The Review of the Australian Research Council Act represents a once in a generation opportunity for Australia to modernise and right-size its approach to research assessment. This is our chance to systemically enshrine principles of Open Research at the core of our national strategy, incentivising research practices that prioritise reproducibility, integrity and equity of access to Australia’s research.
This excellent discussion published in the Campus Morning Mail in June 2023 provides a call to use the current Review of the Australian Research Council Act to focus upon research culture and introduce an assessment regime that encourages positive research practices. The hope is to leave behind the current assessment processes that serve as a perverse encouragement for questionable research practices and currently value quantity over quality. This is a terrific opportunity for Australia to take the lead in this important area of research governance.
Globally, we are seeing growing calls to support a fundamental change in the way we think about research and research assessment. In the last few weeks alone, the Group of Seven science and technology ministers have restated their support for research assessment approaches that incentivise and reward open science practices , and the European Council has called for transparent, equitable and open access to scholarly publications . Australia has an opportunity to not just join these conversations, but take a leading role through developing a national Open Research strategy to inform our new approach to assessment.
Much has been written about the perverse incentives inadvertently created by the dominant publisher-led, metrics-based, approach to research assessment, and indeed the many problems with a largely profit-driven scholarly publishing landscape .
We are counting what we can, rather than what we should be counting. Metrics are easy to measure, and expanding what is defined as markers of quality will make assessment more challenging, but this will be necessary for us to migrate to a more sophisticated and purposeful assessment regime. In the design of any new data-driven approach, we need to be very careful to select measures that drive good research and align with our values and aspirations for societal impact.