[csaa-forum] HERDC/ERA criteria

Mark Gibson (Arts) mark.gibson at monash.edu
Wed Mar 2 12:56:36 CST 2011

Can I add to this Jon? You're right, there is no reward in the system for
editing collections. But more serious in my view is that there is no reward
either for editing journals. I don't mean to diminish the efforts of those
who edit collections, but journals are a much larger sector of publications.

There is basic paradox in the whole situation. Our research efforts are
being made ever more accountable, but there is no attention to the mechanism
of accounting. Yes, we are all required to provide all our publication
details, along with photocopies, proof of refereed status, ISBNs and ISSNs
etc. etc. etc. That level of bureaucratic book-keeping is thoroughly looked
after! But all of this means nothing unless there's some integrity to the
process by which things get published in the first place.

Who ensures this integrity? Well, editors, editorial boards and referees.
What reward do they get for it? Nothing that is measurable. That might be
okay in an economy where measurement isn't everything. And, in fact, people
still contribute to the editorial process for good old intangible reasons --
sense of duty to a scholarly community, favours to editors hassling for a
referees report, motivations around titles and reputations ('Editor' or
'Board Member' still looks nice on the CV). But in the system we're moving
to, none of that really counts for much.

A decay in the editorial process can be seen in the increasing difficulty of
finding willing referees. It is not uncommon, in the case of Continuum, to
run through seven or eight requests before two referees can be found for an
article. I think the current record stands at ten. From talking to editors
of other journals, that's not all that unusual. It's a widespread problem --
and not just in cultural studies or the HSS sector -- and it's getting

The reasons for turning down refereeing requests are often entirely
understandable. An ARC application is due in, teaching is about to begin,
the revisions to an article or book chapter are overdue, the institution is
demanding more 'output', illness intervenes, our sanity requires that we
keep some time aside for that thing called 'life' ... What are you going to
prioritise? It's difficult for a hard-headed academic to say editing or

But that doesn't mean there isn't a systemic problem. If everything is to be
measured, we need some way of measuring editorial functions. Who is going to
be the bunny otherwise to take them on?

I have thought of lobbying HERDC, but senior people I've talked to have
advised that it's not worth trying. They are absolute in determination to
maintain purity around the definition of 'research' (largely
science-derived, of course). Editing will never cut it.

-- Mark

PS. Interesting that Curtin does internally reward guest-editing and
membership of an Ed Board. I don't think many institutions do that (Monash
certainly doesn't). Very soft-headed of your research managers: it doesn't
align with any external incentives!

On 2 March 2011 13:15, Jonathan Stratton <J.Stratton at curtin.edu.au> wrote:

>   Hi Everybody,
>      As we all digest the ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia)
> results for our own universities I am wondering how our various universities
> are coping with a decision that the people who administer  HERDC (Higher
> Education Research Data Collection) made a couple of years ago.  This
> involves edited collections.  As you may, or may not, know HERDC does not
> consider the editing of collections as research and a contribution to
> knowledge.  However, it does count chapters published in edited
> collections.  Thus, for HERDC the editing of collections goes
> unacknowledged.  Moreover, as HERDC does not count edited collections so, I
> understand, the ERA data collection likewise does not count edited
> collections.
>      Now, at Curtin, where there has been a big push for some years to
> increase research, the R&D people have tied the criteria for research very
> closely to HERDC/ERA.  Thus, for example, staff that publish in A and A*
> ranked journals are more rewarded than staff that publish in B and C ranked
> journals.  And, staff that edit collections are not given any credit for
> this.  The only acknowledgement in research terms for editing a collection
> comes if one has a chapter in that collection.  Thus, there is no
> encouragement for editing collections--even though having a chapter in a
> edited collection brings rewards.  I am sure that I don't need to spell out
> the logic of this!
>     So, I am wondering how other unis are dealing with this situation.  I
> am also wondering if any institution has lobbied HERDC about this.
> cheers,
> Jon
> Dr Jon Stratton, Professor of Cultural Studies,
> Curtin University.
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Dr Mark Gibson
Communications and Media Studies Program
National Centre for Australian Studies
School of Journalism, Australian and Indigenous Studies
Faculty of Arts, Monash University
Caulfield East, Victoria 3145

Caulfield Campus, B4.17

Tel: +61 3 9903 4221
Fax: +61 3 9903 4225
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