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Australian academics’ perceptions on research evaluation exercises
journal contributionposted on 01.05.2018, 00:00 by A Martin Sardesai, J Guthrie
The purpose of this paper is to explore academics’ perceptions in response to a research evaluation exercise and its impact on their working life. Adopting a case study, the research examines the period 2006-2010, in which the case study university was preparing for Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise. It relies on academics’ responses to an open-ended question in a survey, contextualised with academic policy and organisational literature interpreted from an institutional perspective. The responses to the survey are analysed qualitatively. The case study university performed well in the first ERA exercise in 2010. However, academics reported immense pressure to increase research outputs, fear and anxiety, gaming and strategic initiatives, focus on quantity and not quality of research, and increased workload. Academics also felt that appointments, promotions, and tenure decisions were determined by measures aligned with ERA. In investigating in detail the responses of individual academics to Australia’s research evaluation initiative, the paper reveals a disconnect between the institutional demands placed on the higher education sector, university changes made to accommodate these demands and the ability of the academics to meet these pressures in a sustainable way. The study provides insights to regulators and higher education leaders into the impact of ERA on the working lives of academics. It also highlights the need to take account of academics’ views in the design and implementation of research assessment exercises.