Headline of the summer

Uni Adelaide excelled with

“Sulphur chemical technology improves battery lifespans.” No chance of anybody misunderstanding what the yarn was about.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

With blended learning set to stay , Lisa Tee and Susan Blackley (Curtin U) write on creating on-line laboratory and practicum course components. Theirs is Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s first 2022 selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

David Chinofunga (James Cook U) on access to advanced maths in schools. Disadvantaged students miss out on courses that build careers.

NHMRC calls for quality not quantity

The National Health and Medical Research Council wants applicants to list their top ten research publications over the last decade, instead of everything

The intent is to focus on “the quality and contribution of the science rather than the quantity of publications.” The selection-period can extend for researchers with career-disruptions. The NHMRC states benefits include, reducing the peer review “burden” and aligning with assessment used by international and Australian funding agencies (MRFF and ARC).

The policy is in-place now – applying to Investigator Grant applications, open this month.

The announcement was not universally endorsed, with supporters suggesting it will make a big improvement to the grants process but complaints it will not improve the chances of early and mid-career researchers and that more funding is essential.

Nor is it likely to take attention away from the NHMRCs two big policy problems – anger over gender imbalance in grant awards (CMM October 25 ’21)  and the council pulling a proposal in November to require new publications and supporting data from research it funds to be immediately OA (CMM November 2 ’21).


The price of not parking at Flinders

With the Omicron unpleasantness continuing, Flinders U management suggests staff work from home until month’s end

The message went out last week. So did a scheduled announcement of a hike in parking fees, thus charging people more for a service management hopes they won’t use for a while.

Tropical entente: CDU, CQU and JCU pal-up

It’s good for all – especially James Cook U

Charles Darwin U, CQU and James Cook U announce a partnership to, “seek joint funding opportunities, share knowledge, deliver integrated education and training courses, and work on research projects.”

The Northern University Alliance is more than the usual MOU, with a secretariat to be established. With CDU’s Scott Bowman and CQU’s Nick Klomp skilled in the arts of extracting grants from governments this will be a plus for both their institutions.

It is also a win for incoming JCU vice chancellor Simon Biggs (he replaces Sandra Harding next month).

JCU is further up the research food-chain than its allies but is not universally popular in politics. It is not popular at all among Coalition backbenchers who supported former JCU professor Peter Ridd, in his five-year dispute with the university, which commenced with management disciplining and then sacking him over criticisms of research on the Great Barrier Reef.

His friends argued long and loud this was a breach of his right to academic comment and while the High Court ultimately upheld JCU, the decision was not based on his original comments.

JCU might also want to make nice with the federal Opposition, which promises $15 million for marine ecosystem research at CQU’s Gladstone campus. The party also promises $50m for CQU to replace its campus in Cairns (CMM November 11 2021).

Neither announcement can have gone down well with James Cook U, which used to have Cairns and the GBR pretty much to itself.

What international students want on Omicron


They are looking for clear, intentional, empathetic messaging from all levels of government

Australia’s international education sector has plenty of worries heading into 2022, but perversely Omicron is not one of them

We are now living with the virus.  Any health and safety “advantage” we had has been wiped out.  Every major competitor destination nation is dealing with Omicron.  Australia is now neither “more” or “less” safe than any other study destination.

What our competitor destinations have going for them in the face of this variant is prior action to ensure that international students know they are welcome, and policies and messaging in place to sustain their competitiveness.

In our research – following the conversations international students are having on social media – two things are apparent:

* they remain concerned about the practicalities of coming to study in Australia

* they are looking for clear, intentional, empathetic messaging from all levels of government.

Students are watching closely what is happening in Australia as they have done throughout the pandemic.

They are largely happy and keen to follow public health requirements and advice. But without clear messaging we continue to risk students choosing a competitor nation based not on COVID case numbers or open borders but on how well students are able to access and understand information about the pandemic response and what it means for them.

Managing uncertainty means providing clear, consistent, and honest information.  Omicron shines a bright light on ensuring we do not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

In one sense, something far more consequential to the sector’s recovery happens this year: elections at the federal level, and in Victoria and South Australia.  Whoever wins government in each jurisdiction will be dealing with the hangover of the last two years.  Time for the sector to be preparing sensible policy-asks of politicians of all persuasions.  Our recovery depends on it.

Jeffrey Smart is director & co-founder of the Lygon Group. Angela Lehmann is its head of research

Copyright reform finally coming

Over a year after an announcement the government has a proposal

In August 2020 Comms Minister Paul Fletcher announced copyright reform, which could make it easier for schools and universities easier to access content (CMM August 15 2021). But it took a while for a proposal on how to do it to arrive. Mr Fletcher only released a consultation draft on December 21 last.

“A key issue is how to introduce more flexibility in the act to allow clear and reasonable access to content in the public interest in an increasingly digital world, while maintaining appropriate safeguards to protect copyright owners’ commercial interests,” the paper states.

Anybody interested should not follow the government’s lead and take their time – responses are due on February 11.

MOOC of the morning

Curtin U and Uni Queensland announce a professional certificate, Foundations of Modern Mining, via edX. The six-courses in one year cost $3352 for full-content while a time-limited version, without assignments, exams and certificate is free. The certificate is endorsed by the Mining Council of Australia.

