Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation Contributor
image

“Write it to be read by Christopher Pyne.”

This advice was given to a colleague by his university’s research office as he finalized his application for an Australian Research Council grant.

It isn’t as though we weren’t warned. In September 2013, before the Coalition won government, the Daily Telegraph revealed that “Abbott vows to cut futile research”. The government-in-waiting would crack down on “waste” including grants to “obscure” research.

Among the “increasingly ridiculous” ARC grants it picked out to deride in its media release were a philosophical inquiry into notions of the self, a study of sexuality in Islamic Egypt and an investigation of the role of art in understanding climate change.

The conservatives have form for attacks on intellectual freedom and university independence. In 2005 Andrew Bolt savaged the ARC for a number of grants it had made, claiming it had been captured by “Marxists”, “leftists” and “peek-in-your-pants researchers fixated on gender or race”.

Teased about it by his cabinet colleagues, Education Minister Brendan Nelson secretly cancelled a number of approved ARC projects. He then attempted to impose a political filter between the decisions of qualified experts and funds held by the ARC, a filter that took the form of a three-member vetting panel chaired by right-wing journalist P.P. McGuiness.

For a time, the tide of populism was resisted by Labor’s Education Minister Kim Carr, who took the view that the allocation of ARC grants should be left to the experts, rather than know-nothing newspaper commentators. A former history teacher, Carr mounted a spirited defence of the value of the humanities and social sciences.

Carr seemed to understand that it matters deeply to us as a people that we attempt to understand what makes our society tick and what we can learn from history and other cultures. Against the rise of neo-liberalism, the humanities and social sciences exist because without them we are reduced to utility maximizing machines.

We stop being human when we stop asking the questions humans have always asked, including, in the words of Patrick Stokes, “the nature of what we are, what exists, and of our place in the universe”.

The universities themselves have to varying degrees succumbed to the same market ideology. The Chief Executive of Universities Australia believes that the central role of universities is “securing national long-term economic and social prosperity”. Social prosperity? What is that? One those meaningless phrases that we nevertheless know the meaning of.

Does immersing oneself in Shakespeare’s use of rhetoric, studying Nietzsche’s madman speech, understanding shifting perceptions of the body, or investigating the changing nature of citizenship add to our “social prosperity”?

Where do these fit into the new priority areas for ARC funding? Here they are:

  • Food

  • Soil

  • Water

  • Transport

  • Cybersecurity

  • Energy

  • Resources

  • Advanced manufacturing

  • Environmental change

  • Health

How do scholars in the humanities and social sciences, hoping for time away from teaching to advance their disciplines, craft their ARC applications to fit into this utilitarian frame? What do they say about the “impact” of their research when confronted with such a crude view of the world? Maybe they just have to lie. Maybe lying is justified. After all, before his election Abbott lied about taking a hands-off approach to university funding.

Now, it seems, university research offices take it as read that all successful grant applications will be vetted by the Minister for Education, now Simon Birmingham. Perhaps the Minster delegates the task in the first instance to a junior staffer who puts them to the Andrew Bolt test, placing a red sticker on anything suspicious.

So the savvy academic will have her political radar switched on as she writes her proposal’s title and summary. She will have a fair idea of what her peers look for and admire, but how can she know what the current Minister for Education wants?

Was he a culture warrior in his university days? Is he willing to shrug off mockery from his cabinet colleagues? Will he argue the toss with Bolt? Should she start reading the Daily Telegraph to pick up clues as to what’s in and what’s out?

Or does she not bother.

Authors: The Conversation Contributor

Read more http://theconversation.com/keeping-christopher-contented-56201

INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

The Conversation

Politics

Alan Jones interview with Scott Morrison

ALAN JONES: The Prime Minister is on the line from Canberra. Prime Minister, good morning.   PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan. I’m in Sydney this morning I got back last night.   JONES: Oh, ...

Alan Jones - avatar Alan Jones

Scott Morrison Virus Announcement

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon. Keeping Australians safe - that is the priority of our Government as we deal with what has been an emerging situation with the coronavirus. Each and every day there a...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Closing the Gap Statement to Parliament

Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country. I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future. I honour...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

WHAT EVERYBODY OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT ARBORIST IN NORTH GOLD COAST

Apart from being home to kangaroos, Australia’s North Gold Coast is an epicurean delight for tourists seeking relaxation amidst ‘thrills and chills’ on their vacation! From widespread beaches with s...

News Company - avatar News Company

Is It Necessary To Enroll Your Employees In First Aid Training?

Employees are a vital asset to any business, whether it’s a construction company or a legal firm. That’s why it’s important for employers to take necessary measures in ensuring the safety and health...

Joe Curmi - avatar Joe Curmi

Having a mentor is a must to take your business to the next level

Kerstyn Walsh will have the chance to meet her business mentor, LA-based wedding planner to the stars, Lisa Vorce, which will be game-changing for growing Kerstyn’s business Kerstyn Walsh, a self-emp...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

Travel

Travelling With Pets? Here Is What You Should Know

Only a pet parent can understand the dilemma one experiences while planning a vacation. Do you leave your pets at home?  Will you get a pet sitter or someone to take care of them while you are away?...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Be a Smart Frugal Traveller

You are looking through Instagram, watching story after story of your followers overseas at a beach in Santorini, walking through the piazza in Italy, and eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel ...

News Company - avatar News Company

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR GRADUATION TRIP

Graduation is the stage of life when a student receives the rewards of hard work of years. It must have taken sleepless nights and tiring days to achieve the task. Now, as you have received your cov...

News Company - avatar News Company

ShowPo