Excellence in Research: a CHASS response


27 February 2008

CHASS welcomes the Government’s announcement yesterday (Tuesday) about Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA), the new system to assess research quality in the university sector.

Professor Stuart Cunningham, President of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), said that the Minister has reached beyond sterile debates opposing metrics and qualitative assessment.

“This new approach appears to be committed to a sensible balance between metrics and expert review,” Professor Cunningham said.

He supported the idea of a central role for the Australian Research Council (ARC), describing it as ‘a smart move’.

“The Minister will achieve his objective of a more streamlined approach by using the well-credentialed assessment resources of the ARC,” he said.

Although details of the system have not yet been released, Professor Cunningham expects the process could take two or three years to work through the various discipline clusters.

“As far as our sector is concerned, let’s bring it on for the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS),” he said. “We don’t want to be at the end of a queue, when some of the initial enthusiasm for reform has dissipated.”

“We’re anxious to avoid unintended consequences.

“Our sector remembers what happened with the initial run at National Research Priorities, when a staggered process that started with the natural sciences somehow didn’t get around to the promised focus on the human and social sciences.”

Professor Cunningham said the diversity of the humanities, arts and social sciences needs to be recognized in the ERA process.

“Some of the HASS disciplines have very well established traditions of research and well-formed measures of quality,” he said. “Other disciplines are still working on those measures.”

He said CHASS looks forward to being actively involved in helping establish the new system, and playing a positive part in a new way of measuring research quality in Australia.

See also: Media release from Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research,