Submission: Go8 response to the Engagement and Impact Assessment Consultation Paper - June 2016

24 Jun 2016
The Group of Eight (Go8) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the joint Australian Research Council and Department of Education and Training consultation on the design of an Engagement and Impact Assessment system for Australian university research.

As the consultation is highly technical in nature the Go8 response will be limited to key points and some contextual observations while individual Go8 institutions may provide specific feedback to the full range of consultation questions.

Go8 Key Points  
  1. Case Studies of impact. The Go8 supports a light touch approach which involves a small number of impact case studies per institution that provides all disciplines the opportunity to demonstrate the impact of their research.
  2. Engagement indicators. The Go8 supports the use of engagement indicators as a key measurable proxy for impact and their capacity to incentivise researcher engagement with industry, government and the community. The Go8 notes that the ATSE Research Engagement for Australia metrics, with their focus on commercialisation and research income, are too narrow and are aligned with STEM disciplines. The Go8 strongly endorses the development of an “ATSE plus” set of metrics that capture the bulk of relevant engagement activity across the disciplinary spectrum – particularly in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
  3. Support for HASS disciplines. Specific impact and engagement assessment processes must provide the opportunity for HASS disciplines to fairly demonstrate their impact and engagement performance. Subsequent consultation on the assessment model should include the HASS disciplines as a priority.
  4. A formative approach to impact and engagement assessment. Impact and engagement assessment is a complex and evolving discipline. Significant work in this space has been undertaken in Australia including the development of the Research Quality Framework (RQF) in 2006/7 and the Go8-ATN case study trial Excellence in Innovation for Australia (EIA) in 2012. However, the schedule for the implementation of the current model in Australia has not allowed the same degree of underpinning work and certainly not the depth of work as was done before the implementation of the UK REF. To that end, the Go8 believes that is necessary to take a formative approach in refining the process as it is implemented – both in the trial and beyond.

Contexual Remarks

The Go8 Commitment to Impact and Engagement
The Go8 members have, as a core part of their mission, the delivery of substantial impact for the Australian public through quality research and teaching.

In terms of research the Go8 invests more than $6 billion annually in research and development activities, including two-thirds of the industry income earned by Australian universities and over 70% of critical public research income, through the ARC and NHMRC.

As important as these expenditure figures are, the real commitment of the Go8 is in using this investment to contribute demonstrably to social, economic and environmental outcomes.

Truly excellent research will drive the innovation economy and underpin Australia’s economic success and standard of living in the 21st Century. The Go8 is the powerhouse of Australia’s internationally recognised research capacity.

The Go8 has a long standing commitment to evidencing the engagement of its research effort whether it be with government, the community, Not For Profits, SMEs or large multinational corporations. The Go8 members do this in many ways every day, but we also have a determination to see this happen at a systematic level which can only serve to strategically bolster Australia’s research and innovation effort.

In 2012 the Go8, in partnership with the Australian Technology Network (ATN), conducted the Excellence in Innovation for Australia (EIA) research impact assessment trial. In this trial over 160 case studies of research impact from across 12 universities were assessed by expert external panels. This proved not only the undeniable impact of quality research from Australian universities but also the capacity of case studies and expert panels to assess the impact of research and the institutional pathways to impact.

In November 2015 the Go8 Vice Chancellors collectively welcomed the Government’s innovation agenda. They also backed the Government commitment to assess the impact of research in order that the Australian public have greater transparency in how their tax dollars are spent and a far better understanding of how their lives are enriched every day by funding University research.

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