ALTA Law Research Series
Last Updated: 3 July 2009
Keeping Research on the Agenda
In 2005, the Australian Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training released the issues paper Research Quality Framework: Assessing the quality and impact of research in Australia (RQF).1 The paper raised two main points how the quality and impact of research should be recognized and measured, and who should assess the quality and impact of research in Australia.2 The change of government that occurred in the Australian federal election in November 2007 put an end to this project. The Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Kim Carr announced a new system – the Excellence for Research in Australia (ERA) scheme.3
Subsequently the tertiary education sector has witnessed the release of the Bradley Report,4 and in December 2008, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation tabled its report on the Inquiry into research training and research workforce issues in Australian Universities: Building Australia's Research Capacity.5 Recommendations from this Report included increased funding for research and training. Recommendation 11 for example states ‘The Committee recommends that the Australian Government increase the funding pool for Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Research Council grants to enable a minimum success rate for applicants of 40 per cent’, and Recommendation 2 states ‘The Committee recommends that the Australian Government increase funding for research and development by raising incrementally the Gross Expenditure on Research and Development as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product over a ten year period until it equals the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development average’.6 In addition, Dr Terry Cutler chaired a Review of the National Innovation System.7 In April 2009, Universities Australia released a study backing the Bradley Report recommendations.8 In relation to the Cutler Review and the Bradley Review of Higher Education, the Government stated that it ‘intends to take a holistic approach and will consider the recommendations of these reviews together and provide coordinate responses where appropriate’.9 So on the 12th May to coincide with the Federal Budget, the Government released its innovation plan for the next ten years.10 Universities and research training are discussed in Chapter 4. More funding was made available to Higher Education in the Budget. It will be interesting to see whether this translates into higher success rates for research competitive grants schemes such as the ARC Discovery scheme though – particularly in law.11 The rejoinders for this year’s Discovery round will probably be called for by the time of the ALTA Conference in July.
Funding of research and the effects of the ERA for the discipline of law provide challenges and opportunities for Australian legal academics.12 Responses to an Australasian Law Teachers Association (ALTA) survey of its 1000 legal academic members in 2007 demonstrated that 58.4% of the 221 respondents were very concerned with the then RQF and were looking for ALTA to undertake a policy role in regard to these developments.13 Another 29 members (13.1%) voiced concern regarding the implementation of the Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) in New Zealand.14 The ALTA Executive is continuing to monitor this situation and has formed a Legal Research Taskforce to inform our members and represent their interests in the current environment. The members of the Taskforce are Dr Terry Hutchinson (Chair), Prof Rosalind Mason, Prof Michael Adams, Prof Rick Sarre and Prof Dale Pinto and a nominee of the New Zealand Executive. Research issues will be very much on the agenda at the upcoming conference, particularly in the program planned for the Publisher’s Plenary and of course within the Legal Research Interest Group session.
Dr Terry Hutchinson*
* BA, LLB (UQ), DipLib (UNSW), MLP (QUT), PhD (Griffith); Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology.
1 Department of Education Science and Training, Research Quality Framework: Assessing the quality and impact of research in Australia (2005)
3 Andrew Brennan and Jeff Malpas, ‘Researchers drowning in sea of paper’ The Australian (Sydney), 16 April 2008, 25.
4 Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Review of Australian Higher Education
5 Parliament of Australia, House of Representatives, House Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation Inquiry into research
training and research workforce issues in Australian universities <http://www.aph.gov.au/House/committee/isi/research/report.htm> .
In 2007, of the ARC grant applications that showed Law as their primary
area, only seven Linkage grants and 15 Discovery grants were funded.
7 Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research <http://www.innovation.gov.au/innovationreview/Pages/home.aspx> .
8 Economic modeling of improved funding and reform arrangements for Australian universities KPMG Econtech, March 2009 (Universities Australiacommissioned study) <http://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/documents/publications/policy/submissions/KPMGEcontechApril2009.pdf>
10 Powering Ideas: an innovation agenda for the 21st century <http://www.innovation.gov.au/innovationreview/Pages/home.aspx>
11 Cheryl Jones ‘Growing ARC of disillusion for scientists’ The Australian Wednesday 20 May 2009, 36.
12 C Arup, ‘Research Assessment and Legal Scholarship’ (2008) 18 (1& 2) Legal Education Review 31.
13 T Hutchinson ‘The 2007 Australasian Law Teachers Association Membership Survey Report’ (2008) Spring Directions in legal education UK Centre for Legal Education 1618.