroleum scientist Steve Begg already predicts a 36 per cent chance that last season’s Premier League winner Manchester City will win again

“How does he know?”, you sing from the stands. “Uncertainty modelling,” supporters chant across the pitch. Professor Begg runs 100 000 simulations of the season “constrained” by the results in the last ten. It’s the same sort of science he uses in researching decision-making in oil and gas.

New for ANU

The government has announced ANU will host its Pacific Security College, promised in the 2017 foreign affairs white paper. It will provide training and professional development for officials from Pacific nations.

Helping who in the campus free speech debate

UNSW opens up discussion of the French free speech code

There is an open panel on Wednesday, with VC Ian Jacobs, DVC Equity Eileen Baldry and law dean George Williams talking, “about the issues and how they may impact us at UNSW.”

“Does this code go too far, or even not far enough? And how can we protect those who exercise their right to freedom of speech while also protecting those for whom speech may cause offence or harm?”

Academics (but not professional staff) are already covered at UNSW, with the new Enterprise Agreement protecting their rights, “to participate in public debates and express opinions about issues and ideas and about the university or higher education issues more generally; participate in professional and representative bodies, including unions, and engage in community service; express their personal views, consistent with the university’s code of conduct.”

At UNSW, it seems what is on the agenda is exactly what the federal government wants dealt with at campuses across the country – ensuring conservative visitors get a platform.

More US opposition to for-profit publishers

U Cal scientists say not to Elsevier while U Arizona invests in open access

Some 31 serious scientists at the University of California urge journal giant Elsevier to renew negotiations with the university.  Very serious scientists, including Nobel Prize winner  Elizabeth Blackburn, are ending editorial work on Elsevier’s Cell Press journals, “pending the signing of a new contract with UC.”

Negotiations failed, in part over the university network’s demand that articles by its academics be open access.

In Arizona, the state university is extending the purpose of its Open Access Investment Fund. Instead of only paying costs for its academics in pay to publish journals it will now fund open-publication infrastructure and switching peer-reviewed subscription journals to OA.

SA science awards lead appointments, achievements

Jozef Gecz is South Australia’s scientist of the year. Professor Gecz is head of neuogenetics research at the University of Adelaide. Other winners are, * Dorothea Dumuid, Uni SA – PhD research (stats on lifestyle and health). * Anthea Ponte, Hawthorndene Primary – STEM educator -schools. * Tom Raimondo, Uni SA – STEM educator – tertiary (environmental-geospatial science). * Helen Marshall Uni Adelaide and “B Part of it” study team – research collaboration (herd immunity impact of meningococcal B vaccine). * Mark Skanes, Dommar Pty Ltd – STEM professional. * Nigel Rogasch, Tall Poppy (previously announced), Uni Adelaide and South Australian Health and Medical Research  Institute, (neuroscience). * Zoos SA Research Laboratory, Royal Zoological Society of South Australia – unsung hero (science). * Philip Roetman, Burnside City Council) – science comms

Climate scientist Sophie Lewis (UNSW) is the ACT scientist of the year.

Monash U arts dean Sharon Pickering announces the faculty’s research awards, Barbara Barbosa Neves (early career), David Holmes and the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub (research impact), Briony Rogers (research impact)and Jacqui True (postgrad research supervision). Professor True is having a good run- in June she won theFeminist Theory & Gender Studies section of the International Studies Association’s 2020 eminent scholar award.

The SA premier’s science and innovation council has a new membership; Caroline McMillen, (Chief Scientist) chairs. Members are Philip Marcus Clark, Food Agility CRC. Matthew Gilliham, Uni Adelaide.  Sarah Harmer-Bassell, Flinders U. Emily Hilder, UniSA. Andre Luiten, Uni Adelaide. Sanjay Mazumdar (KPMG). Julie Phillip, Aus Biotech. Steve Wesselingh, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Beth Worrall, Microsoft.

Brigid van Wanrooy is appointed director of the Analysis and Policy Observatory, (“an open-access evidence platform for public policy and practice) at Swinburne U. Dr Wanrooy joins from the Victorian Government’s Department of Health and Human Services.