As suggested by the B-52’s

Jennie Chandler, PhD student at the University of the Sunshine Coast, has identified a gene which might make possible manipulating the gender of a lobster species. But where will it lead? The B-52’s had an idea, famously suggested in “Rock Lobster”, “Boy’s in bikinis
Girls in surfboards, Everybody’s rockin.” Quite.

Cuts not complete

A learned reader points out university base funding cuts are not the only higher education hits apparently on hold. The end of the $3.7bn Education Investment Fund, which the government wants to transfer to the National Disability Insurance Scheme is not about to pass the Senate soon. Senators have sent the bill to accomplish this off to a committee which will not report until October 16.

U of Melbourne staff demand protection for their right to speak up

Policy is no protection, codified rights are, they say

Staff at the University of Melbourne have long worried that some in management would prefer them to confine their comments to articles in obscure journals. There was a flurry in the winter of 2016 over a proposed appropriate behaviour policy which would restrict academics to speaking only on areas of expertise  ( CMM August 1 2016 and  CMM August 10). But the idea appeared to go away when the university reiterated its policy commitment; “to preserve, defend and promote the traditional principles of academic freedom in the conduct of its affairs … so that all scholars at the university are free to engage in critical enquiry, scholarly endeavour and public discourse without fear or favour”.

But not every was, or is, convinced. Six senior scholars have kick-started a campaign to demand the university retain protections of academic and intellectual freedom, and against summary dismissal that are in the existing Enterprise Agreement in the replacement now being negotiated.

Associate professors Larry Abel and Susan Ainsworth and professors Sean Cooney, Beth Gaze, Christian Haesemeyer and Frances Separovic have written to Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis asking the university “to agree to the continued protection of academic and intellectual freedom in negotiations for a new agreement.”

“We appreciate the expression of commitment to academic freedom contained in university policy; however, this policy provides no legal remedy and therefore does not offer protection against the dismissal of staff based on their publicly expressed opinions or scientific conclusions,” they write

“Only when academic freedom is enshrined as in a legally binding agreement, which includes the protection against summary dismissal for expression of unpopular positions, can it be said to truly afford the independence of thought that ground breaking research and challenging and fruitful teaching require.”

Which is where everybody was when this issue arose two years ago.


Rogers resigns from JCU

Human Resources director Nick Rogers is leaving James Cook University. According to JCU he “has resigned for private family reasons and will return to the UK to be with his family.“ DVC Resources Tricia Brand will continue to lead the university’s enterprise bargaining team.

UNE staff feel stumped and trumped

Academics worry about the company they might have to keep

The University of New England is proposing an academic restructure – the first since 2007 (although there was big organisational change in 2012). Word is that management prefers a four-faculty plan, unless it becomes three. But people in law and business staff have no idea what will happen if join agriculture and some humanities staff worry they will be forgotten if forced into a faculty with the large and influential School of Education. And overall people are upset about now knowing what might happen. “It is a little like the White House, sans racism, around here at the moment, but with less communication (at least if communication implies dialogue)” a learned reader reports.

Delighted dean

The restructure of the UniSydney business school is done

Elaine McFadzean is the new GM at the University of Sydney business school. Ms McFadzean has worked in senior roles in the public and private sector. Dean Greg Whitwell seems very pleased, telling staff yesterday that she brings “a demonstrated capacity to succeed in a wide variety of industries,” and has “a great deal of experience in leading and transforming performance and culture of a wide range of functions”

This appears to complete the restructure announced in February, in which one of very few jobs lost was that of then executive director Nigel Smith, (CMM February 1).

UA reveals who will cop the cuts: full discipline group list

STEM staff will feel the budget hit worse but nobody else will escape

The courses required to generate high-tech employment will cop the worse of the governments proposed cuts, according to Universities Australia. Educating students in science, technology, engineering and maths will lose $420m of the $1.2bn the governments wants to excise from university budgets. UA’s analysis is in real 2018 dollars with an unchanged discipline mix and student for 2018-2021, and compares funding with cuts to “business as usual.”

“If we want Australia to be a STEM powerhouse we can’t afford to cut public funding to train future scientists,” UA chief Belinda Robinson says.

UA puts overall funding losses over four years (cash and per centage of system total) by STEM discipline culture at:

Maths, stats, computing, built environment, other Health: $107m and 9.1 per cent

Science: $167m and 14.4 per cent

Engineering and surveying:$101m and 8.7 per cent

Agriculture, environmental and related studies & pathology: $31m and 2.7 per cent

Total STEM cut: $405m and 34.9 per cent

“While government funding for each student place in a STEM course would be cut, STEM students would have to pay higher fees for those places – even though the government’s own figures show STEM degrees make a vast contribution to the public good,” UA asserts.

The analysis also projects losses in other discipline clusters.

