Taken for Granted

Today (October 31, 2018) in the Sydney Morning Herald, a more-then-miffed Professor Roger Benjamin bemoans a recent ministerial decision to nix the $223,000 he was to have been awarded for a study of “Double Crossings: post-Orientalist arts at the Strait of Gibraltar.” While quarter of a million dollars might strike those pursuing less cloistered fields of endeavour as a rather large sum, the professor begs to differ. He writes:

“The substantial amounts at stake don’t line the academics’ pockets. In my case, as Birmingham revealed, the grant was to be $223,000 (out of the $318,000 I requested – the ARC often imposes austerity to make its dollar go further). Over three years, 66 per cent of that was to go towards salaries (the bulk for hiring substitute lecturers); 25 per cent on travel costs (economy class) for a range of researchers between Sydney, London and Tangier; 4.6 per cent for books and photographic materials, and 4.3 per cent for equipment (a laptop and digital cameras).”

Back in 2012, Quadrant‘s Philippa Martyr took a detailed look at ARC-grants mill. To say that she and Professor Benjamin differ would be an understatement. That essay from our archives is republished below.



arc grant IIImagine a world in which humanities and arts academics were given credit not for winning enormous grants, but for their ability to function without them. What if academic excellence was measured by who could produce the most for the lowest cost? What if we had a university system that positively rewarded low-cost self-funded research in the arts and humanities (and even in other fields), seeing it as a practical way of finding equally low-cost solutions to all kinds of problems?

Two things inspired this radical train of thought. The first was a comment by Dr James Allan in 2011:

Getting someone to give you money to do research to write a paper is an input. It is not an output. It is plain-out bizarre to count success in grant-getting as anything at all, though of course we know that the universities are desperate for this money and the ARC loves to be the ones giving the grants and then saying that getting them means you’re a better researcher.[1] 

The second was watching Ron Howard’s movie Apollo 13. In the movie, NASA technicians have to design a functioning air-processing unit solely from items that the stranded astronauts have with them on board. Eventually they do this with a plastic bag and a sock. I think that this would be impossible today, not just because of the incredible sophistication of the equipment on board, but because those involved would be unable to carry out this task without grants funding, and Apollo 13 would have become a very shiny orbiting tomb.

I am a humanities-trained researcher, although I’ve worked in a series of clinical (medical and health) settings and use both quantitative and qualitative methods. I have worked with researchers engaged in high-tech projects funded by multi-million-dollar grants. In my time as a university lecturer and researcher in the 1990s, I was also involved in five successful grant applications—a large multi-centre one ($50,000), two internal teaching and learning grants from my own university ($3000 and $5000 respectively), a grant from a private psychiatric clinic for a small project (around $7000), and finally a short project grant from the Wellcome Trust to spend six months at a UK university (£7000).

And yet now I have seriously to look back and ask myself: Did getting a grant help me to produce more publications or better outcomes? Would my research and teaching have been worse without those grants? The answer to both questions is no. In fact, I think the best and most enjoyable (as well as the most productive) research I’ve done—both as a postgraduate and then as a post-doc in the UK, and in my current job—has been either part of my job, or self-funded.

Why grants at all?

Government research grants began as a way of allowing academics with expensive and labour-intensive research interests—such as microbiology or physiology or neuroscience or astronomy—to buy access to equipment, lab space and assistants, specimen processing, and information support to analyse the data collected by the equipment and lab assistants.[2] These processes continue to be expensive, even with the reduction in cost of some processing equipment.[3]

But much as I would like to argue that humanities research is just as costly, I can’t. What it really costs is time, because you have to read a great deal and then go away and think about it. In my own area of history, you also need to access archival collections and then spend time looking through them, which is how you discover that those boxes deceptively labelled “Accounts” actually contain the lost and highly scandalous correspondence of a former prime minister to his bigamous wife.

