CHASS Newsletter #20

In this issue:

  1. Collaborating across the sectors
  2. Directors’ meeting Melbourne July 2007
  3. Membership of CHASS
  4. Policy and submissions: Position vacant
  5. Humanities and law: Panel 11
  6. History and political science workshop
  7. Chass Executive
  8. Productivity Commission report on science and innovation
  9. Creative and Performing Arts Workshop
  10. Prime Minister’s prize for Australian history

1. Collaborating across the sectors

This report is now finished and at the printers. It examines how and when people in the humanities, arts and social sciences collaborate with colleagues in science, technology, engineering and medicine (HASS and STEM). We will launch it as soon as possible, and have asked Minister Julie Bishop to speak. We will invite all Members to the launch (as well as the 1200 people who responded to the surveys) when a date has been set.

Here is an extract from the Executive summary:
“Some of the most exciting research and education today has little regard for traditional disciplinary boundaries. For example, research to help Australia’s ageing population profile brings together medical science, basic biology, engineering, social science and arts and humanities.

“The world is turning to multi-disciplinary collaborations to deal with the big issues we face, critical problems such as water shortages, global climate change and threats to national security, human health and economic sustainability. No single discipline has all the answers: we need to provide the flexibility to ensure that the research and education community can pursue investigations across the whole landscape, regardless of discipline or approach.”

2. Directors’ meeting Melbourne July 2007

The next meeting for the Directors of university-based centres of education and research will be held in mid-July at RMIT in Melbourne. The meeting will focus on a combination of national issues, and matters related to the organization and funding of centres. We aim to involve current centre directors in helping set the direction of this event, and will be talking to them early in the New Year.

3. Membership of CHASS

We now have 96 Members, all listed on our website in alphabetical order.

An interesting aspect is that universities are opting to sign up as senior Members, so that all their staff are included. Latest is the University of Melbourne, which joins the ANU, La Trobe University, Monash University, Murdoch University, QUT and University of Newcastle.

4. Policy and submissions: Position vacant

CHASS is looking for a person (or people) to draft policy material on issues affecting the humanities, arts and social sciences.

This could a draft submission to an inquiry conducted by a Government agency or Parliamentary committee; or a response to a white paper. It could be initiated by CHASS, and involve a literature search, a survey or the drafting of a report.

This (paid) work is likely to be at irregular intervals and often with tight deadlines.

We invite expressions of interest from individuals or organisations with the experience and capacity to conduct this work. Contact Toss Gascoigne to discuss: 02 6249 1995

5. Humanities and law: Panel 11

CHASS was asked to provide advice on the proposed RQF Expert Advisory Panel 11 on Humanities and Law. Concerns had been expressed that Panel 11 is likely to experience difficulty in assessing a wide range of disciplines with the limited number of assessors (12 – 15 people) envisioned for each panel.

The CHASS Board considered a report based on nearly 50 submissions from the sector, and has advised the Chief Scientist as follows:

“After considering the report at length, the Board came to the view that there was not enough evidence to support splitting the existing Panel 11 into two parts. Although a number of respondents did favour this option, no clear single view emerged from the consultations.

“Given the issues of workload that the current arrangements in Panel 11 would generate, however, an alternative approach which gained the support of the Board was the duplication of the Panel, with the work being divided between two equally constituted teams of assessors. Both teams would consider applications from across the full spectrum.”

6. History and political science workshop

CHASS has been asked to investigate the appropriateness of the citation analysis process for History and Political Science. Data has been collected from universities round Australia.

The data will be considered at two separate meetings of experts in Melbourne on Tuesday November 14.

There MAY be opportunities for other people to be involved in these 3 hour meetings. Interested historians or political scientists should send a brief note to CHASS outlining their experience:

7. CHASS Executive

The CHASS Board has elected its Executive for 2006-07. Joining President Stuart Cunningham (QUT, Queensland) on the Executive are:

  • Professor Linda Rosenman (University of Queensland, Qld) Vice-President
  • Ms Julie Dyson (AusDance, ACT) Treasurer
  • Mr Stuart Hamilton (Open Universities Australia, Victoria) Secretary

Board Members

  • Professor Sharon Bell (University of Canberra, ACT)
  • Professor Greg Craven (Curtin University, WA)
  • Professor Elizabeth More (Macquarie University, NSW)
  • Professor Sue Richardson (Flinders University, SA)
  • Professor Kim Walker (University of Sydney, NSW)
  • Professor Sue Willis (Monash University, Vic)

8. Productivity Commission report on science and innovation

The Productivity Commission has released its draft report, and invited comment. Our submission was sharply critical of the terms of reference, and the specific exclusion of the social sciences, the arts and humanities “except to the extent they are relevant to innovation.”

First impressions are that the Report suggests adjustments to the existing system rather than radical overhauls. It has certainly considered points raised by CHASS, and perhaps there is a slight bending:

“This does not mean that research into the social sciences and humanities without a link to innovation is unimportant, but rather that it lies outside the principal concerns of this study.”

The Overview document and the full 600 page report are available at:

9. Creative and Performing Arts Workshop

64 people from the visual and performing arts in the tertiary sector discussed impact in the proposed RQF at the CHASS workshop at the VCA. They came from 22 separate universities and 10 other organisations (including the Australia Council and DEST); and the tertiary councils were represented at a senior level.

A letter has been sent to Minister Julie Bishop, seeking funding for a follow-up workshop to consider metrics, peer evaluation criteria and possible approaches to the context statements, to ensure clarity and consistency.

Here is a selection of comments from participants:

“Getting us together was an excellent move. We all had so much in common that it was easy to agree on most matters. As indicated, you may well have awoken a sleeping Creative Arts giant.”

“These are tremendously useful forums. They are the missing link in terms of information sharing, promoting sectoral unity, and are an ideal vehicle for professionalisation of our activity. I’ll go to as many as I can.”

10. Prime Minister’s prize for Australian history

An embossed gold medallion and a grant of $100,000 will be awarded to an individual or a group, for “for an outstanding publication or body of work that contributes significantly to an understanding of Australian history.”

Entries close 17 November 2006. Shortlisting to be by the Australian History Prize Committee (membership to be announced “in the near future”).

Details on Minister Bishop’s website.

Stuart Cunningham
6 November 2006

For more information, please contact:
Toss Gascoigne
Executive Director
Council of the Humanties, Arts and Social Sciences
Phone: +61 2 6249 1995