TASA position statements and submissions on contemporary social issues, and other matters, aim to offer measured, evidence base so that the associations’ members, the public, and the media, can make an assessment of them.
The Australian Sociological Association’s Statement on Ministerial Interference in the Australian Research Council (ARC) Grant Process
It has been revealed in Senate Estimates that 11 ARC Discovery Program applications recommended for funding were vetoed by Minister Simon Birmingham, the then Minister for Education, in late 2017 and early 2018.
The Executive of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) joins other associations and peak bodies in condemning this decision. TASA stands with the researchers, including our own members, whose funding was recommended for support by a rigorous ARC peer- and expert-review process, but then vetoed by the Minister at the time without explanation or notification.
ARC schemes are fiercely competitive. The process used to recommend projects for funding is recognised as best practice internationally. It relies on the good will, time and resources of Australia’s and the world’s top academics. Political interference risks this good will and Australia’s international research reputation.
TASA is shocked by the cavalier way in which funding has been refused to 11 ARC applications, despite the obvious personal and career costs for the academics affected. Further, TASA is profoundly concerned that the denial of funding is concentrated in arts, social science and humanities research, areas that make important contributions to national debate, understanding and policy. We offer our solidarity to affected scholars and call for the maintenance of a strong and independent research review system free from political interference.
President, The Australian Sociological Association, on behalf of the Executive Committee
Responses to Contingent Labour in Academia
TASA WORKING DOCUMENT: RESPONSES TO CONTINGENT LABOUR IN ACADEMIA
Kristin Natalier, Erika Altman, Mark Bahnisch, Tom Barnes, Suzanne Egan, Christine Malatzky, Christian Mauri & Dan Woodman.
Introduction and aims of the document
In December 2015, the TASA Executive approved the establishment of a Working Group to identify the key challenges facing contingent academic staff, and recommend practices that might mitigate those challenges. This working document sets out the key challenges facing contingent academics, and a suite of practices that can be implemented by individuals to address them. They are not substitutes for broader change. Both TASA and the Working Group recognise the structural, institutional and ideological logics that have driven the higher education sector’s reliance on contingent academic labour, and argue that these dynamics must be addressed as matters of social justice and the long term flourishing of sociology within and beyond higher education.
This document is primarily speaking to those academics who have some say over the employment, management and support of contingent academic staff (even if such responsibilities are not formally recognised by their institutions). However, we are not suggesting that this is an ‘us and them’ issue, nor should our approach be interpreted as an oppositional understanding of different institutional positions. The strength and vibrancy of sociology as a discipline is dependent on a common interest and commitment to advocating for and building sustainable academic practice.
Contingent academics in a global and sociological perspective
The rise of the contingent academic workforce is driven by the trend of escalating casual and short-term contract appointments, relative to declining continuing appointments. It is reshaping higher education workforces around the world. Contingent employees – who receive few benefits and no security of employment – are generally considered a cheap alternative to continuing employees. The organisational imperative to be as “flexible” as possible is also driving casualization as less regulated processes of hiring and firing are seen to make it easier for an organisation to adapt to change and pursue new opportunities.
The casual academic workforce is part of a larger trend towards the growth of the precariat, a portmanteau term that combines the concepts of precarious and proletariat. Precariousness speaks to a position that could change for the worse with little or no notice, and thus to an ongoing sense of insecurity and uncertainty. Precariously employed workers fill roles on the edge of the organisation and along the periphery of the workforce, and they tend to be excluded and marginalised.
As both sociologists and academics, we have the resources to argue against the erosion of employment conditions and the growth of insecure employment, and to critique the particular conditions and counteract the particular consequences of these developments within academia. Yet this has not given sociology, or sociologists working across the sector, any immunity from the growth of insecure work. Indeed, many sociologists research and speak about the academic precariat from an insider’s perspective.
Contingent academic work in Australian higher education
The proportion of academic staff employed on casual or fixed term contracts has increased significantly over the last two and a half decades. Yet it is difficult to know the exact size of this group of workers because national data records contingent staff only on a fulltime equivalent basis (FTE) (Andrews et al 2016). The Work and Careers in Australian Universities survey undertaken in 2011 (May et al., 2013) found that on a ‘per head’ basis 49% of all academic staff and 53% of all teaching and research staff are employed on a contingent basis. This is in comparison to 24% of the Australian workforce overall.