Humanities and arts grants today are largely being used to purchase time. In the olden days, universities were places where academic staff had to do research. But because of the restructure of Australian universities in the 1980s, the average humanities department now stays afloat by cramming students into courses, which means that humanities staff have almost no time to pursue their own research.[4]

Today’s funds-starved departments are also desperate for other forms of income. One of these is the summer school, which means that humanities staff now have even less time to do research on their long vacation. Publications are another: a university department can receive funding for “quality” publications. Top of the tree are books that are sufficiently long, must be offered for sale as a bound hard copy or packaged CD-ROM, and have been published by a commercial publisher[5]—except that theoretically there’s nothing to stop the department itself paying for the publication, and the book may only sell two copies. Peer-reviewed journal articles are another high-earning type of publication, even though journal ranking systems in the humanities are questionable.[6]

And then there are grants—and the transformation of the university into an extension of the child-minding industry has been a critical factor in the explosion of the grants cargo cult. To find the time to do research, a would-be researcher must be able to buy in teaching staff. In days gone by, if you wanted to write a book you waited till your sabbatical year, but no department can now afford to wait seven years, so academics who have an idea and a publisher need to get a grant to have their teaching covered by casual, part-time or full-time staff. A successful grants track record has also become a potent lever in obtaining an academic position at all.

Travel grants were also developed to help academics in distant Australia to attend large international scientific meetings in the days when it took a long time to get anywhere, and cost a fortune. Those days are now gone, and with burgeoning communications technology, there is really no good reason for anyone to leave home. Even universities have gradually woken up to the fact that academics can and in fact should fund their own conference travel, especially if they want to go anywhere involving sunshine or high culture.

The Australian Research Council

The Australian Research Council is the largest and most convenient sitting duck in the government grants market, so I will concentrate my attentions on them. They’ve copped a lot of flak in recent years, notably from people like Merv Bendle,[7] Steve Keen[8] and Brian Martin,[9] as well as researchers outside the humanities and arts sector.[10] Anyone interested in what the ARC does—and what it thinks is important—should read its annual report for 2010–11.[11] It is quite transparent about its objectives.

The annual report makes for enlightening reading in other ways. As someone with plenty of eclectic knowledge of her own, I am thrilled when other people confess to an obscure research interest, but I’m less thrilled when they ask me to pay for them to pursue it. And this is essentially what the grants process is: you have a bee in your bonnet, and you want to be paid by someone else to explore it. But why should the Australian taxpayer be that someone else?

For example, I think that if you are really that passionately interested in the cultural history of the postwar West Australian popular music scene, you will go and find out about it yourself without needing my financial help. Unfortunately (or not) Professor Jon Stratton of Curtin University didn’t consult me first, which is why he and his team were able to score an ARC Discovery Grant of $120,000 over three years to research exactly that.[12]

Last year, several colleagues who share my sense of humour forwarded to me a job advertisement. It was for a three-year ARC-funded research position at UWA to investigate the history of Jesuit emotions, as part of their ARC-funded Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. The position included producing an edited volume and being involved in the production of a Jesuit play.[13] I’m sure this is a very worthwhile enterprise, but I’d have thought that the organisation which should be funding research into the history of Jesuit emotions is—going out on a limb here—the Society of Jesus, a large multinational organisation of around 19,000 members and apparently not short of a quid.

Why do certain projects get funded?

This leads me to my next question: how is ARC funding distributed? Obviously it’s like any other form of begging, burlesque or prostitution: as Gypsy reminds us, “You gotta get a gimmick, if you want to get ahead.” Your grant application must not just meet all the criteria specified by the grantor, right down to the font and margin size. You need that extra something that the others haven’t got, and it can be ideological, political, sexual or controversial—as long as it pushes the right buttons.

We’re now going to play a game called “Shooting Fish in a Barrel”, and I think if you’ve read this far, you’ll enjoy it. I’m going to give you the project descriptions of just some of the successful 2011 ARC Discovery Project grant applications (all commencing in 2012), ranked here alphabetically. None of this is classified information: I took these from the ARC website,[14] and I apologise in advance to any person or institution who feels victimised, but if you put yourself into the public domain in this way, you’ve got to expect a bit of criticism.

These project grants have been chosen from many different FORs, or Fields of Research, as they are coded by the ARC. All grants are spread over three years unless otherwise specified. I’ve also tried to provide a selection from different institutions, large and small. Nor am I necessarily bagging all of these projects—some of them may have academic merit and could make a difference to some people’s lives, but many of the grants I read about seem principally to improve the lives of the people who receive the funding and do the research.

Some successful 2011 ARC applications and FOR

Changing loudness of a sound is an urgent cue for object location, and an emotional cue in speech and music. With new empirical techniques, we will identify roles of loudness in perception of structure, arousal and emotion in music. The work has application in inter-personal communication, sonic information display, and in music selling online.
— Professor Roger T. Dean, Performing Arts and Creative Writing, ($254,000).

