[csaa-forum] HERDC/ERA criteria

Jonathan Stratton J.Stratton at curtin.edu.au
Wed Mar 2 13:11:30 CST 2011

  I so completely agree with you, Mark!  I have been saying for years that, if that legendary anthropologist were to arrive from Mars to study how we manage the publication of research in journals, she would be entirely confounded.  What--your major research outlets are run by people who get absolutely no reward for running them; and the people asked to referee articles get absolutely no credit from their universities for taking on this task.  Then, really, those same unis use publications in journals as a key measure of quality when appointing and promoting people--and, of course, now journals are ranked and used as a measure of research quality.  Incredible; unbelievable!!  And yet, that is just the way it is.  More, as we move towards the ever greater importance of online databases, major publishers have picked up the more significant journals and get free content, and free editing, from those same academics.  
   What more is there to say?!


From: Mark Gibson (Arts) [mailto:mark.gibson at monash.edu]
Sent: Wed 3/2/2011 11:26 AM
To: csaa-forum at lists.cdu.edu.au
Cc: Jonathan Stratton
Subject: Re: [csaa-forum] HERDC/ERA criteria

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 worse.

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 refereeing.

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.
	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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