Submission to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification Review, 2019

By JERAA

 

This submission was written by Professor Susan Forde, Vice President (Research) JERAA,
on behalf of the JERAA Executive, 2019
Contact: s.forde@griffith.edu.au

Introduction

We provide this submission on behalf of the members of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia, the peak body representing academics working in journalism education and research in Australia. JERAA was established in 1975, initially as a grouping of former journalists who were teaching journalism at a range of universities around Australia. Over time it has evolved into a large representative organisation that reflects the importance journalism scholars place on both teaching and research, and developing this knowledge of their field locally and internationally. Like most parts of the academy, scholars belonging to JERAA work within departments or schools in which they have relatively balanced profiles, with equal emphasis on both their teaching and research outcomes. Many journalism academics are former practitioners who have undertaken postgraduate study (usually a PhD); but there is an increasing number of specialised scholars working within broad journalism and communications programs who do not have a practitioner background, but whose scholarship in broader fields of communication, media studies and journalism studies is taught alongside practical courses.

JERAA holds an annual conference attended by 70-100 scholars; and members also regularly attend international scholarly gatherings such as the ICA (International Communications Association); IAMCR (International Association for Media and Communication Research); ECREA (European Communication Research and Education Association); and the three-yearly WJEC (World Journalism Education Congress), among many other regular gatherings. Until 2019, JERAA was the publisher of Australian Journalism Review, a peer-reviewed journal publishing a cross-section of quality research twice-yearly. From 2019, Intellect is publishing the Australian Journalism Review to enhance the journal’s international reach and profile.

JERAA also supports an annual research grants round, awarding $6000 from its membership fees to 1-2 pilot projects to encourage members to carry out research projects that will lead to larger grant applications. We also award (in cooperation with the Australia and New Zealand Communications Association) the Anne Dunn Scholar Award, a $3000 prize to a journalism academic for a body of research work that honours the memory of one of our past presidents, Anne Dunn, a scholar deeply committed to the importance of public service broadcasting, and journalism in the public interest. In 2019, JERAA introduced a $3000 award for excellence in journalism curriculum innovation; and we also run the annual ‘Ossie Awards’ for excellence in student journalism.

Our Executive Board is comprised of elected positions, voted at our Annual General Meeting – President (currently Dr Alex Wake, RMIT); Vice President Research (Professor Susan Forde, Griffith); Vice President Engagement (A/Prof Colleen Murrell, Swinburne); Vice President Ossie Awards (Dr Peter English, USunshineCoast); Editor, Australian Journalism Review Dr Kathryn Bowd Vice President Conference (Dr Fiona Martin USyd); Treasurer (Mr Jolyon Sykes); Media Officer (Ms Audrey Courty, Griffith); and Secretaries (Dr Kayt Davies, Dr Bridget Backhaus, Edith Cowan and Loughborough/Griffith respectively).

Our Submission

JERAA’s submission directly addresses concerns around the future of the 1903 four-digit code, ‘Journalism and Professional Writing’ to classify journalism studies research. This is considered in light of many journalism scholars’ engagement with the Field of Research 20 two-digit code, particularly the four-digit 2001 Communication and Media Studies FoR. This submission is driven by a vote taken at the 2017 AGM for our Association, in which the membership voted for JERAA to take part in national discussions regarding the future of the 1903 code. We therefore direct this submission primarily to the Review’s discussion of the Field of Research codes.

Specifically, we wish to address the following questions posed by the review:

Where should the classifications change (at the Division, Group or Field level)? Please identify specific codes, where appropriate. In particular:

  1. What new or emerging areas of research should be allocated FoR codes (and at which level)?
  2. Should any of the existing FoR codes be split, deleted or merged?
  3. Should any of the existing Group or Field codes be moved to other places in the classification?
  4. Is there ambiguity or redundancy in the existing FoR codes? (e.g. areas where research could reasonably be classified in two or more different codes)
  5. Where changes are proposed, please explain why the changes are necessary and what criteria you have used to determine the need for change.

 

Field of Research codes – 1903 (Journalism and Professional Writing); and 2001 (Communication and Media Studies)

The Journalism and Professional Writing code (1903) sits within the broader two-digit code, Studies in Creative Arts and Writing. This immediately places journalism scholars with creative arts researchers, rather than with media and communications scholars and historically was intended to capture journalism scholarship’s creative methodology and contribution to non traditional research outputs (NTROs), such as investigative journalism, long form features and documentary. While the 2001 code Communication and Media Studies sits within a broader Language, Communication and Culture frame, Journalism and Professional Writing exists alongside four creative arts codes – Film, Television and Digital Media; Performing Arts and Creative Writing; Visual Arts and Crafts; Other Studies in Creative Arts and Writing; and one lesscreative code, Art Theory and Criticism. Yet during the period 2010-2018, despite the increase in journalism research and the expansion of qualified researchers, there has been a diminishing number of submissions to FoR 1903 from institutions that support journalism research, and an increasing number of submissions to FoR 2001.