This project can only have been designed by people who have no regular contact with small children, and who thus think it’s worth spending three years finding out what happens when you turn the little dial to the right. 

Is being a “national living treasure” compatible with being a serious literary figure? The project examines who actually reads what of Tom Keneally’s fiction and whether facts accord with critical assessments of his work, both in Australia and overseas. Answers will clarify how Australia constructs its literary culture and writes literary history.
— Associate Professor Paul Sharrad, Literary Studies ($65,000 for two years only)

I suppose it would be interesting to find out once and for all if anyone actually does read Tom Keneally, and if so, why.

Law firms have been transformed as a result of mergers, incorporation and listing on the stock exchange. The centrality of competition and globalisation has jeopardised any possibility of a work/life balance. This project will examine the tensions in trying to effect a balance for lawyers expected to work 24/7.
–Professor Margaret R. Thornton, Law  ($135,000)

A quick inspection of the legal profession’s divorce rate would surely not cost this much? On the other hand, this much money would allow the project team to buy an actual lawyer for a couple of weeks and send her home to her family.

No relationship is more important to Australia than our relationship with the United States of America, yet remarkably, there has been no systematic study of how Australians and Americans interact differently. This project identifies and explains these differences in a way that is rigorous, accessible, and useful to non-specialists.
— Professor Cliff W. Goddard, Linguistics ($306,500)

They say “tomayto”, we say “tomahto”. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers completed this project in 1937 in around five minutes while dancing on roller skates, which I bet this project team can’t.

Only at the movies? is a three-year project that asks: What is the enduring appeal of cinemagoing and how is it changing? It will provide detailed analyses of formal film exhibition and distribution in Australia by combining economic, cultural and geospatial research with industry expertise.
Professor Deb Verhoeven, Film, Television and Digital Media ($289,000)

Surely this research should be funded by the film industry? (which is in turn funded by the taxpayer, so perhaps this is saving us time and effort).

The mining tax revolt in 2010 was a landmark event in government-business relations in Australia, acknowledged by multinational corporations and governments around the world for its broader ramifications. This project is the first systematic study of what happened, and its implications for our understanding of government-business relations.
— Professor Michael D. Gilding, Sociology ($200,240)

That didn’t take long—and by the time this project ends, the tax should have been repealed. In the meantime, this seems a lot to spend on a question which could be answered by reading a few conservative blogs for free.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is the largest single public investment in Australian history. This research seeks to understand how digital networks such as the NBN can contribute to improvements in civic life. Improving participation in public space can address problems such as social isolation, enhance citizen empowerment and develop a sense of collective belonging.
Associate Professor Scott McQuire, Communication and Media Studies ($195,000)

A shameless attempt by the current government to provide research backing to its snake oil. This money should be taken out of the 2013 ALP re-election campaign budget, not the ARC.

The project addresses the translation of environmental resource policies to widespread practice in the face of institutional inertia. The outcome informs the design of policy mechanisms for enabling the emergence and mainstreaming of alternative resource technologies and consolidates Australia’s leadership in urban water resource management.
Professor Rebekah R. Brown, Sociology ($195,000)

I’m not entirely sure what this project is going to do, but for a quarter of a million dollars I’d be prepared to have a go at it myself. Whatever it is.

This project aims to discover what young Australians are learning about sex, love and relationships from popular media, as well as the impact that it is having on their behaviour and attitudes towards sexuality and intimate relationships. It will make recommendations about how to promote ethical and safe sexual practices and attitudes.
–Professor Catharine A. Lumby, Communication and Media Studies ($200,000)

This kind of study has been going on for the last forty years to no apparent benefit. Nor does Lumby’s involvement in this project fill me with confidence: during the Bill Henson furore she argued that we could foster young people’s sexuality by “allowing them a space in which to explore their emerging selves free of the demand to always be seen in relation to adulthood”,[15] which I suspect will do little to lower the teenage pregnancy/STI rate.

This project aims to produce recommendations, designed by citizens and stakeholders, for climate adaptation policies in three regions of Australia. These recommendations will be based on a definition of climate justice that incorporates basic needs and resources to be protected, as identified by potentially impacted communities.
Professor David Schlosberg, Political Science ($250,000)

This is a very depressing-sounding project involving “citizens and stakeholders”, who you just know will have those white-kid dreadlocks and who will come up with definitions of “climate justice” on behalf of the rest of us who are subsidising their lifestyles.

