Don’t try and measure research quality, look at research efficiency to determine university status


Dr Tim Cahill

Managing Director

8 Jun, 2021

Research Strategies Australia recently joined forces with Research Coaching Australia and the Higher Education and Research Group to provide a submission to the consultation into a legislative instrument to determine higher education provide categories.

The draft instrument proposes that:

  1. the volume of citations, and the quality of the publications in which those citations occurred, for peer-reviewed journal papers;
  2. whether publications have been peer reviewed and, where peer review has occurred, the nature of the peer review process and the results of that process; 
  3. results from Excellence in Research for Australia or any comparable evaluation in Australia, and from comparable national and international research assessment exercises;
  4. the regulated entity’s governance framework for research including:
    • its policy framework for research;
    • its financial support for the pursuit of research; and
    • whether and how the governance framework for research is implemented.
  5. the extent to which there is a research community at the regulated entity, including:
    • the number of researchers at the regulated entity;
    • the relationship between individual researchers and the regulated entity;
    • whether all researchers are engaged in the research community at the regulated entity;
    • the extent to which research at the regulated entity is current or recent; and
    • the supervisory and study environment for research activity at the regulated entity; and
  6. the success of the regulated entity in competitive research grant rounds and other direct funding for research.

However, as our submission makes clear, given the vast array of problems associated with citation-based measures of research quality, a focus on research activity and efficiency should be used to determine the whether a provider is research-active, and therefore categorised as a university.

To discuss this in more detail please contact Research Strategies Australia.

About us

Research Strategies Australia was established in 2014 by Dr Tim Cahill. Tim has over 15 years experience working with stakeholders in Australia’s R&D sector. He has held executive roles in the public, private, non-profit and higher education sectors, including Director of R&D Advisory and Higher Education for KPMG Australia, Director of Research Evaluation at the Australian Research Council and Chief Data Scientist at The Conversation Media Group.

Tim is regarded internationally as an expert in research strategy, evaluation, higher education policy, scientometrics and research commercialisation. He is currently a Board Member of the Chemistry and Polymers Manufacturing Industry Network, serves on the Australia FAIR Access Working Group, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Research for Education Impact Research Centre at Deakin University.