Contingent employment is not new. Provisions to enable the employment of academic staff on an hourly basis have existed in Australian universities since 1980. They were introduced with the aim of providing an “academic apprenticeship” to doctoral students and to employ “industry professionals” with specific expertise (May et al., 2013). Perhaps because of this history, the assumption remains that contingent academics are generally doctoral students or people with non-academic jobs whose input remains important in professionally orientated degrees (Andrews et al., 2016). However, doctoral students make up less than half the contingent academic workforce in the contemporary university (National Tertiary Education Union, 2015). Most contingent academics are not contingent by choice and those ‘satisfied’ with their contingent status are typically retired or in other permanent employment (May et al., 2013). One third have a PhD and half another type of post graduate qualification, most work in one or more universities for more than 3 years, some work at multiple universities, and for a significant proportion this work is their only source of employment (National Tertiary Education Union, 2015). Contingent academic employment can no longer be viewed as predominantly either a source of supplementary income for doctoral students or as an entry point into a secure academic career.
The contingent academic sector could operate as a training ground for a much needed future workforce. However, given that current work conditions do not support contingent academics in achieving ongoing employment, the higher education system now appears to be designed to operate as a tenured core supported by a contingent periphery. This matters because of the negative effects on contingent staff, and as the Bradley review of higher education pointed out, the academic workforce is aging and contingent employment reduces the attractiveness of academia as a profession and the ability of the sector to recruit in the future (May et al., 2013).
Key challenges facing contingent academics
Contingent academic staff are often employed through processes that intensify precariousness, and cycle between being unemployed, underemployed, and overworked but underpaid. The majority of academic contingent staff must ‘fish’ for work by privately emailing multiple academics as each semester draws near, often relying on benefactors (such as a supervisor) for that work. When offered employment, the processes of getting ‘signed on’ are often slow, unreliable, and systems are poorly integrated. When employed, contingent staff can experience non-payment, late payment or incorrect payment of wages.
Contingent academics describe the lack of clarity about the expectations attached to their roles. They may not be afforded access to the materials, technology, information and space necessary to do their jobs. When available, these resources may not be accessible in a useful or timely way. Contingent academics are commonly not eligible for professional development courses or grant funding. They tend to be rendered invisible on campus by the lack of office space, a lack of recognition for their work, and exclusion from institutional events. These challenges are intensified through communication processes that often ignore or only sporadically include contingent academics. Thus they may not receive information about, and comment on, professional opportunities, changes in policies and processes, or availability of key staff.
Contingent staff are often not recognised as members of the institution and disciplinary communities. This undermining of professional legitimacy and collegiality means that an individual might work for a university for many years and still experience marginalisation because of their contingent employment. As more people are employed as contingent workers, this divide within the workforce will likely widen, and experiences of frustration and estrangement will become more commonplace. In turn, it is fuelling insecurity that can make it very difficult to plan a life, including = starting a family, having a holiday, or securing approval for a mortgage or lease.
Building support for contingent academics
The conditions of employment faced by contingent academics make it difficult to perform their current roles, let alone build an academic career. Any solution to the processes and effects of contingent labour in academia will entail structural and institutional change in the higher education sector. However, we have complied a list of smaller changes can make a difference to the lives and careers of contingent academics, and to the processes and cultures in which we all work.
Develop equitable and efficient employment processes
Contingent academics are often negotiating employment processes that are inefficient and lack transparency and clarity. Implementing employment processes that are standardised and efficient will decrease the stress and time demands on all staff, as well as the material disadvantages experienced by contingent academics.
- Ensure recruitment processes are consistent, transparent, widely advertised, and fair.
- Ensure appointment processes include appropriate time for staff to prepare.
- Process contracts quickly, and before the proposed employment period begins.
- Apply consistent contractual arrangements across the institution.
- Implement electronic processes, including signing of documents.
- Provide contingent staff with information about their rights, responsibilities, and university/disciplinary/ individual supervisor expectations. This includes encouraging staff to join the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).
- Integrate systems so that access to all necessary physical and IT resources occurs automatically.
- Implement automatic payment systems. Where this is not immediately possible, at a minimum, continuing staff should familiarise themselves with the payment systems contingent academics are required to use and, where necessary, intervene to assist them or liaise on their behalf with university/faculty administrations.
- Develop registers that detail the working history and skills of contingent staff.
- Develop the capacity of managers, supervisors and professional staff to support contingent academics.
