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Go8 Submission: Go8 response to the ANZSRC Review Consultation Draft

The Group of Eight (Go8) comprising the eight research intensive universities in Australia conducts two thirds of all university research and expends $6.4 billion on research each year. Over 99 per cent of Go8 research is world class or above, measured by the Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research for Australia 2018. Go8 universities cover extensively the breadth of research disciplines[1] which brings an appreciation of the diversity of fields under consideration under the Review of the ANZSRC.

This letter is on behalf of our members collectively and does not substitute for their individual submissions to the Review, which will comment on specific changes proposed by the ANZSRC review consultation draft.

The Go8 strongly supports the Review and the need to refresh the ANZSRC, especially the FoR classification, in order to make it contemporary to today’s research. Our submission seeks to focus at a broader level on the implications of the FoR changes in the draft and highlight strategic and implementation issues for your consideration as follows:

  • As an opening comment, the principles for the Review offer an excellent benchmark for finalising the new classification code. The final new classification would ideally be tested against the principles as a step to ensuring its validity and viability.
  • Further deliberate consideration is needed before the changes proposed by the ANZSRC review can be finally settled, given the extensiveness of changes.
    • Additional information needs to be provided to stakeholders regarding the potential ramifications to aid their understanding and response before the final draft is concluded.
    • There is a risk that the proposed new ANZSRC FoR classification may not promote consistency in how the new codes are used and how universities classify their research.
    • The absence of clear explanation for the changes, including descriptions for new proposed codes and mapping guides, risks compromising an effective uptake of the proposed new ANZSRC.
  • There is a strong risk that the principle of mutual exclusivity which guides the ANZSRC review to promote unambiguous changes with no overlap of categories will be compromised due both to the extensiveness of changes and the lack of clarity as to the parameters of new or changed codes.
  • While the classification is by its nature focused on specific areas and considerate of the need to ensure that all research must fit somewhere, careful consideration must also occur regarding how these changes brought together as a whole impact the effectiveness and intent of the ANZSRC. For example, Go8 institutions raise:
    • A lack of consistency in treatment of codes in terms of the level of granularity applied and the creation of six-digit fields. This refers, for example, to creating new six digit codes in specific Divisions only that could ostensibly be created across all divisions, and to the splitting of six digit codes into new six digit codes in the same group.
  • Ramifications of the consultation draft being accepted without further extended consideration would be:
    • Challenges in transiting in a timely and efficient way to the new classification system
    • Likely ambiguity in application including due to the potential for codes to overlap with each other
    • Higher difficulty than would naturally occur in continuing time series analysis due to the extensiveness of changes and challenges in comparing new to previous versions of the ANZSRC
  • The confusion may lead to perverse outcomes regarding where research is classified with potential impact not just on results from processes such as the ARC’s Excellence of Research for Australia (ERA) and Engagement and Impact (EI), but also incorrect perceptions of what research Australian universities are strongest in. This is of particular concern to the Go8.
  • There would also be flow on impacts to other key measurements such as the ABS’ surveys of Research and Experimental Development for higher education, business, government and Australia as a whole, which in turn influence our global standing.

While a number of Go8 institutions advocate a third consultation period to consider these issues, a possible way forward is for the Reviewers to consult on a proposed implementation and transition plan which includes the background and information that would be necessary for uptake of the new classification. Rigour would also be added by the new classification being assessed or validated against the principles for the Review.

Finally, the Go8 understands that there is significant disquiet, reflected in some of our members’ submissions, regarding insufficient consultation on the proposed new Indigenous research code (23). There have been concerns voiced that the consultation has been neither extensive nor granular enough and that there has not been sufficient breadth of representation from affected or concerned stakeholder groups. Appropriate consideration of the impacts on Indigenous researchers and their work as key contributors to the wider research enterprise must be paramount. At minimum, there should be firmer understanding of the consequences of a new code and clarity around what desired outcomes may be. Potentially a pilot of a proposed approach and to test the utility of the structure may also be needed.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit to this stage of the ANZSRC Review.

Yours sincerely

VICKI THOMSON


[1] At the two digit level, four Go8s were evaluated under ERA 2018-19 against all 22 Fields of Research; with the remaining four against 21 Fields of Research.