13 May 2019

FOR Codes and Asia – feedback sought from ASAA members by 22 May 2019

The ASAA is considering making a submission to a review that is currently underway into the Australian New Zealand Standard Research Classification system. This is the system which organises the Field of Research (FOR) codes by which our research is classified for government and reporting purposes. As you will be aware, these FOR codes are important, among other purposes, for classifying research projects in the ARC and for evaluating research quality through the ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia) process. You can read more about the review here: https://www.arc.gov.au/anzsrc-review

The existing FOR structure is organised according to broad areas at the two-digit level, and into disciplines at the four-digit level. At the level of the six-digit codes, some allowance is made for recognition of Asia-focused research in several disciplines (see list below) but with numerous omissions. The ERA process takes place at the level of two and four digit codes, thus not allowing for specific recognition of Asia-focused research. There is a catch-all six-level code “Studies of Asian Society”, which allows for the recognition of cross-disciplinary work, but the four-digit code under which this is located, Other Studies in Human Society, is a residual category and is often not assessed.

The ASAA is considering our submission. Broadly speaking, there are two pathways open to us:

A maximalist approach would be to argue for recognition of Asian Studies (or perhaps area studies) at the two- or four-digit code level. This would allow for our cross-disciplinary work to be better recognised, including in the ERA. It would be challenging to achieve this change, given that the system is organised on a disciplinary basis. Moreover, success might bring far-reaching and possibly negative consequences (for instance it might give incentives to university administrators to pull Asia researchers out of discipline-based units; it might mean that research projects end up getting evaluated by Asianists who lack the requisite disciplinary expertise).

A minimalist approach would be to argue for the creation of more six-digit codes recognising Asia-focused research. This would enable such research to be recognised in the ARC grants process, but would not affect ERA evaluations.

As noted above, there are currently no Asia-related six-digit codes in a lot of areas, including: Anthropology, Art Theory and Criticism, Applied Economics (or any of the economics codes), Built Environment and Design, Demography, Education, Human Geography, Law, Performing Arts and Creative Writing, Philosophy, Policy and Administration, Sociology.

If you have ideas or views on this issue, please contact me by email (edward.aspinall@anu.edu.au) by 22 May. We are especially interested in hearing from colleagues who feel that any of the six-digit omissions should be rectified, and would appreciate any justifications you could provide for the changes you propose.

Existing Asia-related six-digit codes and the four-digit codes in which they are nested:
1606 Political Science
160606               Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific
1699     Other Studies in Human Society
169903 Studies of Asian Society
2002     Cultural Studies
200202               Asian Cultural Studies
2003 Language Studies
200311               Chinese Languages
200312               Japanese Language
200313               Indonesian Languages
200314               South-East Asian Languages (excl Indonesian)
200315               Indian Languages
200316               Korean Language
200317               Other Asian Languages (excl South-East Asian)
2005 Literary Studies
200516               Indonesian Literature
200517               Literature in Chinese
200518               Literature in Japanese
200519               South-East Asian Literature (excl Indonesian)
200520               Indian Literature
200521               Korean Literature
200522               Other Asian Literature (excl South-East Asian)
2101 Archaeology
210103               Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Americas
2204     Religion and Religious Studies
220406               Studies in Eastern Religious Traditions (+ codes on Islam, Christianity, etc)
2103     Historical Studies
210302               Asian History