Monday, January 23, 2012

How Does the Australian Government Use the ERA Results?

Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) is the Australian research assessment exercise that is very similar to the British REF. We are currently working on our submission to the 2012 ERA assessment, which is the second assessment following ERA 2010. There has been a lot of discussion of the assessment methods and results but few people seem to know about how these results are being used.

So far the ERA results will be used as part of the method of allocating money in the SRE scheme. Currently SRE is around $150 million of the $1.6 billion of research block grants paid to Australian universities. This number will rise to more than $300 million over the next year. The program is supposed to provide universities with overhead or indirect costs of funded research. Unlike in the US, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and NHMRC doesn't pay universities any overhead payments on grants. These come later through these block grant schemes.

The government released a consultation paper on the method to be used in 2012. Basically, money would be allocated according to the amount of competitive research grants each university earned weighted by some ERA based indicator. They haven't yet released the exact algorithm that will be used.

So by next year about 20% of research block grants will be weighted by ERA derived measures. I expect though that ERA will be used to allocate more of the money in the future.

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