Sydney excels in national research engagement and impact assessment

29 March 2019
The University of Sydney has performed strongly in the Australian Research Council's first Engagement and Impact Assessment of research at Australian universities.

Results at the University are well above the sector average, with 96 per cent of our impact and engagement ratings being 'high' or 'medium'. It is the first time the ARC has conducted an evaluation of engagement and impact in the Australian university sector.

The results confirm that University of Sydney academics are at the forefront of globally significant research across the spectrum, generating tremendous benefits for our community.

The strong showing in the ARC Engagement and Impact Assessment comes just days after the ARC published its Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) report, which rated all 22 of the Fields of Research (FoR) undertaken at the University of Sydney as being above or well-above world standard.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison said: "The Engagement and Impact Assessment demonstrates the extraordinary role our research plays in the communities we serve – something I know my colleagues care deeply about. The process has also helped us identify even greater opportunities for the future."

Professor Ivison said it was vital to recognise our success is shared with the University's research partners in industry; hospitals; research institutes; and in other government, non-government and community sectors. 

"It's no exaggeration to say that we simply couldn't achieve such outcomes without these partnerships both in Australia and across the globe," he said.

The Engagement and Impact Assessment reviewed all 22 FoRs – with Health and Medical Sciences research subdivided into Biomedical and Clinical Sciences and Public and Allied Health Sciences – and included two additional fields: Indigenous and Interdisciplinary research.

Of the 25 case studies submitted by the University of Sydney, 48 per cent were assessed as having a 'high' impact rating, above the sector average of 43 per cent.

Research engagement was also assessed for all 22 FoRs, with the University of Sydney achieving a 'high' rating for 42 percent, above the sector average of 34 percent.

Professor Ivison said: "All 25 of our case studies are wonderful examples of high-quality work from dedicated researchers. I want to say how proud I am of each and every one and I thank them for participating in this first-run assessment process with the ARC."

"The Engagement and Impact Assessment is just one of many ways we are promoting the world-class work that we do. Now that this milestone has passed, we will continue our research activities and awareness campaigns to highlight the University’s research engagement and impact."

This is the first Engagement and Impact Assessment conducted by the ARC. It is modelled on a similar process in the UK known as the Research Excellence Framework. The process involved a detailed analysis of the extent to which 25 submitted case studies are having on the world. Fields of Research (FoRs) were rated low, medium or high, for research engagement, research impact and approach to impact.

Our 'high' impact case studies

  • Indigenous research on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder by Professor Elizabeth Elliot;
  • Interdisciplinary research into mental health services by Professor Ian Hickie and the Brain and Mind Centre;
  • Environmental science research on ‘saving our soils’ by Professor Alex McBratney;
  • Biological science research into the glycemic index by Professor Jennie Brand-Miller;
  • Agricultural sciences research into wheat rust by Professor Robert Park;
  • Engineering research into robotics at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics;
  • Biomedical and clinical research into liver disease by Professor Jacob George;
  • Built environment and design research into indoor environmental quality by Professor Richard de Dear;
  • Economics research into rural labour markets by Professor Shyamal Chowdhury;
  • Commerce research into transport by Professor David Hensher;
  • Law and legal research into child sexual abuse by Professor Judy Cashmore, Professor Patrick Parkinson, Professor Rita Shackel and Professor David Hamer;
  • Creative arts and writing research into art beyond the Western canon by the Power Institute.

Engagement and impact explained

Research engagement is the interaction between researchers and research end-users outside of academia, for the mutually beneficial transfer of knowledge, technologies, methods and resources.

Examples of engagement can range from providing consultative advice to government and co-authoring research papers, to being an expert witness in a court case, having strong connections to cultural institutions and supporting writers' festivals.

Research impact is the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, the environment and culture and lies beyond the contribution to academic research.​

Impact can be made through, for example, contributing to the development of policy, informing pedagogy, reducing the costs of health care through new processes, or stimulating public debate around current issues.

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