- Establish clear processes for contingent academics to raise HR concerns.
Be clear about expectations
Expectations for a specific role are often unclear, and expectations for similar roles can vary across academic supervisors and units. Contingent academics can feel unspoken pressure or confusion about the formal and informal expectations attached to a position.
- Clarify the skills, knowledge and qualifications required for any specific role.
- Clarify the role and responsibilities of contingent academics – and ensure all work is paid, and paid in ways that reflect the demands of the task. Contingent academics—like all workers—should never be expected to undertake unpaid work as a condition of their employment.
- Clarify performance expectations.
- Clarify expectations with learning and teaching academics. Ongoing staff with supervisory responsibilities should seek to address the following issues:
- How will contingent staff manage student consultation requests beyond contracted hours?
- Are tutors and markers required to attend lectures?
- Are tutors and markers required to attend meetings?
- Who develops teaching materials – especially tutorial materials?
- What are the marking deadlines?
- Who is responsible for entering marks?
- As a course coordinator, give students clear information about what they can expect of contingent academics, and where they can seek support for the issues that are not part of a contingent academic’s contract.
- All work should be incorporated in a fair and transparent way into employment contracts. Where this is not the case, it is reasonable for ongoing staff to make the case for their inclusion to faculty/university administrators but it is not reasonable to insist or imply that contingent academics must undertake any ‘extra’ work.
- Develop standardised induction processes so that all relevant information is shared.
- Provide ongoing informal and formal feedback on performance.
- Offer opportunities for informal mentoring, de-briefing or problem solving, in addition to formal supervision and support.
Provide access to necessary resources
Contingent academics describe on-going difficulties in getting access to the resources necessary for their employment and their career development. Facilitating access to these resources is helpful.
- Ensure contingent academics have timely access to the resources necessary to do their job. The list is large, and includes: institutional space (desk, and key/swipe card to access to this space, and after-hours access); a computer; a telephone; an email account; access to on-line learning systems and other institutional on-line systems; stationary; a library account; storage; use of a tearoom and access to a fridge; and teaching resources (e.g. set textbooks and readers).
- Have clear, institutionalised, and integrated processes for timely access to the above resources.
- Develop an institutional culture that recognises that providing these resources is a necessary investment associated with higher education – and not an ‘optional extra’ that may or may not be offered to contingent academics.
- Give contingent academics all of the information relevant to their employment, in a timely fashion. For teaching academics this may include unit outlines, all assessment materials (including assessment and marking advice, rubrics and shared comment banks), and key dates. For research academics, this may include the grant application, project timetables, and publications schedules.
- When contingent staff are taking over topic/course coordination, provide a detailed and systematic handover, and debrief at the end of teaching.
- Provide extended university affiliation beyond the dates of a contract.
- Ensure contingent academics can participate in teaching evaluation processes, including institutional student evaluation processes and peer evaluations.
Poor communication processes mean that contingent staff may not receive information about professional opportunities, changes in policies and processes, and availability of key staff.
- Regularly update lists of contingent staff.
- Institutionalise communication to contingent staff as individuals associated with a particular research project or teaching role, and as members of the institutional academic community/ unit.
- Include contingent staff in email lists.
- Offer contingent academics the opportunity to provide feedback.
- Liaise with contingent academics about when they are available for meetings and any teaching activities.
- Ensure contingent academics are informed about changes to relevant policies, processes and expectations.
Offer professional development
Contingent academics are usually seeking to establish a career in academia. However, they are typically offered no professional development. Opening training and professional development opportunities to contingent staff benefits individual staff and builds capacity in the discipline and institution.
- Institutionalise a small grant scheme to fund contingent academics’ research.
- Open internal grant schemes to contingent academics, as individual researchers or in collaboration with continuing staff members.
- Open opportunities for contingent academics to publish from research work they are employed on.
- Invite contingent academics to participate in the professional development and skills training offered to continuing staff.
- Offer relevant and on-going learning and teaching training beyond mandated induction.
- Allocate each contingent staff a set number of paid hours to attend professional development
- Be available as a mentor to contingent staff.
Many contingent academics experience isolation and disconnection from their workplace. Strategies to address this problem can facilitate a sense of belonging to an academic community.
- Invite contingent academics to attend and participate in academic functions, such as seminar series and public lectures.
- Invite contingent academics to social events hosted by the institution.
