No fries with that

“We are all just highly advanced fishes,” Flinders U palaeontologist John Long on anatomical evidence connecting human bone structure to an ancient fish. At least we aren’t descended from potatoes.

New Academy of Science behaviours don’t define research misconduct

The Australian Academy of Science has created a code of conduct, which is very good indeed. But there is no mention of a top problem in science ethics – research misconduct.

The new code is a big deal indeed, complex to negotiate and it’s a first, some suggest for the STEM sector in that it applies to staff, fellows and volunteers.

Overall it is straightforward and sensible, staff among many other things, are required to “maintain the highest standards of professionalism” and “foster a culture of respect, dignity, collaboration and support for co-workers.” Fellows have numerous obligations, they must “use their standing as senior scientists and fellows of the Academy to ensure that this code is upheld by others; for example, by intervening in cases of bullying, discrimination, harassment or inappropriate language.” They must not claim to be experts in areas where they aren’t, as well as declaring real or potentially perceived conflicts of interest.

Good-oh, but there is no mention in the code of addressing research misconduct, which seems strange given that fellows are required to, “uphold the reputation and standing of the Academy within the community as an independent, authoritative body comprising a fellowship of Australia’s leading scientists.”

Yesterday the Academy told CMM that it; ““does not itself directly undertake scientific research. Any alleged case of research misconduct would initially be investigated by the employing institution. The findings of such an investigation would then be considered by the Academy.

“While research misconduct is not explicitly mentioned in the code of conduct, the Academy now has a mechanism to consider and handle alleged breaches.”

So why not define it? Perhaps because the Australian Research Council doesn’t. The 2007 edition of the ARC code did, but not the update. The expert committee responsible decided it was just too hard given, “there is no internationally agreed definition of research misconduct, and that the definition in the current code has been problematic in its application to an investigation outcome and findings, particularly in relation to enterprise agreements and current approaches to the management of behaviours that may require corrective action,” (CMM June 19 2017).

So, the Academy is covered, for as long as there is no research scandal where some fellows decide others’ research is not jolly good.

MOOC of the morning

FutureLearn offersDangerous Questions: why academic freedom matters,” starting Monday. It’s taught by Olga Hunter, from the University of Bremen and Robert Quinn from the New York based Scholars at Risk Network.

Demand driven funding II: a place for TAFE

Labor is on the record that it will restore demand driven funding, which university lobbies like, a lot (CMM May 14). They shouldn’t. Unlike the old system, higher education under any DDFII will probably have to compete with TAFE for funded students. As Labor education shadow Tanya Plibersek explained on Sky News yesterday;

“People throughout their post-school life will be doing some qualifications at uni, some at TAFE. The TAFEs have been really run down in recent years and what we want to see is a world-class university system, side by side with a world class TAFE system so that people can make decisions, when they finish school or throughout their working lives, to get great qualifications in either stream, TAFE or university, and to see both of those working more closely together. … It won’t be universities on (their) own in the future, we’ll be getting our skills and education from all those institutions.”

Less demand, than competition-for-students-who-have-a-choice-of-systems, driven funding.

Griffith U finally puts numbers on science jobs to go

Griffith University is finally offering voluntary redundancies in science schools. Management signalled this was coming last year when PVC Sciences Andrew Smith warned “student expectation and behaviour has been changing” and the university needed to address a $9m loss on taught load in 2017 (CMM September 19).

Professor Smith now tells staff that the merger of the schools of natural science and environment means eight EFT academic positions will go. Five administration and technical support EFT jobs in the schools of environment and science and engineering and built environment are also set to end.

Staff have until June 21 to put their hands up.  If the VR targets are not reached Professor Smith says the university will “proceed in accordance” with the compulsory redundancy clauses of the academic and general staff agreements.

He thanked staff for “your patience and forbearance this year.” Which will make everybody wondering what to do feel much better.

