By Craig Batty
An ASPERA Scoping Project was commissioned by the Australian Screen Production Education and Research Association and conducted by its Research Sub-Committee, for the benefit of the ASPERA community in Australia and other screen/media education and research communities internationally.
It provides an overview of current working environments of screen production practitioner-researchers in Australian universities, and how the frameworks for research reporting and evaluation within them impact on these working environments. The project was conducted through analysis of national research reports and guidelines (e.g., Excellence in Research for Australia, The Watt Review), and interviews conducted with staff working either directly in the screen production research discipline, or in broader research reporting, evaluation and mentoring roles.
The report highlights that environments for creative practice research vary greatly across universities. Despite concerted effort and attention given by universities to develop better processes for reporting and evaluating non-traditional research outputs (e.g., films and screenplays), the results of these efforts vary greatly across the sector. The project also found that the extent to which these variances impact on the practice of the screen production researcher varies: some have changed the way they conduct their research, while others have found a way to comply with university requirements yet still work on projects that may not clearly sit within the ‘research’ parameters set by the government.
The report concludes that communication involving all stakeholders in the process of conducting and reporting screen production research is important to the future of building research in the discipline. This incorporates a range of people, from the researcher, to administrative staff working in research offices, to those involved in ERA submissions within universities. This would serve to develop frameworks and processes specific to the practice of screen production, while also complying with the requirements of research as set by the government.
The report makes recommendations on how some of the main issues and concerns raised in the project might be addressed, namely:
- The report found the frameworks for ERA were relatively non-stringent, and that universities could develop tighter parameters around their approaches to evaluating non-traditional research outputs. The report recommends that these approaches be standardised where possible, with instruction from disciplinary peak bodies.
- Strong and transparent communication between research offices (data entry and evaluation staff, mentors and leaders, etc.) and researchers is important to nurture, to empower those working in the discipline, not disable them.
- Research cultures within universities could be better designed to support practitioner-researchers through the process of reporting their non-traditional outputs, particularly in relation to writing research statements and collating material that serves as evidence of peer review (or its equivalence).
- Discipline-specific peak bodies are an important source of information and support, and as such these organisations are encouraged to provide resources and/or mentoring for practitioner-academics (especially early career practitioner-researchers)
- As the peak body for screen production, ASPERA could lead the development of a framework / set of guidelines for assessing quality in (creative practice) screen production research outputs, to enhance the standing of the discipline in research evaluation exercises (e.g., ERA).