plus Live and in-person app-lause at La Trobe

VCs could dance their PhDs

and heads up: the week’s winners at work

App of the Day

William Crowe and UNSW colleagues are crowdfunding their  app which will advise users of passing asteroids. The app takes data from the International Astronomical Union and turns it into info-graphics on an asteroid, including possible mineral and water resources. So handy when one’s space mining rocket is just sitting in the garage.


ARC agrees

Australian Research Council chair Aidan Byrne welcomes research by ANU biologist Lindell Bromham and colleagues demonstrating interdisciplinary research does relatively badly in the awards of ARC Discovery Grants. “What she is done is quite extraordinary,” he says. “I’m really glad she did it, we now have a benchmark to measure change.”

The ARC, which supplied grant application data to the ANU team is already acting on Professor Bromham’s findings, making changes to assessment panel structures to ensure that research which is determined to be cross-disciplinary is fairly assessed.

Uproar at Adelaide

University of Adelaide staff are upset over news of a restructure that will cut the number of faculties from five to three and empower the 16 discipline based schools, which VC Warren Bebbington tells senior staff, “uphold our academic standards and drive our external reputation.” The existing structure dates from 2002, when the university establishment overthrew vice chancellor Mary O’Kane and an interim regime sought to keep the peace by not offending anybody powerful. “The challenge now is to embolden schools to embrace new connections and combine their capacities to interact in ways that maximise their external impact unobstructed by organisational barriers,” Professor Bebbington says.

Last night university management was suggesting this is no big deal, that the plan is only up for discussion and that while it has the “overwhelming support of heads of schools and deans” it will go to staff for consultation. “This would not be a savings measure. It would affect the positions of two executive deans, one of which is currently vacant,” a university spokesman says.

The plan comes at what was thought to be close to the end of a professional staff reorganisation, launched over a year ago, (CMM May 19 2015) which National Tertiary Education Union members initially greeted by voting no confidence in the VC. The NTEU response to the new move  seems similar with the union’s Kieran McCarron; warning “there will be just a small number of schools that are deemed ‘sturdy’ by the senior management, and therefore ring-fenced. All others will be fair game for merger, ‘blending’ or dissolution.”

The possibility, if only assumed, of changes to school structures down the track may well be the problem with the plan. It appears the VC has all his management ducks in a row but UoA staff put the B in bolshie when they are annoyed and nothing upsets them more than a restructure. Last year ( CMM July 24 2015 and August 11 2015) staff in the Department of Politics and International Studies fought long and hard to stop it being closed and academics deployed to two different academic groups according to their interest. In the end arts faculty management decided it was all too hard. That some staff will complain the same about some aspect of this new plan seems assured.

Except that this time Professor Bebbington may not be willing to wear any back down. His first five-year term expires next year and it is said he wants a second.

Forensic detail

Bond U’s Adrian Gepp has won the American Accounting Association’s best forensic accounting dissertation prize for his work on computer modelling that can automatically classify financial statements as legit or crook. He’s bound to win a lot more if his ideas work in industry. Dr Gepp’s work will doubtless get a bunch of attention when Bond U hosts the Forensic Accounting Teaching and Research Symposium next month.

Friday July 1


Short and expressive

Last month ANU VC Brian Schmidt launched the university’s three-minute thesis competition by explaining his doctoral dissertation in 180 seconds (CMM June 7). Now the Three Minute Thesis (created by UofQ) is proposing a VC competition to Monash’s Margaret Gardner, Griffith’s Ian O’Connor, Vic U’s Peter Dawkins, Deakin’s Jane den Hollander, CQU’s Scott Bowman and La Trobe’s John Dewar. Professor den Hollander tweeted the challenge yesterday so CMM reckons she is up for it. But why stop there, CMM suspects people would pay money to see VCs compete in that other dissertation explainer, Dance your PhD.

What the doctors ordered

In January the Cancer Therapeutics Cooperative Research Centre licensed work on blood disorders to drug company Merk for $14m. And now Warwick Tong from the CRC says partners have kicked a $7m share of the resulting cash distribution back into research. Looks exactly like the sort of thing the prime minister means when he bangs on about the innovation nation.


Live and in person lectures plus app-lause

La Trobe U should have awarded itself a triumph for its ancient history apps. Back in the days when Apple’s iTune U was Digitis Maximus in the on-line arena huge numbers of readers thumbs-upped La Trobe for on-line lectures. In MMXIII a lecture on Nero was downloaded 160 000 times in six months. And now the university is building on its success with a new series of lectures, that’ s lectures as in a person in a room speaking to people who are in the same place at the same time. La Trobe scholars Gillian Shepherd, Rhiannon Evans and Sarah Midford are “exploring some of the mysteries, conundrums and problems of the ancient world” in monthly lectures at the Melbourne City Library through to December. Presumably their notes are on papyrus.

But Janus-like LaTrobe looks forward as well as back. Its app to identify autism early and accurately has just won an Australian Information Association award for Victoria. Since its release in February 6000 people have registered to use AsDetect, which has been used in 3 700 assessments.

Heads up: the week’s winners at work

Nursing education veteran Catherine Turner has taken advantage of an early retirement package to leave the University of Queensland. As well as managing restructures as head of school her admirers point to her curriculum design work and the way nursing did well on her watch in Excellence for Research in Australia. She tells CMM that she will become a UoQ honorary professor, continue with board work and “tick off my travel bucket list.”

The UTS law school is staffing up, announcing yesterday it is in the market for five full professors or aspros. It is looking to build its research profile in law and health and law, history and culture.

Swinburne U’s Jason Sargent is a winner in rating agency QS’ impact awards for technology in international education and recruitment. Dr Sargent won for a project that sends Australian business and IT students to work in work in a remote village in India.

Nothing innovates like investment, as the University of Melbourne demonstrates with a cask of cash for new appointments. UoM has promoted former head of Commercialisation Australia, now with the university, Doron Ben-Meir to the new role of vice principal for enterprise. And it has created 12 new enterprise professorships, as part of its plan to double industry-related research. The 12 include two former Victorian premiersJohn Brumbyand Ted Baillieu, the recently resigned head of the federal Department of Education, Lisa PaulIBM Australia’s chief technology officer Joanna BatstoneDavid Morgan, sometime Westpac CEO and John Pollaers former head of Pacific Brands.

Federation U has appointed local government official Jeff Pulford as head of its technology park. Some 1500 people work at the park’s two Mount Helen and one central Ballarat sites.


Doug Hilton has received the Curtin Medal for Medical Research from ANU’s John Curtin SchoolProfessor Hilton is director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and president of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes.

Alan Dench is Curtin U’s new PVC HumanitiesProfessor Dench is a linguist with degrees from UWA and ANU. He joins Curtin from the University of Western Australia where he is executive dean of arts.

Jessica Vanderlelie is the inaugural Innovative Research Universities VCs’ Fellow. She is  Griffith U’s academic lead for employability and alumni engagement.

Christ’s College at the University of Cambridge has elected ANU law professor Jane Stapleton the first female master in its 500-year history. Her husband Peter Crane, also an ANU law professor is accompanying her to Cambridge, where he will teach.