Australian Academic Activism Called to Account

Australian Academic Activism Called to Account

The 2019 Applied Research in Crime and Justice Conference was hosted in Sydney this week by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and Griffith University’s Griffith Criminology Unit.

Conference highlights included keynote speeches by Professor David Wilson of George Mason University (United States) who pleaded with researchers to make use of Mediation Analysis to reinforce their findings.

Such analysis means researchers can state clearly how their data demonstrates different angles depending upon statistical variables – and can honestly represent the accuracy of their findings.

“It’s vitally important that researchers use data to produce knowledge, and Professor Wilson’s speech reminded us that we should be our own harshest critic when it comes to the quality of our findings,” says Laura Patterson of SIFA Research, Communications and Engagement.

“If we want our research to lead to real outcomes that work – and that last – we need to make sure we educate others about how our research can be manipulated. Findings Communications are integral to the success of our research,” she says.

Another standout presentation made by Professor Paul Mazerolle of Griffith University (Australia) warned of a decline in professional standards and called for an end to “McMethods Research” that enables academics to indulge their own speculation and bias.

Professor Mazerolle called for academic researchers to challenge evidence-lacking political rhetoric and to disavow quick-fix policy making. He spoke of the importance of stronger, diverse and consistently revised research methods that push back against ideologically imbued research findings.

“Effective crime and justice policy starts with researchers who are brave and honest in their work; people who have the courage and authenticity to resist political and social pressure and instead uphold academic standards,” Mrs Patterson says.

A conference lowlight stood in stark contrast to these nuanced and determined presentations, when a University of New South Wales researcher made a presentation that exhibited all that is wrong with Applied Research in Crime and Justice Prevention.

“The presenter’s primary premise (that the National Firearms Agreement is Federally enacted legislation that harmonises Australian firearms laws) is fundamentally and demonstrably wrong, and therefore calls into question the validity of the research,” Mrs Patterson argues.

“Further, the presenter’s claim that the primary objective of the National Firearms Agreement was to reduce the likelihood of a gun massacre misrepresents its stated primary objective which was to induce states and territories to introduce a common suite of firearms regulations,” she says

“And in spite of these glaring faults, the researcher confidently asserted that the introduction of the NFA indicates clear evidence of a change in the likelihood of a firearms massacre, with a reduced probability of 90 per cent compared to the pre-NFA era.”

The absence of material content knowledge on the part of researchers reveals the superficiality of research findings – and can cause harm.

“If the influential minds present in that room take the researcher’s findings at face value, they could well believe that the Commonwealth is responsible for Australian firearms laws, that firearms violence has been adequately addressed by the National Firearms Agreement and that national firearms regulations are responsible for a massive statistical reduction in the probability of a firearms massacre,” Mrs Patterson says.

“These falsehoods may lead to government and law enforcement inertia around proper firearms management and obscure the compelling evidence for investment in 21st century systems that give law enforcement real time access to decision critical data,” Mrs Patterson says.

The Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia works in research, advocacy, education and safety promotion and represents the interests of Australian business in sovereign defence, law enforcement and civil markets.

“A key focus of our research and advocacy work is the politically-inspired and purposeful misrepresentation of Australian firearms laws by misguided academic and bureaucratic activism,” Mrs Patterson says. “We will hold such activist activity to account.”

 

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Further Information: Laura Patterson Tel 0408 296 521