Response by Australian Universities Heads of English to Ministerial Interference in the Independent Assessment of Humanities Research
Australian Universities Heads of English expresses strong opposition to the political interference in the independent peer review process of the Australia Research Council by the former Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham. The robust peer review process administered by the ARC ensures the high quality of the less than 20 per cent of applications submitted that are finally successful.
The Minister’s action to deny $4M worth of funding to humanities projects in 2017 and 2018, undertaken in secret and without any reasons given, has had and will continue to have grave consequences for the lives and careers of the researchers affected and for Australia’s reputation in the international academic community.
Though we are shocked and dismayed by the Minister’s intervention, we note that even if he had not denied funding in these instances, humanities funding would still be unacceptably low, relative to former levels, relative to other parts of the sector, and relative to the humanities’ contribution to national research production. Graeme Turner and Kylie Brass in their 2017 report Mapping the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in Australianote that the humanities and social sciences contributed 34% of research outputs in the university sector in 2012, but over 2011-12 received only 6.51% of the Government’s $3.5B of expenditure on research and development.
As a small redress of this unacceptably low and unfairly weighted distribution of research funding, we demand that the Government immediately fund the previously rejected grants.