Big issue in research

A petition to parliament calls for legislation to stop ministers’ overriding Australian Research Council grant funding recommendations and to require the council to announce grants within three weeks of decisions. There’s another big issue

Veto and delays have attracted ire in the research community since Christmas

But there’s another point on the petition that recognises a risk to the authority of the research community. The petition asks for an amendment to the ARC act, “to require senior  research expertise of all members admitted to the ARC College of Experts.”

This is a response to Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert’s December 6 request that the ARC  provide options to, “include experts from backgrounds beyond universities, in particular those from industry and other end-user groups.” Mr Robert also asked for a new ARC advisory committee “with substantial research end-user and governance representation”.

150 College of Experts members have already opposed industry reps (CMM January 20).

Another issue for senators to ask ARC officers about at Estimates today.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) on global university rankings – why they are a menace.

plus Jack Breen (UNSW) on four ways universities can make the most of social media, including the next big thing in comms that connect. Plus the seven unis that get Tik Tok.

and Angel Calderon on the national HE staff statistics, out of date, and way too late. “We need to have a national system to help us to optimally plan, deliver, fund, and assure quality higher education, both now and well into the future.”

with Tessa McCredie (Uni Southern Queensland) and Alan McAlpine (Curtin U) on the importance of career development. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Vax not enforced at Uni Adelaide

Uni Adelaide adopts a policy that requires staff to be vaccinated but won’t apply it now

Vice Chancellor Peter Høj tells staff he is triple vaxed and, “a fervent believer in the benefit of vaccination and accordingly, I have repeatedly urged staff and students to become fully vaccinated.” And after campus consultation, the university will adopt as policy the power to make vaccination mandatory.

But he will not apply it for now.

“This has been a very difficult matter for me to wrestle with personally and I know it has been difficult too for sections of the university community,” the VC states.
“On balance, I judge that mandating vaccination currently is not a proportionate mitigation to the risk posed by Omicron with our very high vaccination rates within our university community and with current public health settings, including the absence of a broader societal vaccine mandate.”

However the university is considering making masks compulsory indoors, providing “a limited supply” of free masks, and “protocols” for teaching and learning.”

In contrast, Flinders U proposes making vax mandatory as an enterprise agreement variation, which requires a staff vote (CMM January 22). And Uni SA DV David LLoyd told staff (February 4) “Please do look after yourselves and one another, and please do ensure you are fully vaccinated.”

Quality counts in computing metrics

The Australian Computing Research Alliance wants known its opposition to venue impact factors and rankings

“Venue rankings have limited value in comparing one research area with another, they do not discriminate specialist from generalist venues, nor the distinct values of different venues, and they often replicate information contained in standard bibliometric tools,” the alliance of ANU, Uni Melbourne, UNSW and Uni Sydney announced the other day.

So what brought that on, CMM asked Uni Sydney which issued the statement for the alliance.

“It was not in response to any disagreement in the discipline,” is the reply. “It simply reflects the commitment from the four computer science schools to not use metrics when evaluating performance in future and instead to focus on the impact and quality of the research.”

Good-o, although the Computing Research and Education Association of Australasia, appears to disagree – it has databases ranking conferences and journals.

So what’s the issue? Emery Berger ( U Massachusetts, Amherst), who runs a metrics-based computer science conference ranking  suggests, “while we might wish for a world without rankings, wishing will not make rankings go away.”

His ranking, “is intended to be both incentive-aligned (faculty already aim to publish at top venues) and difficult to game, since publishing in such conferences is difficult. It is admittedly bean-counting, but its intent is to ‘count the right beans.’ ”

So, which unis make it on his ANZ metrics 2011-22? Uni Sydney is first on all-disciplines, UNSW is second, Uni Melbourne is fourth and ANU sixth.


Yet another international student announcement in WA


 The state government has amended its COVID Transition (Border requirements), again

Amendment Directions (no six) removes the clause requiring students to have arrived in Australia by 12.01am on February 5.

This is smart, albeit late, given last Friday the Government announced a support package including $8m for quarantine support for internationals arriving for first semester (CMM 14 Feb). With the February 5 mandate in place it wasn’t clear which students could access support.

According to Study Perth, the new rule means fully vaxed internationals and enrolled in WA can enter the state direct from overseas (as part of the international arrivals cap) or from other states.

They will still have to self-quarantine for seven days and meet testing requirements.

CMM continues to watch this space.

Dirk Mulder advises education and business clients on trends in international education. He writes regularly for CMM


Union’s multi state appeal for help with ACU  

The National Tertiary Education Union asks workplace health agencies in ACT, NSW, Queensland, Victoria to get involved

Observers suggest hundreds of Australian Catholic U staff returned to work this week but the union claims lack of consultation by management on pandemic-problems. These include management directing staff without specific work from home agreements to return to campus and issues, including provision of masks and ventilation.

To which ACU COO Stephen Weller responds the university has engaged with and continues to consult staff and unions, “to ensure, safe, healthy and vibrant campuses.”

Appointments, achievements

Lucinda Black from Curtin U has a three-year early career fellowship from MS Australia to research the role of diet in the disease.

Phil Broadbridge (La Trobe U emeritus) is awarded the Australian and New Zealand Industrial and Applied Mathematics medal

 The European Association of Geochemistry confers the Houtermans early-mid-career research award on Raffaella Demichelis (Curtin U).

Louise Phillips is newly appointed an associate professor at Southern Cross U (CMM Monday). She wants it known that her previous appointment was at James Cook U, Singapore.