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ERA Frequently Asked Questions

What is Excellence in Research for Australia?

Excellence in Research for Australia is an assessment system that evaluates the quality of the research conducted at Australian universities.
Please visit the ERA 2012 Key Documents page for further detailed information on the most recent ERA process.

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Why is ERA required?

ERA provides taxpayers with assurance that the public money spent on research is being invested wisely.
Furthermore, ERA provides business and the broader community with detailed information about the research strengths of our universities, so that those strengths can be exploited to the nation’s advantage.

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What do the ERA 2012 outcomes tell us?

The outcomes of the ERA 2012 evaluations confirm that Australian universities compete with the world’s best in a wide range of fundamental and applied disciplines. The ratings achieved by Australian universities were higher overall in ERA 2012 than in ERA 2010, and the range of fields of research assessed was wider.

ERA measures performance within each discipline at each university and gives us a detailed view of the research landscape in Australia, from quantum physics to literature. It highlights national research strengths in areas of critical economic and social importance—such as Geology, Environmental Science and Management, Nursing, Clinical Sciences, Materials Engineering, Psychology, Law and Historical Studies. In addition, ERA results highlight the strengths of individual universities.
The ERA 2012 data presented in the National Report also provides contextual information about research application, knowledge exchange and collaboration.

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Does this report show that Australia is excelling in research?>

Yes. The results of the ERA 2012 evaluations confirm that Australian universities compete with the world’s best in a wide range of fundamental and applied disciplines and that our national research landscape includes high quality research specialisations in universities of all shapes and sizes, in all States and Territories.

The improvement in ERA ratings in this round of evaluations is consistent with other key indicators of the Australian university sector’s performance, such as the improvements made by Australian universities in recent rounds of Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). However, unlike university rankings, ERA ratings paint a finely grained picture of research quality. This is because ERA measures performance within each discipline at each university.

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When will the next round of ERA be?

The next round of ERA will take place in 2015.

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Will any refinements be made to the process prior to the next ERA round?

The ERA methodology is a dynamic and flexible research assessment system that combines the objectivity of multiple quantitative indicators with the holistic assessment provided by expert review. The ARC will continue to enhance the ERA methodology to ensure that it remains at the cutting-edge of evaluation practice. This may include expanding the ERA framework for future evaluations to allow for additional measures of research application, knowledge exchange and collaboration. The ARC will consult with the university sector on any significant changes to the ERA approach.

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What are some of the benefits of ERA for the higher education sector?

ERA provides reliable and credible data about the quality of research in the higher education sector that:

  • allows research managers and investors to reward excellence in research
  • assures Australian taxpayers that their investment in research is well spent
  • facilitates strategic planning to further strengthen our research capabilities
  • helps promote Australia’s research strengths on the world stage.

ERA data and outcomes are used by the universities, as well as by Government and other stakeholders. ERA results are used in the internal reporting and planning documents (such as the annual reports and strategic plans) of many universities.  By taking part in ERA, the quality of data universities provide other agencies is also reported to be much improved. In addition, universities regularly use ERA outcomes to promote their research strengths, both to Australian stakeholders and on the world stage.

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Can the ERA results be used to form a league table ranking Australia’s best and worst universities in terms of research?

ERA ratings allow for a finely grained picture of research quality performance in Australia’s higher education institutions.

The ERA unit of evaluation is the discipline at the institution. It is not the discipline at the national level, nor is it the State, the university, nor the individual academic. ERA does not rate each university as a whole, rather it rates specific research disciplines at each university.

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How will the ERA results inform Government policy?

ERA data is an ideal tool to guide strategic planning and investment, including aligning research strengths with industry, regional and national priorities to maximise the benefits of public investment in research.

ERA outcomes inform the performance-based block funding that universities receive from Government to sustain excellence in research. This funding provides all our universities with a direct financial incentive to encourage and support world class research. ERA outcomes directly inform university funding under the Sustainable Research Excellence scheme.

ERA outcomes and targets also inform the negotiation of Mission-Based Compacts between the Australian Government and universities.

ERA results have been incorporated into the Australian Government’s MyUniversity website, to assist our future researchers to identify postgraduate opportunities.

ERA data also informs key policies and benchmarking documents, such as:

  • Research Skills for an Innovative Future: A Research Workforce Strategy (Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, 2011)
  • Health of Australian Science (Office of the Chief Scientist, 2012)
  • The National Research Investment Plan (Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, 2012).

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Content Last Modified: 22/05/13

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