ANU warns a bumper pollen season coming

Here’s hoping that it is shortly the city’s worse aerosol issue

For now, Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt tells staff that those struggling with working in lock-down will qualify for full-pay if they get 70 per cent of their normal hours done.

And students can use the CRS/CRN grading system for second semester. This replaces a passing grade with “course requirements satisfied,” (or not). Good for students struggling with lockdown but possibly bad for those who need high grades for professional accreditations.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on NSW unis investment strategies – borrowing for infrastructure and investments (does no-one remember Lehman Brothers/)

plus Sally Patmore and Jenny Gore on a Uni Newcastle programme to assist university teachers with no training in teaching. It’s Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in learning and teaching.”

and Danny Kingsley’s on the Australian Research Council’s misstep on open-access in grant applications (scroll down)

with Kim Carr’s case for a parliamentary science office. “By investing in science, and by demonstrating our trust in science, we are also strengthening our democracy. Democracy does not thrive when there is no respect for truth.”

Compare and contrast at two Adelaide unis

More cuts are on the Uni Adelaide agenda

Vice Chancellor Peter Høj gets points for “openness and timeliness” in presenting a proposed new structure to make savings, according to the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. But union branch president Nick Warner marks management down for focusing on finances, without “any overarching academic vision or guiding principles.”

In particular, he points to cancelling or creating courses “purely on financial terms,” which “does not say what a university degree actually stands for.”

And he reminds members that the last admin restructure caused “much confusion and disruption” – a point not contested by some managers who were there during the process.

Uni Adelaide’s enterprise agreement formally expired in June and word is bargaining is set to start.

In the meantime, Professor Høj proposes new savings, merging five faculties into three, a 130 professional staff position reduction and a review of courses and academic numbers (CMM July 9). Word is that they go to today’s meeting of the university Council.

All this follows 157 voluntary redundancies last year (CMM February 180.

“Go away!” of the day from Uni SA

The times are not as tense at the other end of North Terrace.

Uni SA escaped the COVID 19 crisis last year largely unscathed so enterprise bargaining is underway without the scars of jobs lost and fears of cuts to come.

The National Tertiary Education Union’s log of claims is basically the national set, a pay rise (12 per cent over the agreement), limits on hours, redundancies only when work is gone, plus one which resonates with locals – only one restructure for each staff member per agreement. Management’s reorganisation of teaching delivery and related support services was managed well last year – but the sheer size and scope meant stress and strain for staff.

One union proposal that will likely be argued is what is said to be a management proposal to replace the 17 per cent leave loading (available as either cash or leave) with four days of additional leave, to be taken when management says.

CMM asked the university about this and received a 61 word blather, (quoted in full).

“Uni SA commenced negotiations with the unions for a new enterprise agreement at the end of March this year. We are currently meeting fortnightly and progressively working through a number of the claims tabled by the unions and the university’s priorities. Bargaining continues to be constructive and the university will continue to work with the unions towards achieving a new agreement.”

Swinburne U reaches for sky

There’s a new arts degree, “bringing people and technology together”

The degree includes themes of study, which can be based on way-different disciplines, for example, “ethics and technology” and students can assemble majors from courses across the university.

People doing the degree will take four core subjects, two delivered by work integrated learning.

But it’s how and where of study that is especially interesting. Swinburne U guarantees work experience – every student is guaranteed an internship and industry project, “in a field of interest to them.” This launches one of newish vice chancellor Pascale Quester’s “moon-shots,” for 2025 – “every Swinburne learner gets a work experience (CMM April 30).

Bargaining to begin at U Tasmania

There’s a petition intended to put management on the back foot

It calls on VC Rufus Black to “bargain in good faith” on a range of issues and rule out “job losses in a programme of generalised cost-cutting.”

Sounds like a gratuitous bouncer sent down to unsettle a management opener but there’s a reason for it. Back in July, university management proposed senior staff cuts under a new structure for the university’s Australian Maritime College, soon after the end of last year’s agreement on savings to protect jobs from COVID-19 losses (CMM July 13). The timing was noted around U Tas.

