Books do furnish a brain

Joanna Sikora from ANU, with US colleagues, analysed results from a 31-country test to find a positive benefit to literacy and numeracy among adolescents who grow up in homes with books.  Young people with books at home who end education at Year Nine had similar test results to graduates who come from book-less homes.  “Scholarly culture is a way of life rather than concerted cultivation,” the authors argue. “”Early exposure to books in the parental home matters because books are an integral part of routines and practices which enhance lifelong cognitive competencies.”

You can read more if you have access to the Elsevier published Social Science Research or are prepared to pay US$9.50 for 24-hours access to the paper. The irony of restricting access to research on the benefits of access to knowledge appears to have escaped the publisher.

Academy of Science’s million friendly faces

The Australian Academy of Science has reached 1 million likes on its Facebook page, delivering on its mission, “to celebrate excellence in Australian science and make it accessible to everyone.”  This is a big number for any scholarly agency – the US American Association for the Advancement of Science has 200 000 FB likes.

The other Australian learned academies appear less interested in appealing to people who use Facebook.   The Australian Academy of the Humanities does not have a Facebook page, but it is on Twitter with 2334 followers.  The Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering is also Facebook free, but has 1938 Twitter followers. The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia is way ahead of both in having a Facebook page, with 48 likes.

Not so super promise for Charles Sturt U casuals

Charles Sturt U is offering staff an industry-standard enterprise agreement, with a 9 per cent pay rise over the agreement’s life, on pay-rates applying at the beginning of last year. Staff on fixed term contracts up to 12 months also have a win, with their superannuation increasing from the government required rate of 9.5 per cent to the university-system standard 17 per cent for continuing employees, which also applies to CSU contracts longer than a year.

As for casual staff, they get an undertaking that if the Commonwealth specified superannuation rate increases they are “guaranteed” to get it. Whacko! Sure CSU would have no choice but to pay any legislated super rise but it’s nice to know CSU will do it with a good grace.

The owl of the Pozible at ANU

The ANU-based Difficult Bird Research Group has done it again – exceeding their $60 000 target (via crowd-funded Pozible) to train detection dogs to sniff out the hard-to-find and consequentially under-studied Tasmanian Masked Owl (CMM September 12).  The $63 000 they raised exceeded the $57 000 donors delivered for research on the endangered Swift Parrot.

But taking to the wing with crowd funding is not as easy as it looks – CMM hears a university that decided to run its own campaign for eminently fundable research projects is struggling.

UNSW and union agree on a bargain

It’s the last day for UNSW staff to vote on the enterprise agreement jointly proposed by management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. The union urges staff to vote for a deal which it says provides staff with an 8 per cent pay rise across the agreement and protects “existing workplace conditions” and offers “new workplace entitlements. The proposal is certainly in-line with comparable deals – the only significant concession the union appears to have made was agreeing to the university recruiting externally for 170 “education focused” academics (CMM September 12).

Last piece in the Dismissal puzzle

Whitlam biographer, Jenny Hocking (Monash U) is crowdfundingFederal Court case to force the National Archives to release correspondence between then governor general John Kerr and the Queen at the time of the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. They are “the final missing piece in the puzzle on the most controversial episode in Australia’s political history,” Professor Hocking says.

According to Professor Hocking, the National Archives refuses to release the file arguing that the documents are private papers, not Commonwealth records. Professor Hocking’s pro-bono legal team says this is not correct.

It looks Professor Hocking will get her day in court, yesterday theLast piece in the Dismissal puzzle, via the social-activist Chuffed platform, reported the campaign has raised $45 000 of the $60 000 target. Perhaps nothing will save the governor general’s letters.

TEQSA reports college closure

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency  reports it is “aware” that receivers are appointed to ParaPharm Pty Ltd, which trades as Paramount Higher Education. According to TEQSA, the paramedicine college has “insufficient resources to continue operations” and will “cease operations immediately” effecting 110 students.

Back in 2015 TEQSA declined to register ParaPharm and did not renew accreditation for five courses. The college went to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and on the basis of information provided there TEQSA granted qualified registration to 2019. Conditions included submitting a budget for financial years a month prior. TEQSA does not report whether the college’s owners met this condition before the start of thid financial year. The agency is liaising with the administrators.

TEQSA  advises students who fear they have done their fees is to check the Australian Council for Private Education and Training’s tuition assurance website. In August then training minister Karen Andrews announced that from next year the government would extend the existing scheme that protects international students from colleges closing to the domestic market.

Appointments, achievements of the week

UTS announces Maureen Taylor will join in May, as professor of strategic communication. Professor Taylor is now at the University of Tennessee.

 The University of the Sunshine Coast has promoted one of its own, Jay Sanderson, to be head of the law school.

The Australian Psychological Society’s new distinguished contribution award goes to Herb Marsh from the Australian Catholic University.

 Lisa Hunt (UniAdelaide) is awarded the Australian Academy of Science’s Moran Award for History of Science Research.  Grace Muriuki (UoQ) receives the Academy’s 2019 WH Gladstones Population and Environment Fund.

Troy Williams in the incoming CEO of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training. He joins from the Australian Dental Industry Association.

Sue MacLeman is the new chair of federally funded med tech and pharmaceutical growth centre MTP Connect. She replaces Bronwyn Evans, in the chair since the agency was established in 2016. In July Ms MacLeman was replaced as MD of MTP by Dan Grant, who moved from La Trobe U.

The new council for the National Health and Medical Research Council is announced. Bruce Robinson continues as chair. Ingrid Winship (UniMelbourne) chairs the health ethics committee.  Steve Wesselingh chairs the research committee. Professor Wesselingh, from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, chaired the NHMRC’s recent structural review of the NHMRC’s grant programme.  Sharon Lewin (Peter Doherty Institute) is a continuing council member. She chairs the health translation advisory committee. Katherine Woodthorpe (non-executive director of oncology company Sirtex Medical) chairs the health innovation advisory committee.