- Invite contingent academics to attend and contribute to staff meetings as paid work.
- Welcome contingent academics into staff tearooms and other shared spaces.
- Physically co-locate space for contingent academics within the buildings hosting the academic unit they are working for.
- When leading team teaching, ensure that all contingent members of the team know each other, and make opportunities for the sharing of strategies and experiences.
- Facilitate and practically support a contingent academic support group.
Recognise the contributions and expertise of contingent academics
Contingent academics typically have extensive experience, knowledge and expertise in their field of research, learning and teaching activities, and university systems and governance. These skills are largely unrecognised. The following strategies are designed to recognise the work of contingent academics:
- Open awards to contingent academics so that excellence is formally acknowledged.
- Build opportunities for contingent academics to contribute to policy development.
- Involve contingent academics in decision-making processes.
- Offer contingent academics opportunities to share their good teaching and research practices.
- Where appropriate, offer contingent academics the opportunity to contribute to curriculum development and learning and teaching resources. Pay them for their work, and formally acknowledge their contributions.
Change one thing
You may not be able to advocate for or implement all of the suggestions in this document. However, inspired by the writers at the CASA [Casual, Adjunct, Sessional staff and Allies in Australian Higher Education] website (https://actualcasuals.wordpress.com/change-one-thing/), we encourage TASA members to commit to changing just one thing in how we or our institution work with contingent academics.
Andrews, A., Bare, B., Bentley, P., Geodegebuure, L., Pugsley, C., & Rance, B. (2016). Contingent academic employment in Australia universities.
CASA [Casual, Adjunct, Sessional staff and Allies in Australian Higher Education] website: https://actualcasuals.wordpress.com/
May, R., Strachan, G., & Peetz, D. (2013). Workforce development and renewal in Australian universities and the management of casual academic staff. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 10(3).
National Tertiary Education Union. (2015). Overview- National tertiary Education Union.
Strachan, G., Troup, C., Peetz, D., G Whitehouse, Broadbent, K., & Bailey, J. (2012). Work and careers in Australian universities Report on employee survey Australia Centre for work, organisation and well being, Grifith University
You can download this document from here.
Plebiscite on “same-sex marriage”
The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) strongly rejects the proposal to hold a plebiscite on “same-sex marriage” and recommends instead that Parliament resolve the question by free vote.
TASA is issuing this statement because we believe as Sociologists that any move which implicitly or explicitly encourages an intensification of abuse or violence, whether verbal or physical, increases the risk of adverse social and health consequences for LGBTI citizens.
Exposure to stigma and violence, as well as the fear of being exposed to it, are already common experiences in the lives of LGBTI people. Research conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS), at La Trobe University reported that 61% of non-heterosexual young people had experienced verbal abuse, and almost one fifth had experienced physical violence. A survey of transgender people living in Australia and New Zealand found that almost 90% of respondents experienced at least one type of stigma and discrimination. That same study found that around 2/3 of participants changed how they behaved because they were afraid of stigma and discrimination. Research on LGBTI young people has also shown a link between homophobic abuse and mental health problems, substance abuse, and self-harm.
These experiences will be intensified during increased public focus on sexuality and gender during and after a plebiscite on the rights of LGBTI people.
The plebiscite will likely see a dramatic rise in homophobic religious discourses. Sociological research by Gahan et. al. 2014, showed that religious same-sex attracted and gender questioning young people were at a greater risk of self-harm and suicide ideation as a consequence of homophobic abuse. These young people were also more likely to feel isolated and receive less support than other LGBTI young people. The plebiscite may lead to an increase in homophobic religious discourses leaving these young people even more isolated thus increasing their risks of self-harm and suicide ideation.
Consequently, TASA believes that the debate on whether to amend the Marriage Act should not be undertaken through a protracted plebiscite process that will increase stigma, fear, and isolation among LGBTI people; but instead be undertaken by Parliament without any further delay.
References for this Statement:
- Gahan, L., Jones, T., & Hillier, L. (2014). An Unresolved Journey: Religious Discourse and Same-Sex Attracted and Gender Questioning Young People. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 25, 202-229.
- William Leonard, Marian Pitts, Anne Mitchell, Anthony Lyons, Anthony Smith, Sunil Patel, Murray Couch and Anna Barrett. (2012). Private Lives 2: The second national survey of the health and wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Australians. Monograph Series Number 86. Melbourne: The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University.
