Peek at the past

“We’ve got a little sneak peek of yesterday’s UniMelbourne Open Day.” The university announces photos of Sunday’s event, via Twitter, Monday.

The case for researching research

Professor Adrian Barnett (QUT), appearing in a private capacity at the Brisbane hearing of the parliamentary committee inquiring into research administration made his point plainly “I’m not aware of any major review of funding in Australia or any major funding policy change in the last 10 years that has been based on scientific evidence. Instead they use expert opinion. That is ironic for science, and I think it is potentially harmful as well. Expert opinion is not always right, and the data sometimes give us surprising results”.

The committee also heard from two former heads of the Australian Research Council, Margaret Sheil (VC, QUT) and Peter Hoj (VC, UoQ) presumably for their, expert opinions.

The hearing transcript, just out, is an entertaining read (yes CMM knows he needs to get out more). The MPs were across the subject and engaged with the issues. No, the final report will not generate more money (not least because that is not the brief) but will contribute in ways as yet unknown, to the way the system works, much like basic research.

Cogin gets the engagement wheels turning at UoQ

There was alarm at UNSW when Julie Cogin resigned a year back, insiders had hoped she would stay on to manage changes at the Australian Graduate School of Management (CMM October 6 2017). But people at UoQ were pleased with what was considered an astute hire for  dean of business.

They were right. Less than six months in Professor Cogin is emailing staff with news of big deals. There is funding from KPMG for a three-year chair in organisational trust, plus a postdoc and two PhD researchers. And there is a deal with Westpac to work on staff development. “Finally, we are seeing more than just relationships, the conversion of these into meaningful outcomes for a university is the hard part,” a learned business school reader remarks.

Fed U chancellor retires while Swinburne’s deputy chancellor increases his commute

Last week Swinburne U announced chancellor Graham Goldsmith is going, to spend more time on other interests. And now deputy chancellor Anthony Mackay has a new job, leading the Washington based National Centre on Education and the Economy. Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson says “this new appointment should have no impact on his ability to serve as deputy chancellor. Bit of a trip to get to council meetings though.

Federation U chancellor Paul Hemming will leave in October with a successor to be announced, “in coming weeks.”

University-industry research training connections: slow in theory, fast in practise

Education officialdom has released a progress report on implementing the government’s research training plan, released to minimum scrutiny on December 22 last year. The plan was a response to the Australian Council of Learned Academies 2016 review of research training, which called for closer links between higher degree training and industry as well as alternatives to ordeal by thesis (CMM April 14 2016).

This new report does not have much progress to report, beyond work in progress, which may, or may not, be progressing. For example, the Australian Council for Graduate Research and the Australian Industry Group are briefed to “development and disseminate” principles, “that build on the range of available models of industry engagement in HDR training.” The principles were scheduled to be published mid-August but CMM has not sighted them.

But out in the world where things happen, the iMove Cooperative Research Centre is accepting applications for its industry PhD programme. iMove works on transport for people and goods – very broadly defined, it’s newest research projects is on insuring autonomous vehicles. The CRC is offering PhD students $40 000 pa for three years to work with partner universities or anybody in industry with a problem in need of a smart solution. This is as applied as research gets.

App of the day

Conor Hogan and LaTrobe U colleagues want to use the audio functions of mobile phones to test for sulphur dioxide in wine. The idea isn’t to ring a chemist with a good nose but to plug wires attached to a chemical test strip into a phone’s audio jack. This is intended to deliver within seconds an accurate reading of sulphites, with the data sent to a cloud-account for analysis.  All but instantaneous testing with on-the-spot outcome is said to be way-better than present slow and unreliable methods. The university is funding the project.

Quick-smart quantum computing

An international team, including UWA physicist Jingbo Wang claims their research brings the world closer to quantum computing.  Their paper, published today in Nature Photonics, reports that it is possible to control “quibits,” the basis of quantum computing, using the silicon technology used now in computer processors.

International education idea worth pinching

The British Council has created the MOOC of the morning, Study UK (via Future Learn). “Be prepared for university study in the UK by familiarising yourself with UK culture and higher education.”

The course is run by Jonathan Smith from the University of Reading and is big on what UK universities expect from students as well as what internationals should anticipate about life there. The first four topics listed are,

Characteristic features of higher education in the UK: active engagement, critical thinking, evidence-based argument, independent study, academic integrity

Study modes: lectures, seminars, tutorials, student presentations, group assignments, their roles and functions

The language skills you need to achieve success (academic writing, reading, listening and note-taking, speaking)

Understanding assessment in higher education.”

Short of flashing neon signs at UK consulates stating paying fees does not guarantee a degree this is about the best way to tactfully signal what study is about.

The same all over

Finnborg S Steinporsdottir and colleagues lament the state of universities in new research on “financial and managerial processes.”

 “New managerialism enhances the precarious position of early career academics, especially women and those in the more feminised fields. Furthermore, we show that the system’s bias in favour of so‐called hard science generates gendered consequences for early career academics.”

They are writing about Iceland.



John Murtagh, the bloke who wrote the book on being a GP has received the Australian Medical Association‘s gold medal. He is an emeritus professor at Monash U and a professorial fellow at UniMelb (amongst other university appointments).

The NSW Young Tall Poppies for 2018 are: YTP of the Year, Melody Ding (public health), University of Sydney. The university has two other YTPs, Samantha Solon-Biet (nutrition, ageing) and Laura Parker (environmental change and oysters). UNSW also has three YTPs, Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina (bio-medical engineering) Aliza Werner-Seidler and Michelle Tye, (both mental health). Genevieve Steiner (cognitive neuroscience) and Kate Umbers (zoology) are both from WSU. The University of Newcastle has two winners as well, Andrew Gardner (neurotrauma) and Serene Yoong, (diet).  They are joined by Simon Gross (lasers) Macquarie U and ecologist Caragh Threlfall, from the federal government Clean Air and Urban Landscape Hub.