Saturday, September 23, 2017
Could ERA be Automated in the Near Future?
Australia's national research evaluation exercise, Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) is conducted roughly once every three years with a large investment of time and money from the university sector and the ARC. The cost of running ERA to the sector has been variously estimated to be between $30 million and $100 million.
Universities are required to submit information and data relating to their research activities over the preceding six years. This includes publications, research projects and grants, research staff, along with a raft of related indicators such as patents and commercialisation activity.
Much of the information universities submit as part of the exercise is available from other sources - either publicly available (e.g. grant outcomes from the ARC and NHMRC, HERDC income returns, ABS R&D expenditure surveys) or from third party suppliers (e.g. Scopus or Clarivate publications databases).
If we were able to link researchers, their publications and grant funding to universities and fields of research then an ERA submission could in theory be developed automatically without the time and expense incurred by universities.
The Australian Research Council (ARC) website now includes the ERA 2018 Technical Specifications and Submission Guidelines. Of note is the optional inclusion of information like unique author identifiers (ORCID) and unique article identifiers (DOI). A combination of ORCIDs, DOIs, citation data and fields of research (e.g. from the ERA Journal List) could in theory be used to auto-generate ERA submissions for universities. Not only could this be less expensive for the sector but also offers the benefit of a more contemporary data set compared with the retrospective ERA as it currently stands.
So perhaps we will see an auto-generated ERA in 2021...
You can view the ERA guidelines for yourself at the ARC's website.