- Hillier, L., Jones, T., Monagle, M., Overton, N., Gahan, L., & Mitchell, A. (2010). Writing themselves in 3: The 3rd national report on the sexuality, health, & well-being of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people in Australia. Melbourne Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society (ARCSHS).
- Pitts M, Smith A, Mitchell A, Patel S. (2006). Private lives: a report on the health and wellbeing of GLBTI Australians.. Melbourne: La Trobe University, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.
- Couch M, Pitts M, Mulcare H, Croy S, Mitchell A, Patel S. (2007) Tranznation: A report on the health and wellbeing of transgender people in Australia and New Zealand. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University. Melbourne: La Trobe University, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.
President, The Australian Sociological Association
An Open Letter From TASA supporting Marriage Equality
An open letter from The Australian Sociological Association.
The executive of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) writes to express our support for Marriage Equality.
Sociology has an important role to play in promoting inclusion and tolerance. We support diversity in the higher education sector and recognise the rights of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) students, members, colleagues, and employees to learn, live, and work, free from prejudice and discrimination, with all the essential freedoms enjoyed by other members of the community.
Equal rights are essential in the creation of a healthy, harmonious, and open society. An equitable society, free of discrimination, allows all members to function at their best. Legalised discrimination in one area allows discrimination to flourish in all areas.
Australia is a robust democracy with a proud history of social reform. We believe this should continue, with all citizens being treated equally, including those who are currently excluded from the institution of marriage.
Australians are increasingly supportive of marriage equality, with a recent Crosby Textor survey showing seventy-two per cent of Australians are in favour of same sex couples marrying. We believe this overwhelming level of support should be reflected with legal change.
Learning and academic achievement flourish when all members of our community have their dignity and equality recognised. Equal rights are the only way forward and are needed to ensure a climate where knowledge, achievement, and intellectual output can flourish.
In light of these considerations TASA supports both marriage equality and the formal recognition and valuing of the many types of family and intimate relationships that are the foundation of a vibrant and healthy Australia.
The Australian Sociological Association
Review of the Safe Schools Coalition
February 29, 2016
Sen Robert Simms
Greens LGBTI Spokesperson
PO Box 8117 Station Arcade
Adelaide, SA, 5000
Offer to brief the Review of the Safe Schools Coalition, from the Australian Sociological Association
The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) is Australia’s peak association for sociologists. Our members include leading experts on issues of education, sexuality, gender, families, relationships, and youth. For more on TASA, visit www.tasa.org.au.
Many of our members have followed with interest the recent national debate around the Safe Schools Coalition. The Australian Sociological Association is making an open offer to brief any Members of Parliament (State or Federal) who have questions about the research and evidence on programs such as the Safe Schools Coalition. We are able to assemble an advisory group of Australian experts in this field, to talk through the evidence and ideas informing this debate.
We especially welcome the opportunity to contribute to and brief those involved in the review of the Safe Schools Coalition recently called by the Prime Minister.
President, The Australian Sociological Association
Stakeholder feedback_Engagement and Impact Assessment Consultation Paper
Response from The Australian Sociological Association (TASA)
The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the National Innovation and Science Agenda’s proposed framework for developing the national assessment of the engagement and impact of university research and to comment on the Engagement and Impact Assessment Consultation Paper.
Definitions and scope
- What definition of ‘engagement’ should be used for the purpose of assessment?
We suggest a modified version of the ATSE definition (p6)
the interaction between researchers and research organisations and their larger communities/industries for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge, understanding OR resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.
Rationale: social research is often for the common good and researchers engage with stakeholders without the expectation of resource exchange or reimbursement
- What definition of ‘impact’ should be used for the purpose of assessment?
We suggest that the broad UK REF definition is adequate
‘an effect on, change, benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life beyond academia.’
- How should the scope of the assessment be defined?
A combination of qualitative and quantitative measures should be used. Quantitative –industry funding and competitive grants, citations in grey literature, contribution to parliamentary submissions (and other government consultations)
Qualitative- Qualitative measures of engagement include reports for external bodies, membership of boards (e.g. local, state and federal government, local, national and international NGOs, professional bodies), community participation in events, audience numbers (e.g. at performances, film screenings etc.), contributions to the media and public debate, engagement with community organisations, educational training and toolkits, e.g. for secondary school students.
- Would a selective approach using case studies or exemplars to assess impact provide benefits and incentives to universities?
