24 June 2019

The highly-anticipated results of the Australian Research Council’s Excellence Research Australia (ERA) and Engagement and Impact (EI) 2018 assessments were released at the end of March, with the State of Australian University Research: ERA National Report 2018–19, and the Engagement and Impact Assessment National Report 2018–19.  Both reports, available in the ARC Data Portal, are interactive and user-friendly, providing a wealth of valuable information about Australian research. 

The ERA National Report

ERA is a comprehensive research evaluation that promotes research excellence occurring in research institutions across the country. The ERA 2018 evaluation round demonstrates that Australian universities continue to produce high quality research. Overall, 42 institutions were assessed, with over 500,000 unique research outputs submitted. The results show that 26 percent of the Units of Evaluation assessed improved their rating since ERA 2015. This is an outstanding outcome for Australian universities.

The ARC now has 14 years of longitudinal data across four rounds of ERA. This data provides important information on university ratings as well as providing valuable insights into changes and trends occurring within the research sector, such as research income, gender, research commercialisation and patents. There is no other data collection or assessment mechanism that holds this unique data on Australian universities—at a comprehensive and specific discipline level.

Engagement and Impact (EI) Assessment

EI was run for the first time in 2018. As a companion exercise to ERA, EI aims to encourage greater researcher engagement with industry and other end-users, greater university support for research translation, and greater focus on research that has direct impacts on the economy, society, environment and culture.

Through the EI 2018 assessment, the research disciplines for each university were rated for engagement, impact, and approach to impact. For engagement, 34 percent of submissions achieved a ‘high’ rating, 43 percent achieved a ‘high’ rating for impact, and 25 percent achieved a ‘high’ rating for approach to impact.

The information available as a result of the EI assessment demonstrates that impacts of university research have been broad ranging, from improving the everyday lives of Australians and fostering communities, to addressing whole-of-society challenges. Impact studies—in the form of narrative case studies—have highlighted research contributions improving ageing infrastructure, addressing climate change and food security, and improving bushfire management, as well as ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is preserved for generations.

More than 200 impact studies that received a rating of ‘high’ have been published on the ARC website. These examples of best practice cover all research disciplines.

The impact studies, combined with data from the ERA and EI reports, provide a rich new data source to help stakeholders from the university, industry, not-for-profit and government sectors to better understand the university research landscape.