John Lodewijks writes that "it is not going well. They will not be moved despite the avalanche of
protests. David Brett made it clear that no matter what we did, they
were not about to restore either HET or EH to within the economics discipline. I am amazed that a junior bureaucrat in the public service
can make these crucial decisions that will affect so many academics,
despite the mountain of protests."
Here is the answer he received from the authorities in Australia that prompted his assessment:
Tim Sealey [firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Fri 9/7/2007 3:52 PM
To: Alex Millmow
Cc: email@example.com; Glover, Barney; David Rome
Subject: RE: URGENT: Proposed changes to the RFCD Code: Response by 12Sept
I have looked at the information you have sent. It would appear that
people have got a rather peculiar view of what the ABS and the committee
is trying to do with the revision.
Having spoken to Barney Glover (the nominated Universities Australia
rep) and David Brett of the ABS we concur that the issues raised have
little to do with the integrity of the classification system but more to
do with apparent benefits of visibility of various subject matter areas
within the classification structure.
One of the main reasons for the revision is to reduce the number of
research projects classified as "other not elsewhere classified" which
in some areas represented a significant proportion of the research
effort. Secondly, we need to be able to make international comparisons
that have consistency with international standards. The body seen as
most representative at this point in time is the OECD hence the
alignment with that organisation's Fields of Science. Third there has to
be greater alignment between research activity and Socio-economic
objectives. Finally, an economic measure of research activity was
chosen to limit the inclusion of non-active areas of research. The
figure decided upon was $250k with some flexibility for rapid growth
areas or areas of significant importance that did not meet the economic
benchmark. Taking all of these factors into consideration the History
of Economic Thought and Economic History have been classified
appropriately by the ABS.
The revisions to the RFCD and the SEO proposed by the ABS in
consultation with the whole sector (not just universities) would appear
to be the most appropriate course of action in terms of simplification
and consistency of terminology.
No classification system is perfect but one has to bear in mind what the
goals of classification are. The more individual codes we have the more
likely it is that areas will be exposed as not performing or not
worthwhile, or that the classification system becomes unwieldy and of no
A further important point that should be made is that the revision is
made on the basis of needs in relation to the ABS. Therefore, talk of
the revision impacting on RQF funding or an area's viability are not
only premature but not likely to come to fruition. These points have
been discussed by the Revision Committee.
However, it has been agreed that the issues raised by you will be tabled
for discussion at the next revision meeting on the 27 September.
I trust that this helps to ease the concerns expressed by your
Tim Sealey, Assistant Director, Statistics and Data Analysis