Response to RQF Preferred Model by hcj

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									                     Response to RQF Preferred Model
Ross Woodrow, Research Convenor and Postgraduate Co-ordinator, School of Fine
                   Art, University of Newcastle, Australia.

I have considerable experience as a practitioner, theorist in the field of Fine Art.
Specifically, my expertise encompasses the disciplines of art history and studio practice. I
have supervised or examined over twenty studio-based PhD candidates and for more than
a decade have been involved in developing the postgraduate program in Fine Art at the
University of Newcastle.

I was a party to the recent ACUADS submission in response to the RQF Preferred Model
and although I am in general agreement with the recommendations by ACUADS, I was
one of a minority of dissenting voices on one aspect of the Preferred Model – namely, the
definition of research (1.2.3 RQF The Preferred Model).

This definition should be revised to more emphatically embrace the knowledge generated
in the practice-based disciplines in the creative arts.
It seems an absurd proposition to accept the OECD definition of research “creative work
undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge” and add the
addendum that this includes “creative work and performance”. The tautology “creative
work” that includes “creative work” results from the deep-seated and prejudicial
assumption that work in the creative arts is research only when it looks like basic and
applied research in science or the humanities.
Most work in the creative arts does not contribute to new knowledge in this restrictive
sense; especially so when the result is an expressive artefact. Work in the creative arts
offers new explanations, insights and forms of understanding that enrich the cultural and
social life of Australia. And this particular aspect of creative arts research should be
specifically included in the definition.
For example in the UK Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment
Exercise, 2001, the Art and Humanities Assessment panels' “criteria and methods"
included a definition of research containing the following:
"original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding... and
the invention or generation of ideas, images, performances, artefacts and designs, where
these lead to new or substantially improved insights..." (Source: Norma Starszakowna Art
& Design Working Papers)

Closer to home, the New Zealand PBRF offers an excellent guide for the Australian RQF
definition of research since the creative arts are assessed by a distinctive panel of experts
in the Fine and Performing Arts, Design and Music. The following was supplied to me by
Professor Ann Noble from College of Creative Arts, Massey University who is a member
of the Sector Reference Group in New Zealand.

In the 2003 NZ PBRF guidelines research is defined as follows:

“. For the purposes of the PBRF, research is original investigation undertaken in order to gain
knowledge and understanding. It typically involves enquiry of an experimental or critical nature driven
by hypotheses or intellectual positions capable of rigorous assessment. It is an independent, creative,
cumulative and often long-term activity conducted by people with specialist knowledge about the
theories, methods and information concerning their field of enquiry. Its findings must be open to
scrutiny and formal evaluation by others in the field, and this may be achieved through publication or
public presentation. In some fields, the results of the investigation may be embodied in the form of
an artistic work, design or performance. Research includes contribution to the intellectual
infrastructure of subjects and disciplines (eg, dictionaries and scholarly editions). It also includes the
experimental development of design or construction solutions, as well as investigation that leads to
new or substantially improved materials, devices, products or processes.

All kinds of research activity will be considered on their merits, whether they are concerned with
basic, fundamental, strategic, artistic or applied research All types of research output will be
considered. One type of research is not considered to be of greater quality per se than another,
simply because of the nature of the output type. ..”.

The NZ Sector Reference Group, has identified that practice based disciplines and applied
research have most likely been unfairly assessed according to the PBRF definition of research
and the following changes have been recommended.

If these suggested changes are adopted, the revised NZ PBRF definition of research will read

“For the purposes of the PBRF, research is original investigation undertaken in order to gain
knowledge and understanding and, in the case of some disciplines, cultural innovation or aesthetic
refinement. It typically involves enquiry of an experimental or critical nature driven by hypotheses or
intellectual positions capable of rigorous assessment by experts in a given discipline. It is an
independent, [without excluding collaborative work] creative, cumulative and often long-term activity
conducted by people with specialist knowledge about the theories, methods and information concerning
their field of enquiry. Its findings must be open to scrutiny and formal evaluation by others in the field,
and this may be achieved through publication or public presentation. In some disciplines, the
investigation and its results may be embodied in the form of artistic works, designs or performances.
Research includes contribution to the intellectual infrastructure of subjects and disciplines (eg,
dictionaries and scholarly editions). It also includes the experimental development of design or
construction solutions, as well as investigation that leads to new or substantially improved materials,
devices, products or processes.”

Conclusion

In Australia we can surely learn for this experience and ensure that any definition of
research includes the key terms relevant to the creative arts disciplines. After all, the
shifting of our “world view” will not come from new knowledge but new understanding,
profound insights and original explanations.

Ross Woodrow
Research Convenor,
School of Fine Art,
University of Newcastle
University Drive, Callaghan NSW 2308
Ross.Woodrow@newcastle.edu.au
Phone: 0407456256

								
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