Research Assessment in Australia: Evidence for Modernisation
At the request of the Australian Government, Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM FAA FTSE, is seeking to understand how research metrics influence the diversity of Australia’s research workforce, and shape research quality, outputs, and impact. The Office of the Chief Scientist commissioned ACOLA to undertake a review of how research assessment affects the careers and publishing behaviours of Australian researchers. This review will inform the Chief Scientist’s advice to government to ensure that assessment of researchers in Australia:
- Recognises the valuable and essential contribution of the range of research activities, including mentorship, outreach, team science, innovation and commercialisation.
- Supports a diverse research workforce.
- Facilitates researcher mobility between research, industry and government, adequately recognising time spent working in industry or with industry partners.
- Accurately recognises research quality and research excellence, while supporting research integrity.
- Provides the right incentives for researchers and institutions to engage in high quality research, development and innovation.
Through consultations with stakeholders and surveys that received more than 1137 responses involving both individuals and more than 50 research organisations, and the consideration of international approaches to modern research assessment, the project reveals the reality of current research assessment practices in Australia.
- The current system used to evaluate and assess research careers for hiring, promotion and funding, is inadequate and does not serve its intended purpose effectively.
- Researchers have expressed serious concerns about the current research assessment practices, noting that the assessments do not acknowledge their capabilities and contributions.
- The current assessment approaches do not incentivise diversity within the research workforce, hampering progress and inclusivity.
- Research culture and teams are being eroded as the focus is primarily on ‘publish or perish.’
- There is a lack of recognition for innovative and multidisciplinary research, resulting in a standardised approach that overlooks the unique nature of different research fields.
- Significant barriers exist for researchers in terms of career opportunities, collaboration, and mobility between sectors, hindering growth and stifling progress in research fields.
- Assessment practices heavily prioritise publication numbers, citations, and journal prestige, which perpetuates the status quo and hinders the success of underrepresented groups.
- The system has created a problematic relationship between universities, publishers, funders, and global ranking agencies, due to the pursuit of higher rankings and prioritising quantity over quality.
- Narrow research metrics stifle innovation and multidisciplinary research, and do not translate across different sectors.
- The current practices fail to recognise the value of experience outside of the research sector and hinder mobility between academia, industry, and government.
It is crucial to find new ways to assess research careers to promote a diverse and effective research workforce, interdisciplinary collaboration, and career mobility.
ACOLA has identified six pillars of modern research assessment to improve the practices in Australia moving forward:
The findings from this report contribute to broader efforts by the Office of the Chief Scientist, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), and other government initiatives to support the knowledge economy and address barriers to retention and diversity in STEM fields.
- Full report: Research Assessment in Australia: Evidence for Modernisation [PDF] [Word Document]
- Media Release Australia’s systems for assessing research careers ‘not fit for purpose’ | Chief Scientist
Expert Working Group
|Professor Kevin McConkey AM FASSA (Chair)||Professor Adrian Barnett FASSA|
|Professor Ana Deletic FTSE||Kate Thomann (March-June 2023)|
|Professor Louisa Jorm FAHMS||Caroline Hughes AM (June-September 2023)|
|Professor Duncan Ivison FAHA||Professor Andrew Peele FTSE|
|Professor Robyn Owens FAA FTSE||Dr Guy Boggs|
|Professor Jillian Blackmore AM FASSA||A/Prof Raffaella Demichelis|
|Dr Lauren Palmer||Dr Ella Relf|
|Ryan Winn||Eden Whitlock|
|Dr Sylvia Laksmi||Dr Chris Hatherly|
|Dr Kyle Peyton|
We also acknowledge the important contributions from external researchers who have assisted with this project.
Project Funding and Support
This work is funded by the Office of the Chief Scientist, via the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.
Acknowledgement of Country
ACOLA acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Custodians of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respect to Elders both past and present.
We acknowledge the Ngunnawal people on which ACOLA’s office in Canberra is based, and the lands of the Gadigal (Sydney), Whadjuk (Perth), Turrbal (Brisbane) and Wurundjeri (Melbourne) Peoples where ACOLA staff for this project were based