9 March 2017
This is based on an EduResearch Matters Blog.
In his address at the National Press Club, Vice Chancellor Barney Glover passionately defended the importance of “expertise and evidence” in public debate and the central role that universities must play in this. He argued:
“Universities perform an essential role in society. We must stand up for evidence. Stand up for facts. Stand up for the truth. Because if we don’t, who will? …
Because in an era where extremists and polemicists seek to claim more and more of the public square, our need for unbiased, well-researched information has seldom been greater. …
In this, academics and journalists have common cause.”
Australian educational researchers are taking this need to communicate research very seriously. Their research is world class and is often hugely influential in academic education circles. However little news of all of this gets into mainstream media in Australia and there is often no public discussion around it.
We want to help change this.
Education is central to the health of 21st century Australia. The crucial role of our educational institutions is to develop children, young people and adults – spanning many ages, cultures, ethnicities and social backgrounds – for their current and future lives as citizens, workers, family, and community members. This role demands high quality policy-making, educational practice and importantly, public dialogue informed by engagement with high quality research.
We believe Australian educational researchers should engage more with the mainstream media to help improve the quality of public discussion on educational issues and to increase the impact of their work in Australian government policy making. The quality of their work deserves no less.
Yes it is a challenge for educational scholars who are comfortable with the traditional academic discourse to know how to contribute to the public domain. Some are certainly meeting this challenge by writing blogs and using other forms of social media. However, again, peers and colleagues rather than mainstream audiences, seem to be the main consumers.
Not only do we want to encourage and enable educational researchers to access a mainstream audience, we want to make it easier for journalists, media workers and policy makers to access independent research and expert comment.
Mainstream media reports on education issues often draw on comments from people who are accessible but lack engagement with contemporary research. Journalists regularly source opinion from lobbyists, advocates and moral entrepreneurs who skew debate with their own agendas.
In times of “post-truth” where “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” it becomes increasingly important for us to do something.
That is why we have set up the Media Centre for Educational Research in Australia and we need universities and businesses to support us.
This Media Centre is a conduit through which high quality educational research and researchers will be made more accessible. It aims to help improve policy development, educational practice and public understanding of key issues for education.
The Media Centre will provide journalists and other users with authoritative, independent and accessible education news, evidence, insights, background and comments across the many different fields and sectors of education.
We aim to regularly provide: –
Education Alerts: The MCERA will provide regular email alerts of the most newsworthy events, new research, reports and related material being published in academic journals around the world.
Rapid Responses: When an educational related issue hits the news, the MCERA will rapidly locate key experts on the topic, get their reaction and issue those comments to journalists who can choose to use the quote directly in their stories, as a background or follow up with an interview.
Round-ups: When controversial research comes out in academic journals, the MCERA will provide an overview and independent expert comment to help journalists understand and cover the research. This will support accurate and informed coverage.
Media Briefings: The MCERA will arrange media briefings very quickly, when an issue arises in the news which warrants an injection of expert opinion.
Greater understanding: There are issues that appear in the mainstream media which are complex and often difficult for journalists to report on. The MCERA will provide journalists with up to date information on complex issues so they can separate out fact from opinion and go back to fundamental research when needed.
Media Enquiries Service: Create a database of education experts and work collaboratively with media units in institutions to assist journalists to find an appropriate expert.
Media support for education academics: The MCERA will help educate and support education academics to work more effectively with the media.
Three major imperatives educational researchers should consider.
The Media Centre for Educational Research in Australia (MCERA) is now open.
We invite universities and businesses to support MCERA and help it grow.
Any organisation or individual committed to an excellent education system in Australia should consider supporting MCERA. With this support MCERA can help improve the quality of media reporting about educational issues, by making credible, independent educational research accessible, which is vital to Australia.
Driving collaboration across business, industry and tertiary education.
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