News & Views item - November 2012
Go8 and ATN Give Thumbs Up for ‘Excellence in Innovation for Australia’ (EIA) Trial. (November 28, 2012)
Four Members of the Group of Eight Universities (The University of Melbourne, The University of Western Australia, The University of Queensland, The University of New South Wales) and eight of the Australian Technology Network of Universities (Curtin University, University of Technology Sydney, The University of Newcastle, University of South Australia, Queensland University of Technology, Charles Darwin University, RMIT University, The University of Tasmania) earlier this year undertook a joint trial exercise to assess the impact of research produced by the Australian university sector.
Each of the universities was asked to provide case studies of research impact aligned to four broad SEO Sectors:
Sector A - Defence
Sector B – Economic Development
Sector C – Society
Sector D – Environment
And each of the 12 participating institutions was invited to submit a maximum of five case studies for each of the four SEO Sectors (ie a maximum of 20 case studies per institution).
The joint media release from the ATN and Go8 though short on detail lauds the result, although it is questionable as to its overall value considering the small and select sample size. And just how it assesses short, medium and longer term impact regarding the research being undertaken overall by Australia's university sector is something of a mystery or perhaps an occult art.
That said, the media release is reprinted below.
Excellence in Innovation for Australia trial measures impact of university research
A national trial undertaken by 12 Australian Universities has found significant economic, social and environmental benefits, or ‘impact’, arise from research undertaken at Australian universities. The trial also confirmed that this impact is able to be assessed.
The 12 Universities taking part in the trial comprised members of the Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) and the Group of Eight Universities (Go8), plus Charles Darwin and Newcastle Universities and the University of Tasmania.
The ‘Excellence in Innovation for Australia’ (EIA) trial involved 7 panels of 75 volunteers, 70% of which were external industry and business sector experts, assessing 162 case studies provided by the participating universities. Of these case studies, 87% were found to have considerable, very considerable or outstanding impact.
ATN Chair Professor Jeanette Hacket said the importance of the EIA trial’s positive outcome relates to its synergy with the numerous studies which have highlighted the role of innovation and research as key drivers for Australia of productivity and economic growth at a time when it is a stated aim of Australia to be a world leader in innovation.
“The trial indicates clearly that the research funding provided to Australian Universities by Government can deliver evidence that it is a worthy investment by taxpayers in our nation’s future through its measurable impact for the nation, the region and the world.
“Until the recent EIA trial, while it was never in doubt that research from Australian Universities can and does deliver positive impact, that fact had not been communicated by universities as well as it might and it also lacked measurement that could be understood and accepted by those outside of academia,” Professor Hacket said.
Professor Fred Hilmer, Chair of the Go8, said “In undertaking the Trial, the ATN and the Go8 share a commitment, in the national interest, to producing research that is not only excellent but also benefits the broader Australian community.
“Critical to this commitment is the ability of our universities to reliably measure the benefits of the full range of our research output to the broader community. Such indicators show the importance of the investment government makes in university research.”
The EIA trial was specifically designed to judge whether the impact of university research could be assessed, and if so, whether this assessment could be completed using a panel of predominately external experts assessing research case studies.
It is seen by the universities involved as a positive first step to further investigate with Government how such a process could be implemented nationally and what principles might guide its development.