Understanding Australian Research Ratings

Several higher education jurisdictions around the world have undertaken a comprehensive nationwide review of the quality of institutional research. This began in the UK, with the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), in the USA with the National Research Council Rankings, and in Australia with the Excellence in Research Australia Project (ERA). This article is designed to help you better understand the Australian ERA project, and how you may use its data to better inform your study choices or collaborations. 

The point of the Australian ERA project is to identify and promote excellence across both discovery and applied research within Australian higher education institutions. One of the advantages of this project for prospective international research candidates, is that it provides a valuable tool for the assessment of research in a chosen and identified discipline cluster. 

The ERA indicators involve extensive consultation with the range of disciplines across the sector. All Australian universities submitted comprehensive information on their research activities for ERA 2012 —including detailed data in relation to more than 400,000 publications and other research outputs, more than 60,000 research staff, more than $8.7 billion of external research income, and more than 780 patents.

Over 1,000 leading researchers from Australia and abroad participated in the assessment process as evaluation committee members or peer reviewers.

The results are incredibly useful for prospective PhD and masters by research candidates, and for prospective collaborators and institutional partners. The data allows you to examine a broad area of research, for example environmental sciences, and assess an institutions overall capabilities. It then also allows you to examine a more specific sub-discipline, like soil science, management, or ecological applications. This broad and more refined analysis is useful in establishing considerations for future decisions you may make. 

Another point to consider when examining the data is that only disciplines within a university were assessed if they could present a minimum threshold of data, which for citation analysis, was 50 peer review journal articles. So… If a university received a rating of 5, which is well above world standard, then this assessment was made on the basis of at least 50 peer reviewed journal articles within a six year review window. This low volume threshold increases the validity of the data in terms of research quality. 

Like with all of these ratings, or rankings exercises, they are not the complete picture, but they do provide you with data to make a more informed choice. Saksara has made this a little easier by identifying the institutions in Australia that have been identified as being at or above world standard in each off the disciplines of research. You can access the data we have organised for you here