What “tenure” may mean for a professor at UNSW

The Federal Court is on the case

Melissa Knothe Tate and the university are in dispute over redundancy. Professor  Knothe Tate moved from the US in 2013 to become the inaugural Paul M Trainor Chair in Biomedical Engineering at UNSW. She states that the university told her then the position was endowed, with guaranteed funding but that UNSW made her redundant last year. UNSW says Professor Knothe Tate’s position was disestablished in a restructure to “address funding shortfalls” and that this was done in accordance with “relevant industrial agreements.”

Professor Knothe Tate disputes this and after the failure of mediation has asked for the matter to be transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court. The former is “a high-volume trial court with limited resources to hear lengthy and difficult matters. Such matters are better heard in the Federal Court of Australia that has the resourcing and time to hear such matters,” Judge Humphreys of the Circuit Court concludes.

Matters to be considered include;

“the meaning of the word ‘tenured’ within the university context and an endowed professorial chair”

“consideration of the terms and conditions of the relevant workplace enterprise agreements for the university”

“the capacity of the university to disestablish a tenured professorial position.”

“The Court considers these matters to be of some significant general importance by reference to the tertiary education sector,” Judge Humphreys states.

Sharing the wealth

There are 58 600 registered charities in Australia, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, just 53 of them are at universities

The AIHW cites data showing that along with universities, there are 75 public research institutions that are “deductible gift recipients” and, 85 TAFE funds (who would have thought). And there 171 “approved research institute(s)” – CMM suspects they are mainly MRIs.

Overall education and research does ok with big donors, “education and research” receives the biggest share, 22 per cent, of “total business giving.”

ARC’s preprint misstep over DECRA grant applications 


The Australian Research Council might be out of step with the world, but institutional administrative areas are out of step with one another

There has been a flurry of interest on Twitter around the ARC’s recent decision to determine a number of Discovery Early Career Researcher Award grant applications ineligible because they referred to multiple forms of standard disciplinary forms of communication that have not been formally published, including pre-prints.

Responses ranged from the polite “ARC showing that they are more than just a little behind the times”, to confounded: “has ARC been asleep during the past 18 months, when preprints have helped accelerate COVID-19 research?” to the outraged: “unconscionable, unethical, and indefensible”.

After the fact, the Australian Institute of Physics (a discipline which has been using preprints in arXiv for literally 30 years) is: “in the process of preparing a response on behalf of the Australian physics community regarding this year’s ARC eligibility criteria.”

The ARC’s position does place it at odds with many funders across the world. Mentions of preprints by funders range from “accepting preprints in grant applications” (Wellcome Trust, January 2017 and BBSRC, (June 2017) to “encouraging investigators to use interim research products, such as preprints, to speed the dissemination and enhance the rigor of their work”  (National Institutes of Health, March 2017), to “actively encouraging researchers to share their pre-peer reviewed manuscripts via established preprint servers” (MRC, pre June 2017).

Beyond grant allocations, the UK Research and Innovation, which manages block grant funding to universities in the UK, not only encourages the use of preprints, but “reserves the right to ensure the use of preprints in the context of emergencies” (August 2021). Indeed, there is a list of funders accepting preprints from not just USA and UK but also Canada, Europe and Brazil.

As CMM reported on Friday, the ARC argued that this exclusion was clearly identified and research offices were told in webinar briefings. Moving beyond the validity or otherwise of ARC’s stance, this then points to a problem at the institution end. Why were the serious implications of this requirement only noticed at the point where applications were excluded?

Open access is mostly managed by library teams, where institutional repositories sit, and ARC grants application briefings are still mostly only attended by research offices. As one of the comments on Twitter noted: “all this time, librarians have been throwing their (limited) resources behind teaching open access to researchers but we should have started and stayed with teaching it to research offices”.

Until there is a change of mind at the ARC, perhaps this extraordinarily timely guide might be helpful – “What to do if you’re asked to remove a citation to a preprint”.


Dr Danny Kingsley is Associate Librarian (Content & Digital Library Strategy), at Flinders University. These are her personal opinions


Appointments, achievement

Rachel Buchanan becomes deputy head education at Uni Newcastle’s (new) College of Human and Social Futures.

Paul Hetherington (Uni Canberra) wins Uni Southern Queensland’s Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize.

MTP Connect, the Industry Growth Centre for pharma, announces fellows in its Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry programme; Ewan Miller (NSW Health) and Cindy Chia-Fan Shu (Uni Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital)