It is important for Australia to consider an impact evaluation - and examples such as the Excellence in Innovation for Australia (EIA) have shown that it is possible to evaluate research impact in Australia. The UK have also evaluated impact as part of their national research evaluation exercise. Some argue that the EIA and the REF methodology of case studies and peer review are onerous and expensive. However, this is by no means a reason not to do them - these sorts of evaluations will never be easy because the evaluation of research is not easy. Proper evaluation of research requires time and the people with the right level of expertise to carry out the evaluation.
Here are some of the issues I think the ATSE ERA-linked evaluation might have:
- It assumes that your research input, output and impact all occur in the same FoR code.
- It assumes that impact has occurred concurrently with the research – most impact is not realised that quickly.
- It won’t take into account the difference between pure research and applied research in the same FoR.
- It is focused only on economic impact – which for the commercialisation income might actually be more a measure of the success of the company selling the widget than the quality of the university.
- It also does not take into consideration the amount of gaming that occurs in the ERA.
The ATSE release can be read here: http://www.atse.org.au/atse/content/activity/innovation-content/developing-impact-engagement-australia-metric.aspx