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I have a cold – Weeknote #51 – 21st February 2020

It’s half-term, which means I try and get out of the house as much as possible, as it can be a bit unfair to everyone else if I am working from home. However the weather and the fact I had a cold most of the week meant that in the end I worked form home. AS well as having a cold, I also took some leave as it was half-term.

AT the end of last week, Michelle Donelan named universities minister and the science part of the post was split off.

There have been quite a few universities ministers now over the last couple of years. Something the sector could probably do with is some consistency in this post. The news was not met with much enthusiasm from the university sector. Universities fear loss of policy focus as ministerial roles split.

Diana Beech, head of government affairs at the University of Warwick, and a former adviser to Mr Skidmore, warned that a stand-alone science minister might not be so “aware of the interdependency of science and HE” and might be less alert to the “importance of cross-subsidies in teaching and research”. This could have “profound implications on the way policy is made”, she said.

I quite enjoyed watching BBC’s Panorama on the rise of Amazon.

In a quarter of a century, Amazon has propelled Jeff Bezos from online bookseller to tech titan. He’s the richest man on the planet, and the company he founded is one of the most powerful. Panorama investigates Amazon’s rise to corporate superpower and asks whether there is a dark side to our love affair with the company. Former high-level insiders describe Amazon’s huge, obsessive data-gathering operation, which enables the company to use what it knows about us to shape not only the future of retail but the workplace and technology too. On both sides of the Atlantic, politicians and regulators are beginning to question Amazon’s power and to explore ways to rein it in. But some of Amazon’s most senior executives say the company is a force for good, inventing new ways to serve customers and maintain their trust.

Yes in places it was quite sensational, well it was a piece for television. I thought that trying to talk about the data and metrics side of Amazon was a different story (though related) to the use of voice assistants in the Amazon Alexa device. Certainly voice will be the future of interaction with technology, but I thought they should have kept the focus on the data they collect about us and others. My own thoughts were on how far behind the education sector is in their use of data to support teaching, learning and assessment in comparison to Amazon. Then I look at the recommendations I get on Amazon and maybe I am not so sure.

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