What does engagement and impact mean to law academics?

Research engagement and impact have become not only buzz words within the academe and government, but important standards of recognition and achievement for academics who wish to go above and beyond traditional academic roles of teaching, research and administration.

Ilana Bolingford

The Australian Government is set to enter its second iteration of Engagement and Impact (EI), alongside its regular Excellence for Research Australia (ERA) assessment of quality. It is therefore becoming more important to not only understand engagement and impact from a policy perspective but also from the perspective of academics as participants in the research and impact agenda.

As part of her PhD, Ilana Bolingford is investigating how law academics experience forms of research evaluation and performance measures within an Australian context. In particular Ilana is looking at how research engagement and impact is understood by academics and how it is experienced in their day to day working life.

The study is important not only to Law but to other Humanities and Social Science (HASS) disciplines as they tend to engage with end users differently than their counterparts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Overall, Ilana hopes her research will help law schools (and other HASS schools) understand how their researchers are experiencing research impact which may lead to better training and development resources, cultural changes, better workload practices, and development of appropriate internal university policies.

While Ilana is currently analysing data from 10 semi-structured interviews, she has thus far found:

  • that academics generally have good experiences engaging with end users and community;
  • that workload practices severely impact on their ability to translate knowledge and participate in engagement activities, especially for early career researchers;
  • that they see engagement and impact as much broader than the current definitions as defined by the Australian Government; and
  • that they see teaching and mentoring as significant experiences of impact.

Ilana will be presenting research on her findings in 2020 to several Law Schools across Australia as they prepare for the next Engagement and Impact Assessment in 2024.

Find out more

If you wish to learn more about this research, you can visit Ilana’s published research in e-prints or contact Ilana by email at Ilana.Bolingford@qut.edu.au

Law research to help victims of child abuse

Photograph of Ben Mathews

Professor Ben Mathews’s research on the law relating to child abuse and neglect has influenced legislative reform and policy development across Australia and internationally, including reforms to mandatory reporting laws and laws relating to civil claims for injury through child sexual abuse.

Mandatory reporting of suspected abuse

Each year, thousands of Australian children are sexually abused, causing lifelong psychological and social cost, and vast socioeconomic costs. Professor Mathews’s work was a key driver behind the enactment of the Child Protection (Mandatory Reporting—Mason’s Law) Amendment Bill 2016, which requires early childhood educators and carers to report suspected cases of child physical abuse and sexual abuse.

Reform of statute of limitations for civil claims

Until recently, survivors of child abuse had only three years after turning 18 in which to make a claim. The time limit, in addition to psychological injuries, made it almost impossible for survivors to bring civil claims. Professor Mathews recognised the need for change, and has worked systematically since 2003 to bring about reform across Australia.

Professor Mathews’s research was cited extensively by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2015, which recommended that the time limits for civil claims be removed. The time limit has now been abolished in seven states and territories, opening up the possibility for survivors to make civil claims.

A voice for the vulnerable

Find out more about Professor Mathews’s work in our research impact story, A voice for the vulnerable.