ARC funding for fieldwork

Piers Kelly piers.kelly at
Mon Feb 13 08:53:19 UTC 2012

Amongst researchers there is a black economy in connection reports, surveys
etc that are otherwise locked up by lawyers.
Anyone want to start a secret shadow repository? MiningLeaks?

On Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 2:06 PM, Frances Kofod <fkofod at>wrote:

> It is shocking to hear that AIATSIS cannot properly care for its archival
> material. I have been intending to send lots of older tapes to them - after
> I have digitised them for safe keeping.
> Also in regard to all the mining clearance reports done over and over
> again, I have heard lots of Aboriginal people express their deep
> frustration that they cannot have access to the reports that their elders
> made in the past.
> Frances Kofod
> On 13/02/2012, at 10:37 AM, Felicity Meakins wrote:
>  This may be of interest to people seeking funding for grants involving
> fieldwork:
> Finding funds for outback digs <*http:// <http:/>
> *>
> The cost of research for archaeology and anthropology could be reduced by
> tapping money that mining companies pay for cultural heritage compliance,
> writes Claire Smith.
> Recent changes to grants programs run by the Australian Research Council
> (ARC) and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
> Studies (AIATSIS) have caused widespread concern within field-based
> disciplines in Australia, such as archaeology, anthropology and Aboriginal
> languages. The debate around these changes highlights the high costs of
> conducting fieldwork in Australia, our reliance on a limited number of
> funding bodies and the need to identify additional sources of research
> funding.
> The recently released 2013 funding rules for Australian Research Council
> Discovery Program placed a limit of $50,000 on the travel budget over the
> life of the project. Such a limitation would have severely limited
> field-based research projects.  Fieldwork in Australia is expensive. Though
> people conducting research in remote areas may well live in tents or
> caravans, the travel costs are high. This is due to the high cost of
> four-wheel-drive vehicles and the length of time that is required for many
> fieldwork projects, itself an artefact of the remoteness of the location –
> if it takes three days to get to a location, you need to make the stay
> worthwhile.
> Moreover, in disciplines such as archaeology data collection is undertaken
> by a team of people, all of whom have to travel to the field location. A
> maximum of $50,000 over a three-year project would have stifled fundamental
> research in those disciplines that require extensive fieldwork. Last week’s
> clarification from the Australian Research Council caused widespread
> relief. The updating of frequently asked questions included one on field
> research costs in remote areas of Australia and overseas and a response
> that only the flights to and from the research site were considered to be
> travel.
> Fieldwork costs could be sought under a separate category. When this
> clarification was announced you could almost hear the collective sigh on
> the email lists of the affected disciplinary communities. Apprehension
> regarding changes to ARC funding was exacerbated by existing concerns
> regarding the recent suspension of the AIATSIS grants program. This small
> but critical funding program has run since the 1980s. With an annual
> funding allocation of about $680,000, it has supported crucial seed
> research in archaeology, anthropology and Aboriginal languages – research
> that would not have been funded, otherwise.
> It has been a critical source of funding for indigenous scholars and for
> doctoral and early career researchers, and has been an important step for
> many young scholars seeking to establish a track record for ARC funding.
> Moreover, a condition of funding was that research materials would be
> deposited with the institute, and AIATSIS now has a world-renowned archive
> of about 1 million items, ranging from tape recordings of languages that
> are now extinct or under threat, to films and photographs by early
> ethnographic researchers.
>  AIATSIS is struggling for funding on a number of fronts. The recent
> non-renewal of a Commonwealth funding program for the digital conversion of
> the institute’s archive left 80 per cent of the collection unconverted.
> AIATSIS was forced to make use of its savings to maintain the program this
> year. Much of the older material is under threat from disintegration,
> including old films, magnetic tape recordings and glass-negative
> photographs. These materials were collected by early ethnographers and
> contain information that cannot be replicated or replaced.
> While disciplinary alarm regarding changes to ARC funding rules has now
> passed, and there are hopes that provision for the AIATSIS digitisation
> scheme will be reinstated in the Commonwealth’s 2012-13 budget, the unease
> generated by these incidents prompts consideration of untapped sources of
> support for field research in Australia.
> At the same time that AIATSIS is struggling to protect its precious
> archives, mining companies around Australia spend hundreds of millions of
> dollars each year on cultural heritage surveys for compliance purposes. A
> single area may be surveyed many times, and the data that is collected is
> locked up in consultants’ reports, producing little, or no, new knowledge
> for the nation. Millions of dollars are spent each year, and no new
> histories are emerging from them.
> While representatives of Australia’s leading mining companies have
> expressed a desire to divert funds used for repetitive or low-level
> compliance into substantive research programs, such a change would have to
> be facilitated by amendments to regulatory frameworks. However, there are
> strong economic and social imperatives for such change.  It would produce
> substantial economic benefits for the nation by assisting in streamlining
> compliance processes and bringing forward the investment pipeline. In
> addition, it would provide social and cultural benefits by producing new
> understandings of Australia’s unique cultural heritage.
> Moreover, if some of the funds that are now wasted on repetitive
> compliance could be diverted to research purposes Australia would receive a
> great boon. There would be additional funds for ARC linkage grants and new
> histories would emerge, with or without ARC funding. In a perfect world, a
> proportion of these funds would be diverted toward digitisation of the
> precious AIATSIS repository.
> *Claire Smith is professor of archaeology at Flinders University.
> *
>  Frances Kofod
> PO Box 1918
> Kununurra
> WA 6743
> 08 91692 852 ~ 0438 894957


  Are you doing linguistic research? Do you have something interesting to
say about language in Australia, all the while failing to contribute to *Fully
(sic)* <>? Don't make me come over
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