ERA 2015

World leading, locally relevant

The University of Tasmania is delighted with the outcome of the 2015 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) rankings, - the development of key research areas and nurturing of new domains of intellectual endeavour has a been a priority and this strategy is supported by the outcomes. The results show that our strategic direction and the investment in emerging and applied research that aligns with national interest and contributions to key global challenges has been justified.

The academic staff and researchers of the University of Tasmania have produced world standard research with beacons of international excellence clearly acknowledged for their intellectual authority in key thematic areas.

The results provided today show yet further improvement in the performance of the University in ERA and delivering world leading research across a broad range of subjects. Our authority in the physical, natural, marine and environmental sciences is reconfirmed as well as the significance of our research in the health and clinical sciences. Good ratings in the social sciences and humanities add further weight to our pedigree as a comprehensive university engaging in meaningful, quality research with global partners.

The University of Tasmania achieved the highest possible rating, a 5 or 'well above world standard', in 16 specific discipline areas, up from 9 in 2012. These areas were: analytical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, geology, geophysics, oceanography, ecology, zoology, fisheries sciences, horticultural production, clinical sciences, human movement and sports science, neurosciences, nursing, ophthalmology and optometry, and agriculture, land and farm management.

A further 14 discipline areas were rated at level 4, or above world standard. These were: philosophy, historical studies, sociology, law, applied mathematics, astronomical and space sciences, physical geography and environmental geoscience, ecological applications, environmental science and management, evolutionary biology, forestry sciences, geomatic engineering, materials engineering, and pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences.

Challenges of Fostering Interdisciplinary Research

Despite these notable successes it is disappointing that the University was only rated for its research in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences at the two digit (FoR 17) level. The University has received a "nr" ("not rated" ) at the four digit level for our submissions in FoR 1701 and FoR 1799. Our submission to FoR 1702 fell below the threshold.

As a result of an extensive dialogue with the ARC it has been established that with regard to FoR 1701 and FoR 1799, the outcome is one where a critical divergence has emerged between in the  academic opinion of the ARC's Research Evaluation Committee on matters of coding and the University of Tasmania's discipline experts. We have established a major difference around the interpretation and placement of outputs against the ANZSRC Fields of Research methodologies and how we chose to define our applied and  interdisciplinary research in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences.

The University is not entirely happy with  this outcome, given that an extensive internal review process including advice from independent experts was used to develop and refine our original submission. We recognise the ARC is tasked with managing a process which is constrained by the historic framing of disciplinary research and has not yet been able to advance  the current ERA coding methodology to serve the modern research environment. We are content that the published 'nr' rating at the two digit level is solely the result of divergent academic judgements around the best way to use the long established ANZSRC 2008 system for disciplinary coding to analyse and present emerging fields of research. The issue which is revealed here profiles the wider problem besetting many international assessment processes which have relied upon traditional academic taxonomies to cluster research effort and outputs which are intellectually and methodologically positioned in nascent, applied and cross boundary fields of enquiry. Notwithstanding these concerns, the University is delighted to have had the overall quality of its research confirmed by the ARC REC panels and to have received confirmation from the ARC that we prepared a cogent and coherent submission . The ARC has also confirmed their confidence in the integrity of our overall submission and the robustness of our internal processes for evaluating and coding research outputs. And on that basis, we have now offered to be part of a wider conversation which addresses the best means by which applied and interdisciplinary research, for example, can be recognised in meaningful ways which better support the enterprise matrix of Australia. The value of applied research and the effective translation of the rich intellectual capital of this country's universities to enable economic, social and environmental advantage is central to the current debate around innovation. ​

Leading through Research

Research will underpin future innovation here in Tasmania and throughout Australia, and our institution will continue to play an important role in driving that agenda as it emerges. The ERA 2015 results in aggregate provide absolute assurance that this University is well placed to offer a rich portfolio of excellent, world leading research to support this process. Through the conduit of our research we are also party to numerous domestic and international collaborations which serve to draw new talent to the state and foster partnerships with an amazingly diverse  consortium of stakeholders. Assisting us in the future will be an ARC that recognises and supports emergent and new research activity as well as perpetuating the authority of established knowledge domains.

These 2015 ERA results reflect the efforts of many staff. They speak first to the strong and growing contributions of our academic staff both at the individual and group level, and their commitment to the agenda for excellence. All those who contributed are deserving of warm and generous praise. The results  also demonstrate the wider effort of many staff in improving and managing the data warehousing and research management processes which have allowed for the best presentation of our research in a nationally competitive  peer review process. Finally, the results endorse the strategy which the University has championed over the past five years with the full support of Council.

In our 125 years The University of Tasmania has established both pedigree and purpose as an educational leader. Research excellence has provided a strong foundation and is one of the key strategic drivers to our future success and that of our state and country. The 2015 ERA results give us every confidence that we are a strong and successful research-led university.

ERA Submission

The ARC has been informed in detail of University's ERA 2015 submission process and believes it to be an effective and inclusive process undertaken with complete integrity by the University.

Interdisciplinary Research and ERA