This project combines traditional and innovative digital research methods to reveal and analyse underlying patterns and contrasts in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Surveyed as a network rather than as individual works, this project will produce new knowledge about Renaissance drama and its development.
Professor Hugh Craig, Literary Studies ($160,000)

William Shakespeare and his chums are possibly the most over-analysed authors in the history of the English language. Shakespeare studies as a field is already groaning at the seams; why spend this at all?

This project explores the implications of new location-aware mobile media technologies for the governance of cities. By explaining how different applications of location-awareness are caught up in wider conflicts over the making of urban spaces, the project will shed light on the emerging politics of location associated with these new technologies.
—  Dr Kurt J. Iveson, Human Geography ($94,879)

All that for the “politics of location”? All I want to know is where the good pizza shops are. And Angry Birds just isn’t that interesting.

This project will investigate relationships between feminist theory and practice in Australian judicial decision-making. It will highlight possibilities, limits and implications of a feminist approach to judging, through analysis of existing decisions and practices and production of a collection of imagined feminist judgments in significant cases
—  Reader Heather A. Douglas, Law ($170,000) 

Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

This project will produce a comprehensive new biography of H.V. Evatt, High Court judge, minister in the 1940s, President of the United Nations General Assembly and leader of the Australian Labor Party opposition during the 1950s. Evatt’s life resonates with modern challenges both of liberty in a time of terror, and of internationalism in a time of global warming.
Associate Professor John F. Murphy, Historical Studies ($185,000)

A new biography of Doc Evatt, which is just what the world needs to add to the four full-length ones already in existence, plus the myriad of other scholarly publications about his life and career.[16]

William Blake, one of the most important Romantic artists, provides an exemplary instance of the creative and iconoclastic. By recovering Blake’s dialogue with London’s prophetic subcultures, this project offers an original account of his oeuvre, the cultural resources that enabled his originality, and the role played by creativity in modernity.
— Professor Peter J. Otto, Literary Studies ($636,904) 

I wouldn’t mind if this money had gone to purchasing some original Blake artworks, or holograph manuscript, or in fact anything that was authentically Blake that other researchers could use later, or the public could go and view.[17] I love William Blake, but I cannot see why this much money should be spent on yet more secondary work when, like Shakespeare, he’s high on the list of over-analysed English authors, and the subject of a vast international body of scholarship.

Welcome to the grantosphere

When you look at this list in terms of political orientation, it’s very hard not to put your head in your hands: climate change, the NBN, the ALP, the mining tax, feminism, Tom Keneally. Having said that, the hard sciences are just as prone to sucking up: an analysis of the impact of the term “climate change” upon ARC grant applications could probably be the subject of a successful ARC grant for 2013. I have already commented on Quadrant Online (July 24) on the hilarious ubiquity of the words “climate change” in some successful grant applications from FORs not normally associated with the weather, including psychology and creative writing.

Like any other form of welfare, the grantosphere creates researchers who cannot live outside it—subgroups of professional mendicants. It’s hard to see how being dependent on pleasing governmental masters is really any better than pleasing those in the free market. He who pays the piper calls the tune: the instant you put your hand out for government money, you are signing up for bureaucracy, interference and surveillance. Governments have a poor track record for fostering genuine innovation or original thought, and anyway, you can’t do that when you must always keep your eye on the main chance and the next big thing.

The question of special ARC research funding for Aboriginal people is fraught. On the one hand, restricting one form of funding to people of one type of ethnic background is actually racist, and if you don’t believe me, imagine restricting certain grants to whites, and only if they could prove they were really “white”. But what is “Indigenous research funding”—is it funding for Indigenous people to do research, or for research into Indigenous people?[18] Could the funding theoretically go to white researchers who come up with projects that could really make a difference to Aboriginal people—or will those white researchers have to find some Aboriginal people to put on the grant application, and call it a partnership? Surely if it’s research that will improve the appalling conditions under which a significant minority of Aboriginal people still live in Australia, especially in remote communities, it shouldn’t matter who’s doing the research. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, shouldn’t we judge a project not by the ethnicity of its investigators, but by the content of its character?

