Uni of Queensland sticking with fossil fuel investments

and Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s safe pair of policy hands

Ready for their close-up

ANU researchers Toni Eagar and Stephen Dann find 10 per cent of women posting to Instagram do so to build personal brands. They want to “show, not tell” aspects of their life stories. Heavens, next researchers will be telling us that people don’t only go on true-romance TV shows to meet the love of their life.

Sexual violence on campus

A segment on last night’s edition of the Seven Network‘s Sunday Night covered sexual violence at Australian universities and included female students talking about being sexually assaulted on campus or at university events. A former University of Western Australia student and a Monash student were featured. But while Universities Australia president Barney Glover spoke for the system  the programme’s presenter stated there had been no response from either UWA or Monash managements.

However at 4pm yesterday Monash had posted the following statement on Facebook.  “The story is an important reminder for us all and reinforces our message that sexual assault and harassment will not be tolerated within our Monash community. For those who feel they need support or advice following tonight’s program (or at any time) please contact our Safer Communities Unit, our 24 hour counselling service, Monash Security or police.” It was obviously too late for the programme and did not do much to rebut claims that university managements do not provide enough help for victims.

In contrast the University of Queensland, not mentioned in the Seven programme, last night issued a detailed statement which listed 20 incidents of sexual assault (four), harassment (14), indecent filming (one) and general misconduct involving offensive communications (one), not all of which occurred on campus, since January 2014.  The university set out policies and protections in place to assist victims of sexual violence and reported it “took took disciplinary action against several staff members and students, including the expulsion of a student and the non-continuation of employment of a staff member.”

Correct response, it is not enough for universities to condemn sexual violence, they must demonstrate they act to prevent it and help really help, victims.


UoQ stays friends with fossil fuels

The University of Queensland has gone against the higher education trend by declining to drop fossil fuel shares from its portfolio. The decision follows lobbying by green activists, which led to a meeting with management and presentations to the university’s council. But in a statement released late Friday new chancellor Peter Vargehese said council had decided nothing doing because;

divestment would make no real difference and it was better to work with all parties and across all areas of the university to ensure effective action on climate change. Research in areas such as clean energy, renewable energy and sustainable development, together with a commitment to sustainable investment principles, are a greater measure of UQ’s commitment on climate change than the gesture of divestment.”

The chancellor went on to detail UoQ’s clean energy research and the measures taken to reduce campus power consumption, adding that “direct fossil fuel companies” account for less than 4 per cent of UoQ’s share portfolio.

The university has handled divestment demands carefully and respectfully. Back in April a chancellery sit-in by green activists led to a meeting with Chief Operating Officer Greg Pringle and a commitment that council would consider a paper making the case for selling fossil fuel shares. In contrast, a council chamber protest at UNSW led to VC Ian Jacobs cancelling a meeting, CMM April 20.

However UofQ is acting counter to the investment strategies being adopted at other universities. In September QUT announced an “orderly and considered transition” out of fossil fuel companies to meet its “responsibility to be environmentally and socially responsible(CMM September 6 2016).


Bowman is back

CQU VC Scott Bowman returns to work this week after a long break. Everybody in neighbouring James Cook U’s management will surely be glad – they must have missed his competitive tweeting terribly.

Finkel’s safe pair of hands

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will chair the new review of the National Energy Market, saying it is “an honour”. Not to mention a bunch of work on a tight timeline with a preliminary report to government due by year-end.

CMM was puzzled last week when Dr Finkel issued a statement from Brussels backing the majority report of his colleagues on the Climate Change Authority Board on how Australia will meet internationally agreed emissions targets in the face of minority dissent. At the time his statement seemed redundant but Dr Finkel’s certainly showed just how safe a pair of policy hands he has. “In a perfect world, we might have been asked how to transform the country to 24/7 near-zero emissions energy – as soon as possible. But that’s beside the point. When you are asked for advice, you look at the question and you commit to the process if you believe that you can answer that question in a helpful way,” Dr Finkel said.

Exactly the sort of sentiments ministers will want to hear from the chair of review on energy supply. As Dr Finkel said on Friday night; “I intend to bring an evidence-based approach to the process based on my background as an engineer and scientist.

As chief scientist, Dr Finkel is quickly becoming far more than boffin in residence and the government’s ambassador to the science lobbies. From tax (in R&D) to education (lifting STEM teaching) and on to energy (with this review) he is now among the go-to expert elite who government turn to de-politicise political problems with policy solutions.


Art occupation continues

Protestors demanding the Sydney College of the Arts stay at its present site in Rozelle were cleared from outside the University of Sydney Quadrangle dawnish on Friday, presumably lest their presence disturb the day’s graduations. It followed their unveiling a building length banner opposing moving SCA to main campus (CMM Friday). But the protestors were not occupation-homeless, they just moved back to the protest-site at the SCA where they have camped out getting on for a couple of month.

Monash invests in thought for food

The Monash University based Food Innovation Centre will access Chinese food giant COFCOs’ research on products, consumer behaviour, regulation and market delivery to assist Australian producers and manufacturers sell into China. The centre, formally launched this morning, takes over the research resources of food-giant Modelez’s (Cadbury, Nabisco, Toblerone) facility at Ringwood. It will provide research from concept to consumer for Australian food exporters with Monash researchers working with food industry experts. According to Vice Chancellor Margaret Gardner the centre will “ provide start-ups and SMEs with a ‘one stop shop’ range of support services to guide them on how to develop export pathways into Asia.”

The project is part of the university’s strategic investment in food export, including a PhD programme and capital investments in research, focused at the university’s new Green Chemical Futures centre at Monash Clayton.

This is Monash’s second major announcement of a new applied research impact and engagement initiative in as many weeks. Late last month the university committed to expanding its primary care and allied health teaching, research and community collaboration programmes based at its Peninsula campus, at Frankston in Melbourne’s outer eastern bayside.


Either a little late or ultra early

The Age award for footie fails goes to Deakin University media which issued a research story on Friday about the way AFL umpires make the right decision on 92 per cent of free kicks – good news for “those selected to umpire’s this weekend’s biggest game of the year.” Deakin is either a week late or getting in extra early for the 2017 grand final. This is up there with The Age last Monday, when it ran a Victoria U advert commiserating with the Western Bulldogs for losing, instead of the correct version congratulating them for winning the flag.

Selectively selected

Publicists in universities and medical research institutes are out announcing how many of their researchers are elected to the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Not that the 50 awards are especially concentrated, being spread over 29 institutions, although the way researchers often have multiple appointments in different organisations means winners can be claimed more than once. However looking at just primary affiliation it seems, (what a surprise!) the University of Melbourne and Walter and Eliza Hall are leader of the labs with four staff each elected as fellows. Peter McCallum, UNSW, Monash and the University of Queensland have three each.

South Australia is the only state where all universities had a new fellow elected, Flinders with two and the universities of Adelaide and South Australia one each.

Although ‘elected’ does not mean what we mere mortals think it means. In medical research land people ascend to greatness via natural selection. First existing fellows nominate researchers who are then vetted by selection committees. The committees then send their selections to all members for comment after which those who are approved are inducted.