12 October 2016

In September 2016, the ARC released the second volume of the State of Australian University Research 2015–16 series—Institutional Insights.

With three rounds of Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) now complete, the ERA data covers all Australian university research outputs, staffing and activity from 2003 to 2013, and research income and research application data from 2006 to 2013.

This report reflects on the changes in ERA ratings achieved by institutions over the three ERA rounds. It also provides insights into the gender balance across research disciplines, the availability of research outputs in open access, and the volume of work submitted by universities.

It is clear that there has been substantial improvement in the quality of research output from the higher education sector. There have been steady increases in the proportion of ERA ratings ‘above’ and ‘well above’ world standard over the three rounds, and a consistent decrease in units rated ‘below’ or ‘well below’ world standard over the same time.

Gender data was collected for the first time in ERA 2015 and this data enables us to compare gender across disciplines in the university research sector. The data did not form part of the evaluation process, however, it provides important background information on Australia’s research workforce both now and into the future.

While overall, more males than females were identified as research staff in ERA 2015 submissions, significant differences in gender balance did arise across disciplines at the two-digit Fields of Research level.

Discipline data shows some areas where more females than males are undertaking research, including in Education (65 per cent female); Language, Communication and Culture (57 per cent female); Psychology and Cognitive Sciences (56 per cent female); Studies in Human Society (52 percent female); and Medical and Health Sciences (52 per cent female).

The report also shows the volume of outputs submitted by institutions in disciplines, and the share of the outputs relative to the institution itself and the discipline as a whole.

ERA has provided an important snapshot of Australia’s research landscape. This enables us to identify our emerging strengths, as well as areas where we can continue to improve.