On the other hand, Aboriginal people with untapped research talents could use this kind of funding to improve their lives and the lives of their people. But what if the Aboriginal person who applies for the grant actually wants to research astrophysics—not from an Aboriginal standpoint, but from a conventional Western scientific one? I wonder how they’d fare in this system. Many Aboriginal people who are capable of doing well in the university system have got there by now, and it’s easier for them to do so with every passing year.[19] When will they be allowed to stand on their own two feet and engage in “competitive” grants with whitefellas? Surely some of the successful ARC grants this year involved Aboriginal people without anyone being especially conscious of their ethnicity—and this is the end to which we should be working, rather than ghettoising Aboriginal people even further and making them a special case.

What remains is the unpopular possibility that the people who will benefit from Aboriginal-specific research grants will not be Aboriginal people with new and fresh ideas. They will be the usual suspects—second- and third-generation members of the urban, affluent and largely middle-class Aboriginal industry in Australia.[20] It is questionable how much of this research will go towards improving the lives of genuinely disadvantaged Aboriginal people.[21] Even the ARC’s annual report has to admit that they have failed in this area, and they now have an Indigenous Employment Strategy aiming to employ three Aboriginal people by 2015.[22]

Changes in the world outside the grantosphere

In the real world the times are changing rapidly, and many of these changes—driven by enormously improved communication technology—may well impact upon the future of humanities grants. Yet while newspaper empires turn out not to be worth the paper they were printed on, arts and humanities researchers are battling a system which is still rewarding research the way it was done in the 1970s.

I said elsewhere years ago that there is no electronic substitute for a real-life, enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher of a subject, and I still believe that.[23] What saddens me is that universities seem to have embraced technologies for what they still call “teaching” (where they are a poor substitute for the real thing) but have not yet fully embraced them for research, where they can work superbly. I can now do historical research faster and more accurately than ever before, thanks to the massive digitisation of many important primary sources in Australian history. There must be other disciplines that are surging ahead like this as well, as the academics involved in them struggle to keep up.

Then there is the electronic publishing revolution, which can only be good for research: it gives researchers many more choices about where they publish, and to work out ways of concentrating their energies in specialised fields, because no one is going to be able to read “all” the literature on a particular topic. Ranking journals has becoming increasingly difficult, and it’s actually quite amusing for someone like me (who believes in absolute truth) to see diehard relativists trying to define some set of objective standards for research publications.

The impact of all this on Australia’s already tiny and struggling hard-copy academic book market has been devastating. The presses, even the university ones, are now on the back foot: they will take on fewer and fewer academic publications that are not paid for in advance. It is only a matter of time before universities accept that under these conditions, having a book published by a commercial publisher is no guarantee of excellence. All it indicates is that the author could afford it, which is the vanity press principle.

Sadly, at present universities continue to prop up a system that is becoming increasingly outdated, and also to prop up their own publishing arms—books published solely online, even if they meet all the other criteria for a “book”, are not eligible for government kickbacks.[24] If you can get a grant to pay for the publication of your book in hard copy via the university’s press, it is eligible, but if you can do it yourself for almost no cost (and save some trees), no one gets anything. The university’s attitude seems to be that if you can’t persuade someone else to pay for it, it’s not worth doing.

And perhaps it is this attitude which most of all needs to change, among individuals as well as institutions. What are you really in this game for—to do good research and then put your work out there in the public domain so that others can read it? Or is your real priority to spin straw into gold for your university masters, making sure that you only publish in the journals they have approved for you, and that you ensure that you get someone else—such as the Australian taxpayer—to pay for your at-best-peripheral research project?

Some possible solutions

Sometimes at dinner parties, while you’re drinking a really good champagne, there is a wet blanket who insists on talking about poverty in the developing world. We have all met this person, and I don’t want to be them, but I really do have to question the ethics of any government funding arts and humanities projects like the above when there are major health and welfare problems in Australia’s hospitals, low-income residential areas and Aboriginal remote communities.

At the same time, I know that the ARC is not the problem; it’s just a symptom of a much wider malaise. Some may argue that, given the small sums of money involved in comparison to the billions poured into our illegal immigrant industry and other epic fails, that cutting grants of this kind is akin to a government department getting rid of the free tea and biscuits. All it does is annoy everyone, and achieves very little in the balance sheet. There is some merit to this argument, and I’m not suggesting that scrapping the ARC will solve all the country’s problems. This would have to come as part of much broader economic and taxation reforms and much deeper cuts.

