Innovation and science agenda ‘disastrous’ for humanities and creative industries

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne look at samples of bee silk ahead of their announcement of the national innovation and science agenda at the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen “Disappointing and surprising”: Louise Adler, CEO and publisher of Melbourne University Press, responds to the government’s new innovation and science agenda. Photo: Joe Armao

A former member of the Prime Minister’s innovation council has labelled as “disastrous” aspects of the $1.1 billion national science and innovation agenda, which was broadly welcomed when it was launched last week.

Reaction from leading arts and humanities figures on the consequences range from “disappointing” for their sectors to “multiplying disadvantage” for public interest research. They say changes that skew public money to projects with commercial potential will mean underfunding or ignoring research that has longer-term or less marketable benefits, but significant social value – including, potentially, public health and counter-terrorism research.

Senior figures from the creative industries have also pointed to the disparity between the government’s new policies to encourage scientific and technological invention (including a suite of tax concessions and venture capital lures) with its policies affecting the intellectual property of those in the creative industries that, they say, hinder locals organisations’ ability to compete – and even their viability.

“If the government is not pulling money from the Australia Council, it’s giving our overseas competitors as many advantages as it can – by doing away with our territorial rights [that limit the power of foreign publishing houses] and not doing anything about the GST discrepancy [between local and international online book sales],” says Chris Feik, editor of Quarterly Essay and publisher at Black Inc, whose list of authors includes 2014 Man Booker prizewinner Richard Flanagan.

“In the long run, it and the march of history may strangle the local publishing industry – so a few [tax] incentives now or later will not be much compensation.”

Graeme Turner, emeritus professor of cultural studies at the University of Queensland, believes the changes could have far-reaching implications for the so-called HASS subjects – humanities, arts, social sciences – with grave consequences for research in these disciplines.

While welcoming the reinvestment in CSIRO and a broad science and innovation agenda, he says changes to university research funding that remove peer-reviewed publications as one of the measures of success (in which HASS historically excels), and instead rewarding research that attracts industry partners or investors (which favours science, technology, engineering and medicine), puts the humanities at a structural disadvantage.

This will compound an existing handicap in which HASS courses teach 65 per cent of undergraduate students with only 52 per cent of teaching staff – with the surplus ploughed into subsidising STEM research by the universities themselves.

“The change to the research block funding will massively multiply this disadvantage, and is absolutely disastrous for the future of HASS in Australia,” Turner says. “It will dramatically affect the amount of money [the disciplines] can generate for the university, and therefore dramatically affect the level of commitment the universities have to maintaining them.”

Professor Turner, a former two-term member of the Prime Minister’s Science Innovation and Engineering Council (and only the second appointment from a humanities’ background to the council, disbanded by former prime minster Tony Abbott) says the consequences of this tilt towards marketability could also have dire broader social consequences.

“An awful lot of research in the humanities and social sciences, but also in maths and hard sciences, would never be commercialisable, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t provide benefits into the future,” he says pointing to the link between smoking and lung cancer as an historical example, or the war on terror as a current one.

Investment in cyber security is one of the areas singled out as a priority in the innovation agenda, launched by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne on December 7. But the rise of IS and the threat of global terrorism is not going to be overcome by training a generation of kids to code (also part of the agenda) or investing in technical skills alone, Turner says.

“[Such] difficult problems are examined within political sciences, sociology, cultural studies – none of them are in the hard sciences,” Turner said. “If you are looking at complicated problems that are not open to simply scientific solutions – and most of the big problems today are in that category – you’ve got to have voices other than the scientists in there. The Prime Minister is talking about creativity and innovation – the sciences are not the exclusive preserve of those attributes.”

President of the Australian Publishers Association and CEO of Melbourne University Press Louise Adler agrees. The contrast between the government’s pledge to leverage the value of scientific intellectual property while signalling it will dismantle copyright protections for creative publishing by allowing so-called “parallel importation” – recommended by a recent competition policy review – is “disappointing and surprising,” she says.

She points to recent research by Pricewaterhouse Coppers that estimated copyright industries (ranging from newspapers and music to software and advertising) contributed $73.4 billion to the Australian economy in 2014.

Creative industries such as publishing have long provided a model of experimentation, innovation and investment, Adler argues, and the book industry is a case study in agility and incubation. Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, for example, did not simply arrive as an international best seller; its success depended on a succession of prior novels supported by grants, editors and book sellers.

“Like all other commercial enterprises, publishing is the business of managing risk, 10 per cent of a company’s titles support the other 90 per cent,” Adler says.

“It’s ironic that [the government’s] commercialising, promoting and proselytizing innovation and investment in STEM but are not prepared to do the same with commercialising the intellectual property of the written form.”

Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said the innovation statement “rebalances incentives to collaborate with industry and commercialise world-class research in Australia.”

The Turnbull government has provided an additional $127 million for research block grants over the next four years. “Basic research and the humanities remain a valued part of our rich research fabric.”

Opposition innovation and industry minister Kim Carr said removing publications from the criteria for public funding as a “travesty”, and using commercial income as a proxy for collaboration with private industry “fraught with difficulty”. Both measures could put Australia’s research reputation – and its higher education export market – at risk.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 老域名购买.

Posted in: 老域名