TASA agrees with the case study approach to the measurement of impact. We suggest that there should be an equitable allocation of case studies across disciplines. In order to be a measure of university research strengths in an area, case studies should depict the work of research groupings (rather than individuals) and be selective so as to focus on unique strengths.
- If case studies or exemplars are used, should they focus on the outcomes of research or the steps taken by the institution to facilitate the outcomes?
Case studies can only demonstrate the value of university research if they focus on the research itself and its outcomes. We endorse a scholarly peer-review model of engagement and impact assessment; that is, assessment by an academic panel, rather than by a panel predominantly composed of representatives from industry. An academic panel which understands the nature of university research is likely to be in a better position to ensure that the methodology for assessment of case studies is sufficiently robust to be confident that the assessment results would be replicated by differently constituted panels. We are concerned that focussing on ‘steps taken by the institution’ could be more susceptible to gaming and manipulation and could result in superficial measures of impact.
- What data is available to universities that could contribute to the engagement and impact assessment?
- Should the destination of Higher Degree Research students be included in the scope of the assessment?
There is not strong support for this measure among our discipline. The link between university research, HDR research and HDR employment outcomes is far from clear for Sociology PhDs. The relationships are quite varied, and with limited construct validity.
- Should other types of students be included or excluded from the scope of assessment (e.g. professional Masters level programmes, undergraduate students)?
No this could create an unnecessary administrative burden
- What are the key challenges for assessing engagement and impact and how can these be addressed?
- difficulties in attribution
In the social sciences the key challenge is mainly around measuring impact. Social science is about concepts and ideas that cannot be reduced to simple indicators; the link between idea and uptake may be long-term or even hidden and the domain of impact may be nebulous. Our research is focused on ideas, and on social, cultural and political understanding, critique and transformation. Sometimes it deals with issues that are socially and politically contentious, which may affect its immediate uptake. The impact of this research is often diffuse and gradual, therefore not easy to measure. Often our research feeds into a large complex dynamic in social, cultural and economic change so we discourage a search for causation and instead recommend that the ARC focusses on the processes researchers engage in to have an impact outside universities.
- managing time-lags between research and its effects
Allowing a sufficient time-lag between research and impact is important eg 10 years
- balancing data collection and verification against reporting burden
Selective case studies (from FOR codes or groups of researchers) are preferable to all academics providing case studies
- managing disciplinary differences (including interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research).
As there are substantial differences between disciplines in terms of research and publication norms it is important that the results are moderated between disciplines.
- Is it worthwhile to seek to attribute specific impacts to specific research and, if so, how should impact be attributed (especially in regard to a possible methodology that uses case studies or exemplars)?
Yes it may be worthwhile to identify impacts that are linked to research publications or groups of publications. Rationale: that quality impact will flow from quality research rather than disconnected ‘engagement’ with the media etc.
To what level of granularity and classification (e.g. ANZSRC Fields of Research) should measures be aggregated?
It makes sense that the same FOR codes used in the ERA will also be used in the engagement and impact exercise. Multiple coding will be needed to allow interdisciplinary groups/centres to demonstrate their impact effectively.
- What timeframes should be considered for the engagement activities under assessment?
Within the measurable period of the EIA, eg 3-5 years
- What timeframes should be considered for the impact activities under assessment?
We suggest that it would be sensible to have at least 10 year time frame from when research was conducted and/or published.
- How can the assessment balance the need to minimise reporting burden with robust requirements for data collection and verification?
There will be resource implications for any new reporting requirements. However some efficiencies may be achieved by separating out the ERA (academic quality) from the EIA (engagement and impact). These two research assessment periods could be parallel so that there only one period of measurement is required.
Clear requirements of auditable traces are important to ensure both veracity and administrative efficiency. Focus on producing lists of such things as collaborators or dissemination activities, media mentions, citations in grey literature reports, etc (in specified categories), rather than qualitative descriptive data is more auditable and administratively simple to maintain and report.
- What approaches or measures can be used to manage the disciplinary differences in research engagement and impact?
Allow broader indicators for engagement and impact; use of selective case studies. Importantly the results should be moderated between disciplines.
- What measures or approaches to evaluation used for the assessment can appropriately account for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary engagement and impacts?
