Re-imagining of colonial lives gets an A-rating in national research impact trial
CAIA study hailed for ‘pioneering new ways of understanding, interpreting, and promoting Australia’s colonial heritage’
UTAS is well represented in a report which assesses the impact of research produced by the Australian university sector.
The report was presented at a symposium in Canberra attended by the Deputy Vice-Chancellors of Research from Australia’s major universities; Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, policy makers and senior industry representatives. It documented the results of the Excellence in Innovation (EIA): Research Impact Trial instigated by the Australian Technology Network Universities and the Group of Eight universities, along with the University of Tasmania, the University of Newcastle and Charles Darwin University. It has since been released publicly by the Federal Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans.
Case studies submitted by the 12 universities for the impact trial needed to show they provided benefits to the wider community in the areas of defence, economic development, society and culture, or the environment.
Out of the 162 case studies submitted, 87 per cent were found to have considerable, very considerable or outstanding impact. However only 31 of the studies, across all disciplines, received an A-rating, meaning it represented research that produced an outstanding social, economic, environmental and/ or cultural benefit for the wider community, regionally within Australia, nationally or internationally.
Only four of the studies were presented as examples in the report and at the symposium, one of which was produced by the UTAS interdisciplinary research group Colonialism and Its Aftermath (CAIA).
'This has provided an incredibly important, high profile focus on UTAS research and is a great showcase for what we can do,' says Associate Professor Anna Johnston, Co-Director of CAIA.
CAIA’s A-rated case study Promoting Australia’s Colonial Heritage was commended for pioneering new ways of understanding, interpreting, and promoting Australia’s colonial heritage. Working with curators at Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority and other cultural institutions, and through its original research of archival records, the report states the CAIA has:
...fundamentally re-imagined colonial lives, and thus how convict sites (in particular) are interpreted and managed by heritage site authorities and cultural institutions ... the CAIA researchers have changed the way that the Australian public and international visitors engage with colonial heritage sites.
Assoc Prof Anna Johnston, who was the lead writer of the case study, says, 'The really interesting thing about our case study is that it reveals how our research in the humanities has a context outside in the wider community by enhancing cultural heritage, a sense of place and identity. Looking at our history differently can provide new insight on who we are and where we are.'
In the humanities and social sciences she suggests that research impacts may be less obvious than those in the sciences, health sciences and engineering for example, “because you can talk about vaccines, or the way industry uses research to better mine more minerals, or to facilitate better environmental management. That’s why this case study is significant. It shows how our work impacts outside the university sector, by helping create better management of heritage sites for Australian and international visitors."
Assoc Prof Johnston considers this contributes to a greater sense of accountability of universities. "It’s about being a truly public institution: that’s why this sense of accountability and openness, making publically funded research available back to the community, is entirely appropriate. This process of assessment is also about providing a way for people to think about knowledge transfer. There is a circular and reciprocal relationship between the communities we work with as researchers and the academy we represent: it’s a dynamic and organic process," she says.
A submission by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC based at UTAS’ Sandy Bay campus was included in the report as one of 20 of the best case studies from the trial. The case study was called Oceans and Global Climate. The report authors noted: "Through its contribution to the IPCC and other consciously broad educational activities, ACE CRC played an important role in creating the political mandate for government action on climate change and paving the way for environmentally conscious behaviour change by the community".