A bad day for James Cook U

The High Court will hear scientist Peter Ridd’s claim that he was wrongly dismissed by James Cook U for criticising climate change research at the university

Dr Ridd first won his case in the Federal Court, but the university was upheld there on appeal.

Whatever happens now, JCU has already lost in the court of public opinion. The High Court may find the university was within its rights to sack him under the terms of his employment. But Dr Ridd says he was standing up for science and had the right to speak out. Plenty of people support him, the Go Fund Me page dedicated to his legal costs had $735 000 last night.

Others who don’t agree with him on the science think he should not have been sacked. As National Tertiary Education Union official, Michael McNally put it in 2018, “the NTEU is obliged to reassert its commitment to academic freedom, even or especially where its expression contains statements that may be at odds with many or most members’ views. Without the maintenance of the core value of academic freedom, our universities would cease to be worthy of the name.”

There’s more in the Mail

Merlin Crossley on succeeding in research – think small to achieve big.

James Guthrie and Tom Smith (Macquarie U) respond to Deakin U VC Iain Martin, (he called their analysis of his university’s financials “superficial”).

Michael Healy (Uni Southern Queensland) argues that although student employment and career development are different in both research and service they need to work together. This week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

On-line work and learning

IT networking provider Cisco and telco Optus set out how the permanent switch to virtual learning and remote working creates opportunities for staff and students

“The rapid (and permanent) shift to virtual learning and remote teaching and administration has completely changed the education landscape and pose opportunities to reimagine what the work and learning experience looks like for staff and students alike.” The paper is here.

Absent international coursework postgrads leave a big gap on campus

Frank Larkins sets out the numbers and points to problems

International coursework postgrads will be missed for as long as borders stay closed –they account for 40 per cent of overall international enrolments and campuses appear empty without them, only 3 per cent studied exclusively on-line last year.

In Features this morning, Professor Larkins (Uni Melbourne) points to problems for the 19 universities with 61 per cent plus postgrads from overseas. And for the country, “domestic growth is unlikely to be sufficient, nevertheless, to ensure the viability of some postgraduate subjects and courses in areas identified as critical to future national skills development in the Government’s recent Job-ready graduates reform package,” Professor Larkins warns.

An Interim and an ex VC at work for Charles Sturt U

While the search for a new VC continues Chancellor Michele Allan has hired Christina Slade in a “strategic advisory role”

Emeritus Professor Slade steps down from the university’s council to take up the position, which runs until year end.

She will report directly to the chancellor, “to support the next phase of the university’s restructure with a focus on ensuring that the right academic model is in place for the next stage of our development as Australia’s leading regional university.”

Professor Slade joined CSU Council in 2019. Her HE leadership positions include five years as VC of Bath Spa University in the UK, (not to be confused with the University of Bath).

The chancellor adds that Professor Slade will work closely with John Germov, whose title changes from Acting VC to Interim VC. He stepped up last June, when then VC Andrew Vann took six months leave, before leaving a year early on his contract. There is no word when a new VC will be named.

Discoveries from deep data dive

Web of Science indexes 20 000 journals – there’s a new way to work out what research fits where

Data analytics provider Clarivate has a created a citation-based classification system, developed with the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University (source of the wonkiest of research rankings).

Journals now indexed in Web of Science are grouped in 254 categories. Every item in each journal is allocated to a  category by expert-input.

But the new approach uses a categorical system based system, with articles and review collected into larger units, based on underlying data.  

Clarivate  states, “it is intended to exploit the advantages claimed for article-level algorithmic classification.” It’s called “Citation Topics,” – the classification system is built from the citation network.

The existing version, (as of December) sorts more than 50 million documents into 2444, 326 and ten topic layers. Clarivate mapped where content sits when located by “bottom-up citation clustering and “top-downjournal categorising to find classification groups, “align across the landscape.”

“This suggests that a ‘natural order’ is underpinning the guiding principles inherent in both expert judgment and citation linkage,” Clarivate claims.

So why bother?  Because it seems categorising by metadata delivers benefits using human concepts does not. “A citation-based classification of articles and reviews progressively links individual elements into larger units with shared characteristics based on features in the underlying data. …. It also gives opportunity for novel groups to appear that were not previously possible with journal-based schemes.”

They heard it in the radio

Keith Bannister (CSIRO) and Ryan Shannon (Swinburne U) are lead authors on a paper which has won the 2020 Newcomb Cleveland Prize, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science

The 50 plus authors used the he Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder to identify and “localise” a fast radio burst from distant space.  The AAAS states their “discovery that could improve our understanding of the structure of the Universe, as well as galaxy formation and evolution.” The paper was published in the journal  Science

Appointments, Achievements

Of the day

 Joy Damousi (Uni Melbourne) and Philip Dwyer (Uni Newcastle) win the Association of American Publishers award for humanities reference and text books. They are the general editors of the Cambridge World History of Violence (CUP, four vols).

Of the week

Freya Campbell is acting chief comms officer at UNSW, replacing Darren Goodsir who left end January.

Russell Goulbourne (Dean of Arts, Uni Melbourne) joins the board of Melbourne University Publishing.

Jennifer Hunt moves from ANU to the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie U.

Nalini Joshi (Uni Sydney) wins the Australian and NZ Industrial and Applied Mathematics medal. Lewis Mitchell (Uni Adelaide) wins ANZIAM’s J Michell medal for a new researcher and Mike Plank (Uni Canterbury) wins the mid-career E O Tuck medal.

Michael Keppell, joins International College of Management, Sydney as DVC Learning and Teaching. He moves from Taylor’s University in Malaysia.

Lindsay Robinson joins UNSW as Chief Development Officer. She moves from Uni Sydney.

Peter Varghese (Uni Queensland chancellor) is the new advisory council chair of Uni Melbourne’s Asia Link.

Jessica White moves to Uni SA to lecture in creative writing. She was previously at Uni Queensland.

 Sallie Yea is La Trobe U’s Tracey Banivanua Mar Fellow for 2021. She will use the fellowship to research human trafficking and slavery in the world seafood industry.