Types of engagement and impact indicators
- There could be a weighting given to interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary measures of engagement (eg instead of an engagement being allocated to one discipline it can be allocated across two or more, with the total ‘unit of measurement’ perhaps being a maximum of 2 instead of the one it would receive if allocated to a single discipline)
- A certain number of case studies per institution (pro-rata for institutional size) could be allocated to cross-disciplinary impacts
- What types of engagement indicators should be used?
Many of the suggestions listed in appendix B are not suitable for social science contributions. We note that impact and engagement interweave and overlap. We suggest the following:
- Contribution to public debate – indicated by media, civic engagement, awards, alt metrics
- Appointments based on disciplinary expertise to external advisory boards – e.g. government and NGO bodies ((local, state, national, international)
- Research reports, consultations, training and support for external bodies
- Publications in professional and trade journals and newsletters
- Engagement with government policy making, e.g. via consultations with government departments, invitations to make submissions to parliamentary committees, senate enquiries
- Expert advice and testimony
- Engagement with community organisations, not-for-profits, NGOs, community legal centres
- Engagement with government and private schools
- Presentations at non-academic industry, government or professional fora
- Category 2 & 3 research funding, plus ARC Linkage funding
- Community participation in research events (e.g. public lectures)
- Research-based professional training for external bodies
- What types of impact indicators should be used?
Many of the suggestions listed in appendix B are not suitable for social science contributions. Again we note that impact and engagement interweave and overlap. We suggest the following:
- Policy impact – policy briefings, submissions, advisory boards and evidence of policy change
- Changing practices – industry notes, community reports, consultations, training, funding and testimonials, professional body publications (newsletters, professional journals)
- Capacity building – training, running professional development, evidence of change
- Community building- Community publications, evidence of change
- Education/dissemination – research-based websites, community reports, downloads of reports, web traffic
- Contracts (including evaluation, research, consulting) with external bodies and reports for external bodies
- Public intellectual activities (media, The Conversation etc)
There is then, a need to have a mixture of qualitative and quantitative measures of engagement and impact in the social sciences.
We further suggest that it may be useful to group indicators into particular types or spaces of engagement/impact, such as:
- Research collaboration in research – includes formal partners co-funding, but also use of advisory boards from industry to research. It is suggested that to reduce bias in funding sources that focus here is on the numbers of collaborating organisations and/or individuals, rather than the financial contribution.
- Dissemination activities with industry – eg presentations, writing reports
- Media and public policy engagement – citations of research in media and policy documents; authorship of media items; submissions to public policy processes including Parliamentary inquiries.
- Impact on organisational/policy change – statements from organisations/agencies in which changes occurred, or how they were used in policy/organisational change.
Other 17. Are there any additional comments you wish to make?
We wish to note that in the social sciences, engagement and impact relates primarily to civil society including government, non-profit organisations, community associations and groups, as well as private enterprises, and the broader public (ie users of services and products). Commercialisation and patents are typically not relevant markers of engagement or impact.
Prepared by Jo Lindsay on behalf of the TASA executive
Acknowledgement to contibuters
Paul Henman, Deb King, Amanda Wise, Ellie Vasta, Narelle Warren, Brady Robards
Support for Marriage Equality
At the 2015 annual TASA conference in Cairns, President Katie Hughes announced TASA’s support for Marriage Equality. The letter of support for Marriage Equality can be accessed here.
This short clip is from an interview by Adam Stephen for the Drive Program on ABC Far North.
Media release: Response to Prime Minister's Innovation statement
RESPONSE TO PRIME MINISTER’S INNOVATION STATEMENT
The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) broadly supports a renewed emphasis on innovation and cross-sector research, but has concerns that the Federal Government’s apparent focus on the economy, and partnerships between universities and business, neglects the opportunity to encourage an ‘ideas boom’ with impact beyond science and the economy.
TASA President Associate Professor Katie Hughes explained:
“The definition of innovation must include social as well as technical innovation. Projects that create new opportunities for strengthening communities enhancing resilience, social inclusion, equity and respect are essential for Australia’s future social and economic flourishing. Such projects hold the potential for a more sustained and dynamic change than any narrow focus on commercialization or economic impact.”
“We agree with the recently retired Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, who has argued forcefully that science and the social sciences should work more closely together in order to better meet society’s needs.”
In this collaboration, sociology contributes knowledge about the future needs of society and the impact of science and industry activity on Australia’s social fabric.
“A broader partnership between the natural and social sciences, government, business, and civil society, will lead not only to innovation, but innovation best suited to meet social needs.”