ABS counting slowly

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the consolidated R&D numbers for 2016 last week,  CMM, May 23. But universities are waiting for the ABS to report their individual research spending, which becomes the official record as recognised by the Commonwealth. Word is the reason for the delay is that the ABS thinks its existing data distribution method, said to be via CD Rom, is a bit dated but is not sure what to use instead. “So, while the ABS no doubt sets up an internal committee process on this universities wait for their individual finalised figures,” a learned reader remarks. And time is tight – submissions to the House of Reps committee inquiry on research management are due at the end of the month.

After the applause, back to bargaining at Victoria U

Victoria U has had a great week with an applause of approval for its plan to extend block-teaching to all courses. But it’s back to industrial relations reality with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union announcing its enterprise bargaining position.

This seems set by last year’s campus experience, when the intensive-teaching First Year College model (now to become the every year experience), meant job changes and losses for staff, (CMM March 13 2017). The union says it wants to “significantly improve” conditions for academic teaching scholars, “to end the underclass system.”

In common with NTEU branches across the country, the union also wants 17 per cent super for all staff, continuation of existing misconduct policies and no change to intellectual freedom protection but it is the restructuring of the last 18th months that will be front of union minds as bargaining begins. “Change processes at VU are some of the worst in the country … The union will be seeking better job security and organisational change provisions to protect staff in times of change,” the NTEU asserts.

The US way in international education

A learned reader reports from Philadelphia, where 10 000 international education experts are meeting at the “Diverse voices shared commitment” conference.

Much of the delegate talk is about how lovely key note speaker Laura Bush is, in contrast to the president, who they do not like at all. Industry association NAFSA is about to respond Mr Trump’s immigration policies with a “write your congressman” style of campaign about the importance of international students studying in the US.

There is also a new “you are welcome here” scheme, which the LR advises involves “a handful” of US universities each offering two half-fee one year scholarships to students who write an essay explaining how much they want to study in the US.

But what puzzles the LR is that despite all this, the major sponsor of the first day plenary was Education in Ireland, spruiking the slogan “world class standards, warmest of welcomes,” one of which the LR suggests over-does it.  At least, the LR says the Irish do not need an essay from applicants.

Appointments and achievements this week

Lisa Donaldson is appointed University of Canberra’s dietician in residence. She “aims to improve the nutritional health and knowledge of the university’s community.”

Elizabeth Elliott (UniSydney) has won the Australian Medical Association’s 2018 excellence in healthcare award for research, advocacy and clinical work in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Erica Tong and colleagues at Alfred Health are honoured by the AMA for a trial on reducing medication errors in hospital discharge summaries.

Kevin Scarce is appointed to a third term as chancellor of the University of AdelaideRear Admiral Scarce will now serve until November 2020. He became the university’s 16thchancellor in 2014. The appointment is seen as providing support for new VC Peter Rathjen as he develops a new strategic plan.

Ashley Hay is the new editor of the Griffith Review, a JV of the university and publisher Text. GU says Dr Hay is “a distinguished author, journalist and editor.” She replaces founding editor Julianne Schultz.

Chongmin Song is promoted to director of the UNSW Centre for Infrastructure Engineering and Safety.

Deborah Terry has a second term at Curtin U, which CMM reported as a very good outcome indeed for the university.

UniAdelaide has a new executive dean of the science faculty. Cell biologist Keith Jones moves from the University of Southampton. He last worked in Australia at the University of Newcastle in 2008-2012.

Hugh Durrant-Whyte succeeds Mary O’Kane as NSW chief scientist and engineer. The roboticsdata science and general digital wizardry expert moves from chief scientist at the UK Ministry of Defence

Australia’s nominee for the APEC science prize is RMIT’s Madhu Bhaskaran. She researches stretchable electronics and sensors

Helen Klaebe is QUT’s inaugural PVC for graduate research and development.

UniSydney mathematicians Geordie Williamson and Anthony Henderson will be co-directors of a new maths research institute, funded by a $5m donation from the Simon Marais foundation