The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) and the Group of Eight (Go8) are currently undertaking a trial exercise to assess the impact of research produced by Australian universities. The Excellence in Innovation for Australia (EIA) aims to be the impact partner to the quality evaluation administered by the Australian Research Council; the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA).
Participating institutions are required to submit case studies under the four socio-economic objectives (SEO): Defence, Economic Development, Society and Environment. Case studies will form the unit of evaluation for the assessment and will demonstrate uptake of the university's research by end users as well as the breadth and depth of the benefits the research produced. It is comforting to note that the guidelines specify the research has to result in a benefit to the community - there have been examples of high impact research resulting in negative impact to the community (e.g. thalidomide or the atomic bomb).
Australia has produced a large number of high impact research outcomes over the years; many of these coming from universities, research hospitals and the CSIRO. Recent high impact examples include: Fiona Woods' 'spray on skin' for burn victims, Mark von Itzstein's flu medication; Relenza, and the CSIRO's wi-fi.
The results of the EIA will be released in November and once they are made public it will be interesting to compare them to the results of the ERA to see if there is any obvious relationship between research impact and research quality.