OECD data shows that Australian researchers are less engaged in collaboration with industry than their counterparts in other countries. This is of particular concern for Australia given the large proportion of our researchers in the public sector. Calls to address this problem have increasingly been heard from government and industry.
ATSE proposes an initiative that will lead to increased collaboration between Australia’s public sector researchers and business. It should also increase the impact of public sector researchers in both the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and humanities and social sciences (HASS) fields on the Australian economy, the environment and society.
The Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) initiative encourages university researchers to publish quality research in highly cited journals and rewards this behaviour by allocating approximately $65 million per annum based on ERA outcomes. While research excellence is desirable in its own right, the ERA is having the unintended effect of discouraging university researcher engagement with business. A counterbalancing measure is needed to ensure that collaboration is appropriately recognised and rewarded.
While public sector researcher ‘impact’, ‘engagement’ and ‘collaboration’ are not synonymous, these terms have some common features and all three pose similar measurement challenges. In this proposal, the phrase ‘impact and engagement’ includes ‘collaboration’.
To encourage more engagement between universities and industry, ATSE proposes the following:
Method for determining the IEA
ATSE proposes that the method for determining the IEA would be as follows:
The data that eligible institutions are required to submit includes the following:
The data that institutions are required to submit under this category is the Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) Category 3 income for the ‘research income reference period’, which for ERA 2015 is the three year period from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2013 inclusive.
Institutions are required to apportion the income against the relevant four digit ‘field of research’ (FoR) code and record income according to its source (i.e. Australian or international). It should be possible to separate out and sum the industrial income from Australian and international sources.
Commercial income from other sources such as research contracts and consultancies is also included in the returns for this Section.
Institutions are required to report research commercialisation income at the four digit FoR level, including income resulting from licences, options and assignments (LOAs); running royalties; cashed in equity; and other types of specified income.
The above income includes patent royalties and so gives a good measure of the value of patents to an external licensor. This allows for a better representation of the value of patents generated rather than simply the number of patents.
It may be appropriate to include the non-Commonwealth CRC funding attracted by the institution under this category.
The sum of each institution’s income from commercialisation and industrial sources by four digit FoR is then a good estimate of the Industrial and Engagement Income (IEI) earned by the institution over the reference period.
The IEI for each institution by four digit FoR code is then compared, on a per FTE basis, with the national average.
Organisations will then be ranked for their Impact and Engagement for Australia metric as per the following:
IEA = A For institutions in the top 25% IEI per FTE
IEA = B For institutions ranking 50-75% IEI per FTE
IEA = C For institutions ranking 25-50% IEI per FTE
IEA = D For institutions in the bottom 25% IEI per FTE
Each institution would then receive an ERA and an IEA for each four-digit FoR for which they returned data, composed of the numerical score (on a scale of 1-5) for the quality of their research in the research field, followed by a letter for the impact and engagement of their research (as a letter A through D).
For example, a university whose research in ‘1003 - Industrial Biotechnology’was judged (by the ERA) to be above world standard and the impact of research was assessed (on the basis of IEI) to be in the top 25%, would have a result of:
1003 – Industrial Biotechnology: the ERA-IEA 2015 result is 5-A.
ATSE recommends that the above exercise could be trialled for the ERA 2015 returns, on the understanding that there would be no funding attached to the results in the IEA category. However, if the exercise is judged to be informative, useful and – most importantly – influences behaviour, then this exercise could be repeated in subsequent ERA iterations and have institutional funding linked to the impact rankings.
This proposal was developed by Fellows of the Academy in consultation with experts and stakeholders in the field. Members of the ATSE Research Impact Advisory Group were:
Professor Peter Gray FTSE (chair)
Dr John Bell FTSE
Dr Alan Finkel AO FTSE
Professor Paul Greenfield AO FTSE
Mr Peter Laver AM FTSE
Professor Tanya Monro FAA FTSE
1 Grant J, P-B Brutscher, SE Kirk, L Butler and S Wooding 2010, Capturing Research Impacts – a review of international practice, a RAND Corporation report prepared for the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
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