July 2020: Outcome of NITRO-Oceania submissions to Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) Review 2019

In May 2019, NITRO-Oceania made a submission to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification Review 2019 arguing for inclusion of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research (https://nitro-oceania.net/2019/05/30/June-2019-research-classifications-submission/).

In February 2020, we expressed our disappointment in the draft conclusions of the review (https://nitro-oceania.net/2020/02/10/february-2020-response-to-ANZSRC-consultation-draft).

The final report was released in late June 2020 and while the review did not recommend any changes to the classification of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, the conclusions were modified to more accurately reflect the submissions made.

The conclusion reached by the ANZSRC review is summarised on page 7, namely:
Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research by their very nature pose difficulties for any R&D classification. Stakeholder feedback was sought on how ANZSRC could be revised to better classify interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research. The Review found that there was no viable solution that could be applied to the classification to resolve or avoid this issue. Feedback indicated that in most instances, allowing users to assign multiple codes to research data, or apportion research across multiple codes, is adequate to capture interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research. This treatment allows users sufficient flexibility to code their research satisfactorily without overly complicating the structure of ANZSRC and without producing overlapping codes.

Certainly the submissions made were very variable in their recommendations and the final report also provides useful guidance on how decisions about submissions were made (pages 9-10), namely:
Multiple factors were considered in determining whether, or how, to incorporate submissions into the draft. The Australian ERG and New Zealand EWG recommended the following decision-making principles, in order of greatest to least priority:
1. Views from or support of representative groups of experts such as academies, deans’ councils, royal societies and other discipline peak bodies.
2. Evidence of community of practice. Evidence that proposed changes reflect the way that researchers organise themselves and regard their work, such as the existence of research groups, institutes, associations or conferences dedicated to a topic—and alignment with international research practices were also highly regarded sources of evidence in support of particular proposals.
3. Level of impact within the ANZSRC structure.
4. Alignment with international practices and standards.
5. Evidence of alignment of expertise.
6. Bibliographic analysis / volume. These were used sparingly and generally did not strongly influence the decision-making process.

It is notable that peak bodies are most influential, which highlights the importance of increasing the NITRO-Oceania membership and further developing as the peak body for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and education in the Oceania region.

An outcome of the review that NITRO-Oceania applauds is “New Divisions have been created for Indigenous research in both the Socio-Economic Objectives (SEO) and Fields of Research (FoR) classifications. Indigenous research has been a focus of this review involving significant engagement with Indigenous research communities in Australia and New Zealand. Indigenous research being classified appropriately will ensure that this important area of research is better recognised” (page 4).