Practical plan for polluting plastics

UWA PhD candidate Andrew Forrest proposes a price on plastic containers to make recycling them economic

He makes his case in a Ted Talk  here.  “Quarter of a cent, half a cent. It will be absolutely minimal. But what it does, it makes every bit of plastic all over the world an article of value. Where you have the waste worst, say Southeast Asia, India, that’s where the wealth is most.”

But what does this bloke know? Quite a bit actually;

“I have taken two multi-billion dollar operations from nothing, recognising that the technology can be scaled. I see at least a dozen technologies in plastic to handle all types of plastic. So once those technologies have an economic margin, which this gives them, that is where the global public will get all their plastic from, from existing plastic.”

Yes, that Andrew, as in Twiggy, Forrest.

Jacobs elected to health and med science academy

UNSW VC Ian Jacobs is elected a fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Professor Jacobs specialises in ovarian cancer. Full list of all 42 new fellows is in this morning’s appointments and achievements.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Erica Southgate (Uni Newcastle) on the coming assessment challenge from AI that can produce credit-level original essays. It’s a new essay in contributing editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Research dollars in deep water

Universities and defence-kit companies are establishing partnerships quicker than you say “high tech solutions” but Uni  Tasmania  has a unique sell

The university and Thales Australia have signed an MOU to develop sonar testing equipment for the RAN. VC Rufus Black explains that Thales is extending the long-standing partnership in part because of the uni’s, “world-renowned expertise in maritime research and engineering, (and) state-of-the-art facilities.”

And there is another ingredient – lakes, Tasmania’s deep, cold, acoustically- suitable lakes. Thales has tested sonar in them since 1991.

To set standards that protect students – ask them

TEQSA is reviewing its risk assessment framework, the postgraduate student lobby has some ideas

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency’s existing RAF, which covers education standards and protecting student interests at higher education institutions, has been in place since 2014 and the agency is considering an update. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations proposes students be actually asked what they think in-person rather than solely surveyed on satisfaction – “student satisfaction does not necessarily indicate quality, as many students lack a point of comparison, having not attended other higher education providers. Anecdotally, we hear feedback from students thrilled about improvements made by their university, who are unaware that conditions at their university remain sub-standard compared to others.”

CAPA also calls for institutions to be assessed on their provision of independent student support and representation.

Getting Hal to open the pod bay door

RMIT to lead a $70m research project on machine learning and decision making

The university has $31m from the federal government to host the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society. Education Minister Dan Tehan announced it yesterday.

Partners will provide another $39m. RMIT reports they include seven other Australian universities, nine US, UK and European uni and 14 other international AI-industry and community research organisations and lobbies. Centre head, RMIT’s Julian Thomas says the centre’s work will, “help ensure machine learning and decision-making technologies (are) used responsibly, ethically and inclusively.”

VET in schools – it’s big and it works

A quarter of kids participate in senior-school VET programme and it helps some, many, find “full-time and satisfying work,”  new research from the Melbourne Institute reports

the good news: Julie Moschion, Cain Polidano and Marco Castillo used an initial sample of 40 000 students from PISA (2003, 06 and 09) and LSAY to find, that school VET provided participants with a “head-start in the labour market.”

They estimate that over the first seven years in the workforce it delivers extra earnings, “equivalent to receiving a one-off payment at the time of leaving school” of $26,408 for VET without workplace learning, $39,954 for VET with workplace learning, and $60,294 for apprenticeships/traineeships.

The lead does not last, after seven years, graduates, for example, catch-up. But while they warn longer-term benefits depend on post-school study choices, the report also suggests that school VET can help students make employer connections and find courses that “better match” the job market.

so, what’s the problem: No surprise here; “there are more than 1,000 nationally accredited VET courses, however, there is little information available on the employment outcomes that students can expect on graduation. Except for VET courses in the trades, there is a weak relationship between the occupation that VET courses are designed to prepare students for and the types of jobs attained.” Moschion, Polidano and Castillo warn.

how to improve it: they propose three actions; * understand barriers to participating in school-based VET, * look at how the ‘early start’ may play-out later in working life. “VET graduates may be more sensitive to changes in skill demands, which could be a disadvantage for them in their later career,” and * provide, “course-level information on expected outcomes at graduation for students to help better inform their choice of VET pathways.”


ATAR not always an issue

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank is as applauded as anthrax – which is not always fair

The NSW Universities Admissions Centre has crunched student data for 2013-17 to find that students do not game the rank to increase overall scores for uni entry. Rather, “most students tended to self-select subjects that align with their interests and academic ability, and which provide them with appropriate preparation for university, so a student who is strong in humanities subjects would be unlikely to choose science subjects for their HSC, and vice versa.”

And results are consistent across subjects, a student with good results in chemistry is likely to have a similar score in Italian.

“Students with a ‘jagged’ profile – those who excel in certain areas while performing badly in others – a group of students some believe are not best served by the ATAR, are rare,” UAC announces.

Academy of Health and Medical Sciences fellows and other appointments and achievements

At Uni Newcastle, Tina Crawford, previously director, people and workforce strategy becomes inaugural director, diversity and inclusion.  

The Australian Academy of Science Medal is awarded to Space Agency head Megan Clark and Peter Yates, chair of the Australian Science Media Centre and the Royal Institution of Australia.

Nic Smith is to be the new provost of QUT, commencing March. He joins from the University of Auckland where he is dean of engineering.

Jane Visvader and Geoffrey Lindeman (Walter and Eliza Hall) win the Brinker award for basic science in breast cancer research from Dallas based, Susan G Korman, “the world’s leading breast cancer organisation.”

 The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences announces it elects 42 ordinary and corresponding fellows

Ordinary fellows

Minote Apte, Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research

John Bertram Monash University

Bruce Campbell, Royal Melbourne Hospital

Karen Canfell, Cancer Council NSW

Flavia Cicuttini, Monash University

Clare Collins, Uni Newcastle

Alan Cowman, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Jonathan Craig, Flinders University

Tim Davis FAHMS, UWA

Emma Duncan, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital

Sally Dunwoodie Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

John Findlay AO FAHMS, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Prue Francis, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Russell Gruen, ANU

Carmel Hawley, Princess Alexandra Hospital (Brisbane)

Paul Hodges, Uni Queensland

Tammy Hoffmann, Bond University

Caroline Homer, Burnet Institute

Jennifer Hoy, Monash University

Ian Jacobs, UNSW

Stephen Jan, George Institute

David Johnson Princess Alexandra Hospital (Brisbane)

Katherine Kedzierska, Uni Melbourne

Richard Kitching, Monash University

Graham Mann, ANU

Sarah Medland, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Sandy Middleton, ACU

Tuan Nguyen, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Mark Parsons, Royal Melbourne Hospital

George Paxinos, Neuroscience Research Australia

David Reutens, Uni Queensland

Gail Risbridger, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Pankaj Sah, Uni Queensland

Monica Slavin, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Karin Thursky, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Balasubramanian Venkatesh, Wesley Hospital (Brisbane)

Sarah Wilson, Uni Melbourne

Mark Woodward, George Institute for Global Health

Paul Young, Uni Queensland

Hala Zreiqat, Uni Sydney

Corresponding fellows

Paul Lambert, University of Wisconsin

Julian Savulescu, Uni Oxford