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The ARC is responsible for administering Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA), Australia’s national research evaluation framework. ERA identifies and promotes excellence across the full spectrum of research activity in Australia’s higher education institutions.
Through ERA the ARC is tasked with identifying excellence in research, by comparing Australia's university research effort against international benchmarks, creating incentives to improve the quality of research and identifying emerging research areas and opportunities for further development.
The first full round of ERA occurred in 2010 and the results were published in early 2011. This was the first time a nationwide stocktake of discipline strengths and areas for development had ever been conducted in Australia. There have been two subsequent rounds of ERA in 2012 and 2015. The results from each ERA round are published in the ERA 2010 National Report, the ERA 2012 National Report, and State of Australian University Research 2015-16: Volume 1 National Report and Volume 2 Institutional Insights which are available online in ERA Reports.
The ERA ratings for fields of research at each institution are available on the ERA 2015, ERA 2012 and the ERA 2010 pages. A comparison of all three ERA rounds is also available.
The objectives of ERA are to:
- establish an evaluation framework that gives government, industry, business and the wider community assurance of the excellence of research conducted in Australian higher education institutions
- provide a national stocktake of discipline level areas of research strength and areas where there is opportunity for development in Australian higher education institutions
- identify excellence across the full spectrum of research performance
- identify emerging research areas and opportunities for further development
- allow for comparisons of research in Australia, nationally and internationally, for all discipline areas.
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 and many others. In addition, ERA results highlight the research strengths of individual universities. The ERA data presented in each National Report also provides contextual information about research application, knowledge exchange and collaboration.
ERA provides reliable and credible data about the quality of research in the higher education sector that:
- allows research managers and investors to identify and reward excellence in research and opportunities for further development or investment and 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 research data held by universities is also reported to be much improved. In addition, universities regularly use ERA outcomes to promote their research strengths, both to Australian and international stakeholders.
ERA Benefits Realisation Review
In 2013, the ARC commissioned ACIL Allen Consulting to conduct an independent review of the benefits of ERA. The study found that ERA has helped to increase the social rate of return of research, generate cost savings, increase university revenue, enhance economic activity and improve accountability, transparency and policy-making.
The next round of ERA will take place in 2018.
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 consults with the university sector on any significant changes to the ERA approach.
For the purposes of ERA, disciplines are defined as two-digit and four-digit Fields of Research (FoRs) codes as identified in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification. For further information about ANZSRC contact the ABS National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or their website Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification
Previous ERA evaluations were conducted in 2015, 2012 and 2010. Please visit the ERA Reports page to access the ERA 2015, ERA 2012 and ERA 2010 National Reports. The National Reports provide a comprehensive overview of the quality of research undertaken in higher education institutions across Australia.
The Australian Government released its National Innovation and Science Agenda on 7 December 2015. One of the measures within the agenda is for Australia to introduce a national engagement and impact assessment, which will assess the benefits flowing from university research. In 2016 the ARC will work with the higher education research sector, industry and other end-users of research to develop quantitative and qualitative measures of engagement and impact. A pilot assessment will take place in 2017. The first national assessment and reporting will take place in 2018. For more information please view the ARC National Innovation and Science Agenda page.
ERA is a discipline-specific research evaluation exercise. 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 against national and international benchmarks.
ERA provides Government, universities, industry, and prospective students with valuable information about research performance in Australian universities. For example, ERA data and outcomes:
- inform a range of advice to Government across the various portfolios of Government
- inform funding allocations for Sustainable Research Excellence in Universities (SRE) block grants
- specifically inform the development of research policy in Government and the wider sector, including:
- Research Engagement for Australia: Measuring Research Engagement between Universities and End Users (Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering)
- Mapping Australia’s Science and Research Priorities (Department of Industry and Science)
- Mapping the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in Australia (Australian Academy of the Humanities)
- Development of the Defence Trade Controls Act (Department of Defence)
- Draft National Strategy for International Education (Department of Education and Training).
Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Report
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is an independent statutory agency tasked with improving the competitiveness and supply of renewable energy in Australia. The study commissioned by ARENA is a collaboration between the ARC with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) which provides ARENA with detailed analyses of the scope and focus of R&D activity by Australia’s universities in renewable energy technologies (RETs).
The study draws significantly on the ERA dataset and the techniques which have been developed by the ARC for the measurement of research quality in ERA.
The study finds that research into RETs in Australia is primarily underpinned by a small number of Engineering disciplines (most notably Materials Engineering, and Electrical and Electronic Engineering). In all cases, the research activity in these disciplines is growing as indicated by the increasing numbers of publications reported between ERA 2010 and ERA 2012.
The overall quality of each discipline is also improving over time, with larger proportions of the universities that are active in these disciplines judged to be performing research at world standard or higher in ERA 2012 than in 2010. Within these underpinning disciplines, RETs research performs strongly on key citation indicators suggesting that while the total output is relatively focused, RETs research is a pocket of national strength.
The study indicates a strong set of research disciplines underpinning Australian universities’ R&D into renewable energy technologies, and shows that over time this activity is increasing in terms of size and quality.
The study is published on the ARENA website.
The ARC can use the ERA database to perform text based searches (text mining) to provide a more visual approach to data analysis. The analytical method of text mining processes textual data, extracting information including word and phrase frequency counts, pattern recognition, and clustering. By applying text mining techniques to research outputs, research concepts can be recognised and other related disciplines identified.
Using search terms, related disciplines (as defined by ANZSRC four-digit FoR codes) may be identified. Data visualisation techniques allow these disciplines to be mapped against each other, showing the size and shape of the research effort existing in Australia, as well as areas of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research.
Examples of ERA Data visualisations can be viewed on the Data Visualisation page.
In 2009, the ARC developed a ranked journal list in consultation with members of the public, expert reviewers and academic peak bodies. This list included quality ranks for each journal. Ranked journal publishing profiles were used as part of the suite of indicators in the ERA 2010 evaluation. Following feedback from Research Evaluation Committees that they relied on their own expert knowledge of the quality of research outlets relevant to their discipline, ranked journal profiles were removed as an indicator for the ERA 2012 evaluation. The ranked journal list is no longer available from the ARC website. This is because it was intended solely for the purposes of the ERA 2010 evaluation, and because journals may have changed significantly in the number of years since the rankings were developed.
Following the ERA 2018 round, the ARC will be working with the Department of Education to develop an approach for the alignment of the ERA and HERDC collections. The general principle of efficiency and cost-effectiveness advocated strongly by the 2013 Review of Higher Education Regulation is likely to be met through integrating ERA and HERDC (the Higher Education Research Data Collection). Expected efficiencies include:
- IT systems at both the university and government end only need to cater for one data set
- Administrative and academic staff involved in the collection and verification of the data at both the university and government end only need to be trained to work with one set of data specifications
- Workflow arrangements for the collection and verification of data are rationalised where data only needs to be submitted once for a single reference period
- Any auditing requirements in relation to the data will also be streamlined
- Integration will avoid confusion about data parameters and minimise training required for users of the data
- Streamlining data collection and verification processes will reduce opportunities for error and misunderstanding, thereby enhancing the integrity, transparency and utility of the data collected.
Content Last Modified: 20/02/17