Australian educational research is world class. Work by our educational researchers is regularly published worldwide 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.
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 the year 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.
What is the Media Centre for Educational Research in Australia (MCERA)?
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.
What will the MCERA do for journalists, policy makers and media workers?
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.
If you are an educational researcher you can and should become involved.
Why educational researchers should engage with the media
Three major imperatives educational researchers should consider
- Political imperative
There is a political imperative for educational researchers to engage with the media. Politicians are increasingly calling for “evidence” to inform policy and practice. Yet the definition of “evidence” remains very narrow. NAPLAN and PISA results not do provide enough information about the complexity of educational issues. Politicians often refer to media reports and media comment to support their policy initiatives.
- Policy imperative: Research Funding for Universities based on Engagement & Impact
University research funding is going to be determined partially by the assessment of research impact and engagement. The Australian federal government’s policy commitment claims it will not only allocate funding to researchers who spend their time trying to get published in journals, but also “incentivising the smart and talented people working in our labs and universities to better focus on research that has wider economic and social benefits”. This will have major implications for the field of education, as it is notoriously difficult to provide evidence of this research translation.
- Public imperative
In this post-truth world it is more important than ever for educational researchers to get their work out into the pubic domain. Teachers, parents, education communities, politicians and policy makers are all consumers of media reporting and are influenced by the public discussion.
Australia needs educational researchers to make deliberate forays into the Australian public arena through mainstream media so that quality research is disseminated to help improve the quality of public discussion.
We are open
The Media Centre for Educational Research in Australia (MCERA) is now open for business. We invite you to visit us, to join us and to help us grow in any way you can. It is early days yet, but as you can see we have big plans.
Everyone who believes in helping disseminate credible, independent educational research in Australia please become a friend of MCERA and donate to help us grow.
Anna Sullivan is an Associate Professor in Education at the University of South Australia. She has undertaken significant research in productive research teams that contributes to a greater understanding of teacher retention and early career teachers’ work. For example, she has contributed to new knowledge about the complexity of early career teachers’ work and how policy and school leaders can enable them to be successful as they make the transition to the workforce. Dr Sullivan is currently investigating how school leaders enact policy in micropolitical ways to retain quality early career teachers. Anna Sullivan is the founding director of the MCERA and was appointed the inaugural Chair of the Board in May 2016.