The 1903 code now receives fewer submissions than any other of the four-digit codes in the ‘19’ category (apart from the “Other” category, which receives least in most codes); and in the past two ERAs in 2015 and 2018, none of the submitting institutions achieved above an ERA 3. All other groups within the 19 code received at least some assessments of 4 and 5; and all (including the far more traditional Art Theory and Criticism) returned higher levels of NTROs than Journalism and Professional Writing. Most of the 19 codes returned 25-60% NTROs, reflective of their creative research practice – Journalism and Professional Writing had only 10% of their return as NTROs in 2015 when 6 institutions returned to 1903; and in 2018 only 13% of the FoR was categorized as NTROs. So Journalism and Professional Writing was alone in having no research identified as above world standard in 2015 and again in 2018; and also returned the most TROs in the 19 code suggesting NTROs form a very small part of the activity of Journalism Studies scholars in Australia. The submission levels of NTROs within Journalism and Professional Writing are more in line with the (much smaller) proportion of NTROs submitted in to the 2001 code.

Results from the 2018 ERA are telling for the 1903 code, with only one institution, La Trobe University, submitting an assessable return. This is a continued trend since the ERA began, with 12 institutions submitting into this code in the 2010 trial; 8 in 2012; 6 in 2015 and now only 1 in 2018. At the same time, we can compare the number of returns into the larger and related 2001 code, Communication and Media Studies – 19 in 2010; 16 in 2012; 18 in 2015 and now 20 in 2018. The 2001 code has experienced a 58% ‘discipline growth’ from 2011-2018 (ERA National Profile report, 2019) while 1903 demonstrates a clear, and converse, decline. It is evident that this is not due to a decline of journalism research activity within the academy, but rather, that institutions are choosing to ‘group’ their journalism research into the broader communication and media studies codes. This is evidenced by several factors – there has not been a decrease in journalism programs nor journalism staff in the Australian and New Zealand academies; and there has been an increase in the presence of A/NZ journalism scholarship in major international fora.

As the peak representative body for journalism research and education, JERAA’s membership increased steadily until 2010 and from that time, has remained stable at about 60-70 members. While membership numbers are stable, we have an increased number of members who are PhD- qualified; and a similarly increased number of members who are undertaking PhD study while working as full-time academics. Data from the ARC’s grants database bears this out – while the past two years (2017-18) has seen fewer successful applicants using the 190301 (Journalism Studies) code as their primary code, the trend from 2002 onwards was generally steady, and increasing with a number of DECRAs, Future Fellowships, Discovery Projects and Linkage Projects awarded over this time to excellent Early Career Researchers, Mid-Career Researchers and teams led by senior journalism academics (Australian Research Council, 2019). Unlike 20 years ago, then, JERAA is now primarily composed of PhD-qualified academics who are research active and who have significant research expectations. There is no evidence of any decline in the quality or volume of journalism research over the past 10 years – quite the opposite.

International media and communications conferences such as the International Communication Association (ICA); and the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) have seen an increase in journalism scholarship presented at their annual conferences, and Australian researchers form an increasing cohort at many of these international venues. One of the ICA’s largest ‘groups’ is ‘Journalism Studies’, while the IAMCR’s journalism scholarship is represented in the largest of the 15 sections in the association, ‘Journalism Research and Education’ with more than 340 members. And Australian researchers have a prominent presence in both of these associations, often dominated by north American and European scholars — Australia New Zealand Communications Association (ANZCA) Executive Board member Professor Terry Flew, has held an executive position on the ICA Board for some years and is now 2019 ICA President-elect; JERAA VP (Research) Professor Susan Forde has held a Vice Chair position on the International Association for Media and Communication Research and is now on the Advisory Board for the Community Communication and Alternative Media Section; while other Australian researchers (for example, Professor Kerry Green, Professor Ian Richards, A/Prof Tanja Dreher, A/Prof Kerrie Foxwell-Norton), hold senior positions in (variously) Journalism Studies, Journalism Research and Education, Community Communication and Alternative Media, and Environmental Communication sections within either ICA or IAMCR. Other Australian journalism scholars (for example, Professor Matthew Ricketson, Dr Willa Macdonald) are particularly active in the emerging International Association of Literary Journalism Studies (IALJS) and will host the association’s 2022 conference.

Most recently, the May 2019 published International Encyclopaedia of Journalism Studies from Wiley-Blackwell contains 14 chapters contributed by Australian scholars – a significant number given the relative size of our field compared to major (far more populous) nations. This substantial collection is co-edited by Professor Folker Hanusch, now a Professor at the University of Vienna who completed his PhD and moved from an early career researcher through to Associate Professor in the Australian academy at the University of Queensland, University of the Sunshine Coast and Queensland University of Technology. In short, Australian journalism scholars occupy a visible and respected place in international journalism research.

What the trend away from 1903 indicates is a substantial classification overlap in much of the ‘traditional’ scholarship being produced by journalism researchers between the 1903 (Journalism and Professional Writing) and the 2001 (Communication and Media Studies) codes. Australian Journalism Review has dedicated several special issues to the place of journalism in the academy over the past years, and in 2011 Emeritus Professor Graeme Turner cautioned against journalism research too overtly siphoning itself off from colleagues in media and communication studies, and cultural studies (Turner, 2011). Professor Michael Meadows argued similarly, suggesting that journalism research would suffer if it considered itself a ‘unique fiefdom’, as most scholars within journalism studies worked across ‘disciplinary boundaries in our application of theory and method, whether we recognise it or not’ (2011: 10).