UNSW hardens-up on open access

The university’s new policy requires researchers to deposit pubs or author accepted ms in the UNSW repository, “immediately at the time of first publication” 

It’s a change from the previous which required peer-reviewed articles and papers to be OA within 12 months of publication.

And there is no out for publishers who want an embargo, researchers must state the university policy on submitting. “UNSW researchers must retain all necessary rights to enable them to publish and share their publications in any format at any time and may not grant an exclusive copyright license in the research output to any other person or organisation,” states the new policy.

Smart and targeted move. The Council of Australian University Librarians has done five deals with publishers to build OA into member institutions subscriptions costs (CMM November 23), which means UNSW is putting pressure on others, including for-profit journal giant, Elsevier.


Aid for ELICOS

There is new product funding for providers still standing

Industry peak body English Australia is administering $9m in new federal funding for colleges to expand products for on-line/off-shore course delivery.

The maximum grant is $150 000 and applications close January 28.

EA CEO Brett Blacker says ELICOS student visa commencements were down 60 per cent in 2021, following a 50 per cent drop in 2020.

But the impact is wider than providers – fewer completing ELICOS students mean lower flows through the pipelines to HE and VET courses.

Charles Sturt U buys time

A third of staff back management’s request for an extra year before it must make them an offer on wages and conditions

Last month management asked staff to extend the existing enterprise agreement by 12 months to give it time to sort out a new strategy (CMM December, 9 and 10). To encourage agreement management promised $1000 for each of the 3270 eligible staff if a vote to extend passed.

The National Tertiary Education Union thought the delay in bargaining beginning for a new agreement was a bad idea indeed. “The sooner we bargain, the sooner we will have stronger protections from retrenchment and overwork,” branch president Helen Masterman-Smith said.

But a majority of CSU staff voting decided to go with the money. The extension was approved by 58 per cent of the poll – although the turnout was 1519, just half of eligible voters, meaning just over a bare quarter of staff eligible to vote back the university’s proposal. While a win is a win, this may be why CSU declined to tell CMM Friday what the numbers were.

Appointments, achievements of the summer

Australian Academy of Science appointments: Zach Ghirardello (formerly Diversity Council Australia) becomes director, Diversity and Inclusion. Andrew Hood (ex National Gallery of Australia) is CIO. Petra Lundgren is director, Future Earth Australia. She has “over 25 years of experience spanning academia, government, development cooperation and the not-for-profit sector.”

Larissa Behrendt (UTS) is the Australian Human Rights Commission medal winner.

Joanne Cys steps up at Uni SA to become provost and chief academic officer. She moves from ED Uni SA Creative. Professor Davis replaces Allan Evans, “who moves back to enjoy life as a researcher.”  An open recruitment process for the dean position will be announced.

Flinders U announces VC Colin Stirling’s contract is extended to December ’29. Chancellor Stephen Gerlach is reappointed to 2026

Curtin U VC Harlene Hayne is awarded a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

At QUT, Sarah Howard is confirmed as associate director of the library. She has acted since last January.

Grace Karskens (UNSW) wins the PM’s history prize for her book, People of the River: lost worlds of early Australia .

At UNSW Stuart Khan becomes  director of the Australian Graduate School of Engineering.

Jenny Lewis is appointed director of Scholarly and Social Research Impact at the University of Melbourne. She is professor of public policy at the university.

The National Health and Medical Research Council principal committees are announced for 2021-24, chairs are. * Health Research Impact: Emily Banks (ANU) * Research:  Steve Wesselingh (SA Health and Medical Research Institute), continuing appointment * Ingrid Winship (Uni Melbourne) Health Ethics (Uni Melbourne), continuing appointment.

Fiona Salisbury joins Western Sydney U as ED Library Services. She moves from La Trobe U.

The South Australian Government’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Taskforce includes Ganessan Kichenadasse (Flinders U), Michaela Okninski (Uni Adelaide), Bernadette Richards (Uni Adelaide).

Southern Cross U announced its outstanding teaching and inspiring educator awards last month.

Stela Solar is appointed director of the National AI Centre. She is a previous Microsoft Director of AI Solutions, Sales and Strategy.

Katie Stevenson will join Monash U as dean of arts mid-year. She is to move from VP-Collections at St Andrews in Scotland.

Swinburne U announces DVCs. Karen Hapgood moves from Deakin U to become DVC R. Sarah Maddison is confirmed as DVC Education, Experience and Employability. She was previously Swinburne U’s PVC Academic Innovation. Chris Pilgrim is Senior DVC and Chief Academic Officer. He steps up from PVC E at the university.

Uni SA announces its inaugural Bradley Distinguished Professors, Carol Kulik (human resource management) Lorimer Moseley (physiotherapy), Tim Olds (allied health) and Libby Roughead (clinical and health sciences)

The Victorian Endowment for Science, Knowledge and Innovation life sciences prize went to Anne Voss and Tim Thomas (the MRI formerly known as Walter and Eliza Hall). Christopher Berndt (Swinburne U) won the physical science award. Prize money for both awards is $50 000.

Shannon Willoughby is Uni Queensland’s inaugural director for government relations.  She moves from the state government’s Trade and Investment Queensland.