Current economic conditions and the increasing competition for government funding are leading to an increased focus on the impact of research.
This backgrounder looks at a wide variety of methods of measuring the impact of research. Each method has its own characteristics and advantages. No one method is complete in itself and does not offer unambiguous or certain results. Measuring the impact of research is necessary and can be useful but it is important to use the results of such evaluations with care.
The Go8's submission to the Federal Government's Review of the National Innovation System includes over 20 recommendations designed to ensure that Australia's research and research training systems are capable of underpinning a dynamic economy and society. The Go8 submission stresses the importance of basic research and business / community / university collaboration to innovation, but suggests that arguably the most important function of universities is the cultivation of talent in an environment that values intellectual curiosity. Key recommendations of the Go8's submission include:
Australia’s universities are doing reasonably well on the published world rankings. However, the indicators used in all the major university rankings are necessarily lagged and the earlier dominance of universities of the developed economies of North America, Britain and Europe will decline over time. Australian universities may appear to be improving against this backdrop of decline, whereas they may well be slipping behind the emergent Asian leaders.
This Go8 Backgrounder outlines the strategies being adopted increasingly across countries to focus their investment in areas of research excellence.
In recent years, most of Australia’s comparator countries have been intensifying their investment in their leading research universities as a means of raising their competitiveness in the global knowledge economy.
Business and universities are different but complementary parts of the national innovation system and the effectiveness of the system depends on them working together. Linkages require reciprocity and both sectors need to play a role in initiating and strengthening them; neither sector can act in isolation from the other and all parties need to respond to the needs and concerns of the others.
Governments in many countries exert pressures on universities to be more accountable for the results they manage to achieve with the resources available to them. A recently added twist, ironically within the context of falling government investment and rising student demand, is that governments are intruding into areas which have long been regarded as prerogatives of autonomous universities.
Over recent years governments have been placing more emphasis on innovation as a source of national competiveness. Governments now assess their investments across many areas in terms of the contribution that such investments make to increasing innovation. This has been especially significant for education and in particular for the development of policies for universities because universities perform research as well as provide learning.
The Go8 submission to the Senate Economics Committee's inquiry into the innovation system in Australia discusses the role and importance of research-intensive universities, as well as the attributes that characterise them.
The submission highlights the importance of the following:
openness and autonomy