Indeed, research quality exercises internationally identify journalism research as a subset of media and communications research (McNair, 2017), and practical experience from Australia would suggest this is indeed the case – while journalism is a specific profession, within the academy our research sits comfortably alongside our colleagues in broader media and communications research and indeed, in many cases, can easily be cross-categories with codes such as 2001 (Communication and Media Studies), and 2002 (Cultural Studies) (and see Forde, 2017). McNair, with experience in several UK institutions and knowledge of the status of the discipline across the northern hemisphere, clarifies:

The notion that there was something called “journalism research” which should be institutionally bracketed off from the rest of the media research agenda was alien. On the contrary, journalism research was enriched by being deeply connected to other disciplines and sub-disciplines….This fusion of journalism with media, communication and cultural studies has not been remotely controversial in the UK and Europe, and has allowed journalism studies to grow within a larger scholarly infrastructure, to which it contributes and from which it borrows (McNair, 2017: 32-33).

 

Summary: Progressing Australian journalism research in the academy

The challenge, and paradox, faced by many journalism academics is rare in the humanities. University journalism programs are driven by the practical courses and experiences that they can deliver to their students, which suggests they employ a faculty of (fairly recent) former practitioners; but the raison d’être of the university to produce new knowledge and research calls for PhD qualifications, grant success and regular scholarly publishing. Journalism academics are called on then to be both creatively engaged and research focused. Maintaining industry knowledge, contemporary practical skills and a high-quality research profile with journalism programs – and indeed, transitioning journalists from industry to the academy – are ongoing, core concerns for journalism research leaders and their universities.

Journalism studies will most successfully grow and develop in Australia through its engagement with congruent areas, particularly media and communications, and for many, cultural studies (and there are others – political science, sociology, history in particular). Rigorous research emanating from these complementary fields in the academy provides scaffolding for journalism studies and indeed, ensures Australian research categories and frameworks are consistent with the international scene. Continuing to place Journalism Studies within the primarily creative-arts based 19 code will embed a divide between fields which, ultimately, all consider media and communication in a range of forms and formats (eg journalism, television, film, online, digital; and then relevant policy/political considerations and impacts, historical contexts, social and cultural aspects, and so on). The Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia therefore recommends the following:

  1. That the 1903 code Journalism and Professional Writing be moved out of the 19 two-digit FoR
  2. That a new six-digit code be introduced under the broad 2001 Communication and Media Studies code, called ‘Journalism Studies’ or something similar

This will ensure:

  • that journalism scholarship is more correctly surrounded and nurtured by the broader media and communication studies disciplines;
  • that there remains a distinct ‘field’ of Journalism Studies, ensuring that Australian journalism research will still be captured through the six-digit code required for FoR categorisation and granting bodies;
  • that the ANZSRC codes will more accurately reflect the decisions being taken by institutions to ‘see’ their researchers’ journalism work within its broader communication and media studies context;
  • that Australian research categories will more consistently align with the international experience
  • that journalism scholars undertaking research-rich practical or creative work which generates new knowledge are still able to ‘count’ and return these contributions as NTROs within the 2001 code

We do not believe that the creation of a separate 4-digit code for Journalism Studies within the 20 two-digit code will solve the current dilemma whereby institutions are abandoning the Journalism code. It will simply shift the problem to the 20-code and individuals and institutions will still be faced with the same issue about whether their work is returned into 2001 Communication and Media Studies; or a newly-created four-digit 20xx code, Journalism Studies.

We would be happy to expand on these comments further if the Review Committee feels this would be useful.

Professor Susan Forde
June 4, 2019
Vice President (Research)
Journalism Education & Research Association of Australia

 

References

Australian Research Council (2019). Grants database, search conducted May 2019 at https://www.arc.gov.au/grants-and-funding/apply-funding/grants-dataset

ERA National Report (2019). State of Australian University Research 2018-19, Australian Research Council/Australian Government: Canberra.

ERA National Report (2015). State of Australian University Research 2015-16, Australian Research Council/Australian Government: Canberra.

Forde, S (2017). ‘Lifting journalism research in Australia: Confronting issues of quality and international competitiveness in ERA’, Australian Journalism Review, 39(1): 13-18.

Lidberg, J (2017). ‘The future of assessing journalism research in Australia’, Australian Journalism Review, 39(1): 19-23.

McNair, B (2017). ‘Classifying journalism research: The international experience’, Australian Journalism Review, 39(1): 31-33.

Meadows, M. (2011). ‘The meaning of life: journalism research and ERA 2010’, Australian Journalism Review, 33(1), 9-15.

Turner, G. (2011). ‘The ERA and journalism research’, Australian Journalism Review, 33(1), 5-7.

Vos, Tim P. and F. Hanusch (eds) (2019). The International Encyclopedia of Journalism Studies, Wiley-Blackwell/ICA International Encyclopedias of Communication series, Wiley-Blackwell: New Jersey.

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