Streamlining the research process and improving the dissemination of its findings are both necessary, but neither will buy the potential researcher much extra time, and time is of the essence. Time is what improves humanities and arts research findings—the time to research properly, question your findings, let them percolate, come across chance last-minute factors that throw your hypothesis into disarray, and then time to restructure your argument and finally prepare it for publication.

I argued recently (Quadrant, March 2010) that this lack of time has damaged Australian historiography to the point that the History Wars became a very real necessity—too many historians had lost their way in a maze of frantic and sometimes inaccurate publications, driven by dubious agendas. They then tried to justify these all-too-human errors in political terms, and in the process wasted a golden opportunity to tell the truth about the bureaucratic forces driving them to publish such poorly-executed research in the first place, and to ask that a stop be put to them.

A friend recently told me about a humanities department which had essentially been put into receivership, with a new head appointed to bring it back into the black. She had done so, but also told staff that “research is something you do after hours, in your own time”. This seems to me the complete reversal of the idea of a university. What will bring this critical time factor back is a restructuring of the universities themselves, along the lines which have been suggested by Donald Meyers, among others.[25] A courageous federal government could reform the university system to restore research to priority status, followed by teaching. If this took place in a context of taxation reform, it could foster genuine partnerships with industry to sponsor research projects.

What this would also mean was that the university sector would have to shrink, and shrink dramatically. We could re-stratify the system to return to actual universities for genuine high achievers, with a focus on intensive teaching and research, and then technical schools and colleges of advanced education for everyone else trying to stay off the dole queue. Naturally, those CAEs that became universities during the 1980s and 1990s will fight this tooth and nail. They are not the only ones: the university industry in Australia also supports thousands of administrative staff. Again, this is why these changes cannot take place in isolation from genuine workplace and taxation reform in Australia, so that there would be a growing private sector which could absorb at least some of them.

A compromise solution would be to phase out ARC funding for the arts and humanities, and phase in a campaign of self-funded research. Self-funded research can and does have a place overseas, at least—if you don’t believe me, Google “self-funded research” and see how UK and Canadian institutions handle the issue. Academic salaries and packaging in Australia are extremely generous. In the absence of genuine workplace reforms which would see academics negotiating individual contracts, perhaps a good start would be to salary-package research costs. (The awful thing is that I can see the average university leaping on this idea, while not carrying out any of the other necessary reforms.)

Another way of pursuing a research project would be to borrow money to fund it. The English word grant derives from the old French graunter, which is in turn based on the Latin credere, which means “to lend”. Yet in Australia today you’d be forgiven for thinking that the word actually derives from the Latin word gratis. Grants are money you don’t have to pay back. I wonder how many projects would evaporate if the researchers were asked, at the end of the three years, to pay the money back with interest, or even just the principal. This is a good acid test of whether a project really is “relevant” or “essential” or “valuable”—would you personally be prepared to borrow money to fund it?

Grants are other people’s money. If grants were our own money, how much more carefully would we spend them? At the same time, we’d be a lot more invested in the project. Self-funded research has a lot to recommend it: you are totally independent, because you’re researching the thing that you want to research. This is a way of fostering competitive, innovative and interesting research that owes no one anything.

There will always be people who like being told what to do, and for this reason I would also support generous tax breaks for large corporations and industries that want to set up research funding bodies, especially in the hard sciences. You might think that the current system is slavery, and it is, and wasteful as well, but at least if it’s run by a private company it will be less wasteful. I can assure you of that.

We are not the “clever country”—although we could be. Degree mills are churning out degrees, but we have failed at least two generations of school students by giving them a mediocre education, making them unable to tackle really challenging university-taught disciplines. We must accept that we now lack local expertise in many areas. Harnessing new communication technologies will make it easier for local researchers to take part in international projects, where ideally they will learn more than they teach. Good research can and will thrive in the arts and humanities, once it is reinvigorated by really passionate researchers who can still remember why they got into this business in the first place.

Philippa Martyr is a Perth-based writer and historian. She has a blog at Transverse City.

[1] James Allan, ‘The publishing game’, QED,

– accessed 27 June 2012

[2] The ARC offers a brief history of itself at – accessed 3 July 2012.