Allied health: $37m and 3.2 per cent

Nursing: $75m and 6.5%

Dentistry: medicine and vet science: $77m and 6.7 per cent

Total HEALTH cut: $191m and 16.5 per cent

Law, business and economics: $138m and 11.9 per cent

Humanities: $32m and 2.8 per cent

Behavioural sciences: $165m and 14.2 per cent

Education: $106m and 9.2 per cent

Psychology, languages, visual/performing arts: $122m and 10.6 per cent

The UA model is contingent on universities maintaining the existing proportions of costs across discipline clusters and not looking for offsetting savings in teaching and other areas.

Law and business academics can expect what regularly happens to happen again if the government cuts pass, they will lose more revenue per student to other clusters which do not teach as efficiently,” a veteran of many budget battles said last night.

Macquarie appoints CIO

David Reeve is confirmed as Chief Innovation Office at Macquarie University, after acting in the position for six months.

Clarivate to crunch performance data

The Australian Research Council has hired Clarivate to analyse performance data for next year’s Excellence for Research in Australia IV

Clarivate will provide ERA expert panels with citation data to assess the impact of journal articles, as part of an overall assessment of research performance. (The ARC is at pains to point out that disciplines where peer review is what matters in reflecting reputation are not dependent on analytic exercises.)

Lat night there were suggestions in research circles that universities who used another research analytics package would now need to purchase Clarivate’s, bit not so says Leanne Harvey, the ARC’s general manager.

Universities will not be required to purchase a Clarivate analysis package to participate in the ERA 2018 evaluation. The citation provider has been contracted to provide a service to universities and to the ARC that does not require universities to purchase proprietary data or software. The process is the same as in previous ERA rounds.

Clarivate (what was Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property and Science), provides the bibliometric base for the Academic Ranking of World Universities, published last week.

Super for some

A learned reader points out that while CMM is correct that no new enterprise bargain increases super for casual university staff, people on fixed term contracts at Deakin U and UWA will see their superannuation hiked to 17 per cent in the new EBs.

A deal at Flinders on teaching only jobs

Management and union both get a result

At Flinders, management and union have reached agreement in the Fair Work Commission on vexed question (where isn’t it?) of teaching-specialist positions.

Back in June the National Tertiary Education Union said management wanted to replace “teaching focused” jobs, which retain a research component with teaching-specialist ones. “It is true that there will be some who will welcome the new positions, but our fear is that many will simply have no other choice. When faced with an inevitable redundancy, many staff will simply have to take what they can get, not what they have earned,” he said. This was a real problem during the (continuing) academic restructure of the whole university.

Management replied that no one would be dragooned into teaching only and that the union had been part of the consultation on their creation (CMM June 6).

However, the two sides ended up in the Fair Work Commission, where they struck a deal. In essence, management agrees that teaching-specialist positions now filled are fixed term until 2018 and that none will be externally advertised unless no Flinders staffer wants it. For its part the union accepts teaching-specialist positions comply with the existing enterprise agreement, and once the restructure is in place they can be continuing positions, filled under normal recruitment rules.

At Flinders management and union talk, a lot – it shows in this solution which could have been a big brawl.

The OD answer

SCU did not bother with open days, but things have changed

Why Southern Cross University went a decade without an open day (CMM yesterday) is explained. Being hospitable types, apart from holidays, the university would give anybody who turned up a student-guided tour. But this year with new academic programmes to present and facilities to show they went the OD route.

Cambridge University Press finds a spine

It took a while but Cambridge University Press is standing up to Chinese censorship

And about time too: On the weekend, Cambridge University Press agreed to delete 315 articles from its China Quarterly from the CUP appears in the People’s Republic – mind you, the press promised to speak sternly to the comrades who demanded the deletions.

But now CUP has found its previously mislaid spine and will repost the offending articles. Tom Pringle, editor of China Quarterly thinks this is a thoroughly good thing, coming after;

“a justifiably intense reaction from the global academic community and beyond. Access to published materials of the highest quality is a core component of scholarly research. It is not the role of respected global publishing houses to hinder such access. The China Quarterly will continue to publish such articles that make it through our rigorous double blind peer review regardless of topic or sensitivity. Our publication criteria will not change: scientific rigour and the contribution to knowledge about China.”

Good, but not good enough:  So that’s alright then. No its not. Certainly this looks like a case of a bunch of overzealous officials banned research articles and book reviews with Tiannmen and Tibet in titles, because they thought the Politburo would want to. But the problem with authoritarian states is that there are always officials everywhere who like to throw their weight around. As far as CMM knows this has never been a problem for Australian Confucius Institutes, but CUP’s problem demonstrates how it could be.

China is also having trouble with the ideals of research.  CC and YY demonstrate that university managements are gaming research publication. Researchers Wei Quan, (Wuhan University) Bikun Chen, (Nanjing University of Science and Technology), and Fei Shu, (McGill University)  warn cash incentives for publication in top journals occurs at 168 prestigious universities. This can lead to research fraud, plus citation and publication gaming among ambitious but often underpaid academics.

The problem when governments do not accept the rules of research independence is that research isn’t always independent of what powerful people want.