Friday, 4 August 2017

Comments on The State of Practice-Led Research in Australia through notes on Strategic directions in practice-led research: rethinking research models in the creative arts (2016 Dr. Svenja J. Kratz, Dr. Megan Keating and Prof. Kit Wise)

The paper begins by stating that in light of recent national reports in Australia, increasing non-traditional research outputs, and a growing number of higher level students studying creative arts there is an opportunity to discuss research models in the creative arts. The marginalization of the creative arts is highlighted in the paper that these early reports laydown a foundation for recognizing and assessing practice-led research. The fact that art research is still largely ill-understood in the University wide research arena is current to this day, and that funding availability is also limited because of this.

The paper argues that there is an "other in effect" that derives from art research being viewed as a non-traditional form of research, which it is, but one that is invalided because of this difference, distancing it from what you might call institutional goals. The fact that there must be an additional research statement to support the Excellence for Research in Australia submission criteria reinforces this distancing. Key to this is that the preferred research currency within the national system are text based outputs. Also because of this, and the different output forms, arts funding has been excluded from the Australian Competitive Grants Register even in 2016. It is outlined that general funding for the arts in recent years has been poor, funding blocked and universities and art colleges are emerging, teachers are being let go and generally the vital role of the creative sector has been undermined.

Artist research has an increasingly important role because of this academic landscape. If nontraditional forms can be standardized, or the process of assessment clearly visualized within university procedure then this can bring credibility to an art scene that is in danger of being downgraded or sidelined. But how can this be achieved? Some creative schools have developed a strategic plan that, "clearly articulates an overarching mission statement, values, priorities, goals and delivery strategies". Part of the implementation of a strategy could be to examine the strengths of the university's art faculty to highlight strengths in a particular field and then to further connect this to an industry or government agenda. This has the limitation of showing strength when arguing worth, potentially enhancing funding. But how harming is "articulating research priorities"? Is there a danger of narrowing faculty priorities or resources when it comes to trying to refine a mission statement? When art is such a diverse field how can this narrowing, or focusing benefit a diverse artistic field? Is this the imposition of a scientific agenda whereby one field is localized and particular types of results are expected?

One acknowledged condition talked about it in the paper in regard to funding, and existing within current frameworks, is how to "effectively communicate, rather than marginalize the full scope of outputs." This will involve how to classify different forms of creative arts from visual to performance. How can we affectively communicate the full range of different outputs from a variety of disciplines? Maybe on some level it has more to do with the output than the process when practice-led research is considered as a difficult form to quantify? How can the Excellence for Research in Australia program encompass a narrow unique form of potential research? Could, as in New Zealand, frameworks revolving around aligning strategies on research themes be a possible way of implementing an evaluation model?

Aside from the actual model ways of measuring the impact and engagement of the creative arts within a society, whether direct or indirect, is a vital aspect to consider when designing strategies. But because of the unpredictable nature of art practice is important to recognize that we cannot depend of this process and skew results towards a commercial or industrial agenda to satisfy funding.

Across different creative schools insuring evaluation criteria might be a priority enabling the sector to grow and for the resulting research to be considered on par with other forms of traditional research. Potentially the way forward with this would be to identify research strengths and how they sit within a university faculty. Universal systems should be put in place for data collection and assessment as well as considering wider implications to socio-economic impact.

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