CHASS Newsletter #21

In this issue:

  1. Collaborating across the sectors
  2. History and political science: The case for bibliometrics
  3. Architecture, design, creative and performing arts
  4. The RQF: Is your discipline ready?
  5. DEST call for potential panellists
  6. Parliamentary dinner
  7. BCA REPORT New Pathways to Prosperity
  8. Subscribing to announcements by Minister and DEST
  9. The hundredth member

1. Collaborating across the sectors

This new report examines the nature of collaborative activities between the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) and science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) sectors.

What issues do these collaborations tackle? What benefits have they produced? Are there problems working with colleagues from a different discipline? Are there barriers which discourage people from collaborating? How can we improve things?

The report concludes that 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 report finds that collaborative work holds great promise, and strenuous efforts should be made to remove impediments which hinder researchers from bringing their combined skills to bear on issues facing Australia. It finds that funding, institutional settings and reward systems in our research organizations all tend to favour single-discipline work and discriminate against multi-disciplinary collaborations.

It makes five broad recommendations.

Two versions of the report will be posted (short and long) on the CHASS web site on Wednesday 6 December. Also available as hard copy from the CHASS office.

2. History and political science: The case for bibliometrics

CHASS was asked by DEST to investigate the appropriateness of the citation analysis process for History and Political Science.

Could some form of metrics be used to inform panel discussions in the RQF (Research Quality Framework) process? Data was collected from universities round Australia, and then considered by two separate meetings of experts in Melbourne.

The answer? A qualified yes. From our report to DEST: “an enriched bibliometrics approach would be a useful component of the Quality measures in the proposed Research Quality Framework if used to inform a peer-review process.”

The full report to DEST and a background methodology paper have been posted to our web site.

3. Architecture, design, creative and performing arts

CHASS is running a workshop for those involved in Panel 13: the visual and performing arts, design and architecture. It will be in Brisbane on Tuesday 27 February. Details of registration and agenda will follow very soon.

We think there is a place for a broader discussion on approaches to the RQF, to consider metrics, peer evaluation criteria and possible approaches to the context statements. There is an urgent need to establish processes for the 13 panels to be set up in the RQF.

This workshop will build on discussions at an earlier workshop at the VCA in Melbourne in September, and will complement other workshops DEST is planning.

There will be one DEST workshop for each panel, with some like-minded panels combined. They will involve about a dozen experts, brought together to formulate operational guidelines for panel deliberations. DEST workshops will take place in late Feb-early March (see item 5).

4. The RQF: Is your discipline ready?

CHASS is running a workshop for all those disciplines that fall into Panel 13 in the RQF architecture, music. (see item above).

But is there a need for similar workshops for the disciplines grouped in other panels?

We’d be interested in hearing your views. Contact:

5. DEST call for potential panellists

The following announcement was sent to senior staff by an Australian university:

“Following the release of the Development Advisory Group’s Recommended RQF on 14 November 2006, Development Advisory Group’s Recommended RQF for 2008.

“One of the first tasks will be to conduct Discipline Workshops to help the development of the panel-specific sections of RQF Guidelines. It is critical that research leaders engage in this process to ensure that the final guidelines reflect and accommodate the types of research undertaken across the university and recognise research impact within the broader community.

“During these workshops, representatives of broad discipline areas will be asked to provide input on:

  • the appropriate research outputs for the disciplines within the relevant Panel;
  • appropriate indicators to aid the assessment of research quality and research impact; and
  • the type of supplementary information that can be included in a Research Group’s context statement.

The outcomes of these workshops will be published and will be used to draft the Panel-specific sections of RQF Guidelines.

“Universities in Australia have been asked to forward a list of academics who can provide expertise in research assessment in their discipline. In particular, DEST is seeking participants who can represent the views of the broad disciplines covered by the Panel areas. It will be necessary for participants to demonstrate sufficient representation of the disciplines. Expertise in peer assessment would be an advantage.”

We’d suggest you contact the relevant officer at your university, if you are interested. This could be the DVC.

6. Parliamentary dinner

Seventeen MPs will attend the final dinner in our series bringing together experts and MPs to discuss issues in our society.

Guest speaker is Professor Ross Homel, of Griffith University. He will discuss the “Pathways to Prevention Project”, an innovative crime prevention partnership between Mission Australia and the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance at Griffith University.

The project works with preschool children, aged 4-6, and their families living in a disadvantaged suburb in the south west of Brisbane. It is based on the concept of “developmental prevention” or intervention at crucial transition points which mark new experiences and relationships in life, such as when a child starts school.

The report of the first five years of the Project will by launched by the Prime Minister at Parliament House the next day, on Thursday 7 December.

The dinners are funded by the ANU, through VC Professor Ian Chubb

7. BCA REPORT New Pathways to Prosperity

The Business Council has just issued a report which “highlights five priorities for the creation of a framework that business believes are necessary to improve and sustain Australia’s innovation performance against global competition.”

Some BCA recommendations neatly complement those of the CHASS report on Collaborations.

8. Subscribing to announcements by Minister and DEST

To register to receive announcements, go to the following web sites:

And for an alternative view: see the “Love of Learning” speech by Opposition spokesperson Lindsay Tanner to the Sydney Institute this month:

9. The hundredth member

This month CHASS registered the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (ANZAMEMS) as our hundredth Member.

And this is a fine and positive note to end my final newsletter for the year. Thanks for your support over 2006: I don’t expect that 2007 will be any easier.

Stuart Cunningham
4 December 2006

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