Eighty-seven per cent of Australian research has been ranked as having considerable, very considerable or outstanding impact, according to the results of the first ever Excellence in Innovation (EIA) for Australia initiative, released last week.
The EIA initiative is a national benchmarking study developed to measure the impact of Australian research against international standards. Sixteen universities across Australia, including UTS, participated in the study.
According to UTS Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), Professor Attila Brungs, EIA is the first tool of its kind to measure the way research impacts government, industry, community and the environment.
"Traditional benchmarking tools, like ERA, aim to measure research excellence - to compare the quality of Australian research against research being produced around the world," Professor Brungs said.
"However, EIA is firmly focused on impact, and we think this is an important step towards understanding research in a different context.
"At UTS, our focus is on producing applied, impact-driven research with the capacity to create positive change, and so we strongly believe measurements of research impact are equally important when we are assessing the big picture of research in Australia."
The EIA process saw universities submit a series of case studies that outlined the reach and purpose of completed research projects conducted within the last 10 years. The case studies were then assessed by an expert panel who assigned them one of five values, ranging from 'A' (outstanding research impact) down to 'E' (limited research impact).
Overall, UTS research was ranked as having considerable to very considerable impact in terms of reach and significance. The case studies that UTS submitted included a project undertaken by the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE) in which researchers reviewed the Extended Medicare Safety Net and its subsequent cap. The project resulted in a series of policy recommendations to guide governments in how to use the safety net to best benefit patients, health care service providers and taxpayers at large.
The AustLII project was another UTS success story: founded in 1995 with USNW, AustLII is a national, free-access legal database. It provides the general public with access to a wealth of historical and contemporary legal information, such as legislation, treaties and decisions from courts and tribunals, and has played such a role in shaping public opinion on the need for free-access legal information that it has inspired the launch of similar databases in many countries around the world.
It is these outcomes, according to Professor Brungs, that illustrate the importance of research impact.
"Both the CHERE and AustLII case studies were ranked as having considerable impact in terms of reach and significance of research outcomes, and I think this is a great reflection of UTS research as a whole," Professor Brungs said.
As well providing a benchmark for Australian universities, the EIA case initiative will provide an evidence base for governments and taxpayers to demonstrate the very real returns resulting from money invested in research.
"While benchmarking activities are not perfect, EIA demonstrates that Australia has much to be proud of in terms of the research that's being produced across the country," Professor Brungs said.