[3] A good example is the cost of genome sequencing, which has been illustrated by the US National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institute of Health, at – accessed 3 July 2012.

[4]Critiques of the corporatisation of Australian higher education are many; a recent good example is Donald Meyers’ 2012 Australian Universities: a portrait of decline, – accessed 3 July 2012.

[5] See for example UWA Publications Manual for 2012—Collection of 2011 Publications, p 42ff, – accessed 3 July 2012.

[6] James Allan, ‘The publishing game’, QED,

– accessed 27 June 2012; Jill Rowbowtham, ‘Journal rankings praised amid criticism’, The Australian, 17 November 2010, ETC – accessed 27 June 2012.

[7]Bendle recapped these in ‘Hijacking terrorism studies’, Quadrant, September 2008, – accessed 3 July 2012. See also Justine Ferrari, ‘Research council hits back at critics,’ The Australian, 16 September 2006,—accessed 27 June 2012.

[8] Erica Cervini, ‘Show us the money’, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 October 2010, – accessed 27 June 2012.

[9] Brian Martin, ‘ERA: adverse consequences’, Australian Universities Review, 53(2):99-102; this comment p 100.

[10] Cheryl Jones, ‘Growing ARC of disillusion for scientists’, The Australian, 20 May 2009,—accessed 27 June 2012.

[11] ARC Annual Report, 2010-11, Australian Research Council, Canberra, 2011. – accessed 27 June 2012.

[12] Discovery Projects Funding Outcomes, Listing by FOR Codes, Australian Research Council, p 389. – accessed 3 July 2012.

[13] H-Net Job Guide,

[14] Discovery Projects Funding Outcomes, Listing by FOR Codes, Australian Research Council. – accessed 3 July 2012.

[15] Catharine Lumby, ‘Art, not porn’, The Age, 25 May 2008, – accessed 25 June 2012.

[16] Allan Dalziel, Evatt the Enigma, Landsdowne, Melbourne, 1967; Kylie Tennant, Evatt: politics and justice, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1972; Peter Crockett, Evatt: a life, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1993; Ken Buckley, Barbara Dale and Wayne Reynolds, Doc Evatt: patriot, internationalist, fighter and scholar, Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, 1994, and – just for variety – D Mandel, The Undercover Zionist: H V Evatt and the establishment of Israel, Psychology Press, 2004. The journal articles are many and varied; I would suggest you do a brief literature search yourself to see their range and scope.

[17] The equivalent sum could have purchased at least a couple of the Blake original watercolour illustrations for his poem ‘The Grave’, which were auctioned at Sotheby’s New York under controversial circumstances in May 2006. Paul Jeromack, ‘Bomb-a-rama’, artnet Magazine, – accessed 27 June 2012.

[18] For example, see Jill Rowbotham, ‘NHMRC award for Indigenous health researcher,’ The Australian, 1 December 2011, – is the researcher Indigenous, or the project’s orientation?

[19] Joe Lane, ‘Indigenous participation in university education’, Issue Analysis, Centre for Independent Studies, 27 May 2009, – accessed 3 July 2012.

[20] For an Aboriginal commentary on this industry, see – accessed 3 July 2012.

[21] Academic Helen Hughes has produced an impressive body of commentary and critique on existing Aboriginal educational policies, most recently Helen Hughes, Mark Hughes, Indigenous Education 2012, Centre for Independent Studies Policy Monograph, 2012.

[22] ARC Annual Report 2010-11, p 90.

[23] Philippa Martyr, ‘Teaching a Bachelor of Nursing unit on–line: some experiences and results’, Australian Electronic Journal of Nurse Education, 3(2), 1998, – accessed 3 July 2012; ‘What makes an on–line nursing unit (un)successful?’ Australian Electronic Journal of Nurse Education 7(1), 2001, – accessed 3 July 2012; ‘The Philosopher’s Stone: meditations upon on–line course delivery in the university’, Virtual Histories, Real Time Challenges: Knowing and Teaching the Past in the Digital Age. Proceedings, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, 9th July 1999, – accessed 3 July 2012.


[24] UWA Publications Manual for 2012—Collection of 2011 Publications, p 6, – accessed 3 July 2012.

[25] Donald Meyers’ 2012 Australian Universities: a portrait of decline, – accessed 3 July 2012.

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