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Research Foundation Plan 2013-2017

Since its designation as a University in 1991 and before, the University of Canberra has seen the conduct of applied research and research training as part of its core mission. Research and research training have become even more embedded in the UC mission over the last 5 years with a significant growth in research active staff, research income, research outputs and research student load.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Frances ShannonThe vision for UC@50, as outlined in the strategic plan, aims for the University to be "recognised as one of Australia's most innovative tertiary institutions" and "a leading member of a large education network of tertiary partners".

The development of this "new model university" will provide opportunity for innovative approaches to research and research training.The vision states: "Our research will be of high quality and highly cited, focusing on discoveries and applications which lead to early improvements in the changing world around us."

In other words, the research conducted at UC will be focused on some of the big challenges facing our society and the world and will aim to make a difference. This research will also be of the highest academic standard as recognised by our academic peers. It will be conducted in a global context where we become known internationally for our contribution to specific research domains and to solving important societal challenges.

The major research objectives during the period of this plan are to gain a significant improvement in ERA ratings and to be world ranked as a young university by 2018.

The development of a strong research culture, where mentoring and leadership are embedded as core behaviours, is crucial to the development of research performance. The development of a strong research training program embedded in our areas of research focus and a rich research culture is also a key aspect of this plan.

- Professor Frances Shannon - Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research at the University of Canberra.

Download a PDF copy of the Research Foundation Plan.

1. Focus

The research activity of the university will be focused on five major research domains. Focus will be achieved through strategic investment in research centres or institutes, targeted recruitment, mentoring of junior academics and development of research training hubs.

Performance in these areas will be expected to improve significantly over the next five years as measured through annual performance targets, ERA ratings and world ranking targets.

2. Excellence

Researchers will strive for excellence in all research and research training endeavours and this will be evidenced by an increase in the national and international standing of our research as measured through annual performance targets including citation rates and competitive grant income, ERA ratings and world ranking targets.

3. Impact

Our research will focus on discoveries and applications which lead to early improvements in the changing world around us. Partnerships with industry, business, the community and government will be supported to achieve stronger impact and translational outcomes from our research and the development of relevant research training programs. We will be in a position to document the economic, social and environmental impact of our research.

4. Partnerships

Research and research training partnerships with local, national and international research universities and institutions, at both the strategic and individual level will be encouraged and supported. Our success will be measured through an increase in co-publication and joint research funding with national and international colleagues.

The University of Canberra is a small university by national and international standards. Therefore, it cannot and indeed should not aim to develop a comprehensive research portfolio. Rather the development of strength in specific research domains, built on our current and emerging strengths, societal need and opportunity, will see UC develop a strong reputation in selected research domains.

Research training needs to ideally occur in research-intensive environments, with research supervisors who have the skills and support to provide the strong technical training required to become a highly proficient researcher. Thus, we will focus our research training into the selected research domains by creating research training hubs aligned with research centres.


To give effect to this focus, we will;

  1. Ensure that at least 80% of research strategy funds are directed to areas of research focus.
  2. Provide strategic funding (either at University or Faculty level) to University of Canberra Research Centres (UCRCs) and faculty-supported research centres.
  3. Ensure a strong mentoring culture especially for ECRs in order to retain high performing staff.
  4. Develop research training hubs that are aligned with areas of research focus.
  5. Increase the proportion of academic staff whose main role is research (research focused/only staff) including postdoctoral fellows and professional level research leaders.
  6. Ensure that capital expenditure and infrastructure budgeting are strongly aligned with these focus areas.
  7. Monitor performance in these focus areas against clear annual performance goals.

Measures of the success for these focus research domains will include measures of research excellence, research impact and national and international reach.

In addition the following measures will indicate success;

  • Number of research focused/only academics in focus research domains
  • Percentage of our research effort (income, outputs, research students) in the focus research domains.

Environment

Research in this domain has a long history of high achievement at UC and contributes to the understanding and improved management of species, communities and ecosystems in Australia and internationally, with particular reference to the effects of human activity.

This research is primarily conducted within the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE ).
There is growing research activity in aspects of the urban environment, particularly in design, urban planning and building among the centres of expertise in this area is the Canberra Urban and Regional Futures (CURF).

Governance

Research in the governance domain has been a strength of UC for some time. Public sector administration and governance, social and economic policy modelling and public policy form the core of this research domain.

Research is mainly conducted through the UC-Institute for Governance Policy Analysis (IGPA ) incorporating ANZSOG Institute for Governance (ANZSIG ), the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM ). National Centre for Forensic Studies (NCFS).

Health

Health, including sport, is an emerging area of research strength. The major focus areas are public and preventative health, specifically healthy and sustainable urban communities, rural and remote mental health and the health impacts of climate change. Sports science and sport design and technology are developing areas of research focus. The development of new therapies, arising from basic biomedical research also contributes to our health research portfolio.

Much of this research is conducted through the UC-Research Institute for Sport and Exercise (UC-RISE ) and the new, UC-Health Research Institute (UC-HRI), which combines the established Centre for Research and Action in Public Health (CeRAPH ) and the Centre for Research in Therapeutic Solutions (CReSTs).

Communication

UC has research strengths in the broad domains of news and media technologies, as well as cultural and creative studies.

Two centres support research in this domain; The News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC) and the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research in the Donald Horne Institute.
Information technology, information systems and software engineering are areas of emerging strength at the university, with the National Institute for Systems Innovation (NISI) leading in this area.

Education

Education research is an emerging area of strength specifically in the areas of learning, social change and development; policy and educational leadership; and Technology and Learning Design. Research is conducted through the STEM Education Research Centre (SERC) and the Australian Institute for Sustainable Communities (AISC).

Objective 3 of the University strategic plan is to "achieve world ranking as a young university". Specifically, the research plan defines this aim as being ranked in the Times Higher Education Supplement "Top 100 under 50" group. The key measures in this ranking scheme speak to research excellence and reputation .

Two key components of this objective that will form the basis of measurement of our performance are to:

  • increase our competitive research grant income; and
  • strengthen the academic impact of our research as measured through citations.

In addition, ERA 2015, which also measures research excellence, will take place during the course of this strategic plan and a significant improvement in ERA ratings especially for our focus areas will be a key goal.

Excellence in research training will also be a priority goal during this strategic period. The focus will be on ensuring that incoming research students are well equipped to undertake research degrees and in providing high quality and timely support to our student cohort thus facilitating an enriching experience and timely completion.

Research supervisors will be provided with professional development opportunities and support to underpin the development of the requisite skills.

The following measures will be implemented in order to improved ERA ratings and international ranking status:

  • Develop a targeted recruitment strategy for professorial level academic staff in areas of research focus.
  • Provide appropriate professional development, support and mentoring to high performing academic staff especially ECRs.
  • Develop performance goals that reflect ERA and international ranking measures of research excellence.
  • Develop a workload model that provides high performing academic staff with sufficient time for research commitments.
  • Provide high quality infrastructure and administrative support to academic areas.
  • Provide pathways into research training courses that prepare students for a productive experience.
  • Provide effective supervisor professional development.
  • Monitor performance in these focus areas against clear annual performance goals.

Measures of research excellence will include:

  • Publications in indexed journals.
  • Citations per paper.
  • Competitive research grant income.
  • HDR completion rates and time to completion.
  • Ratings across all assessed FoRs in ERA 2015.

The University has a strong tradition of applied research in areas such as environmental science and public administration. It wishes to continue this tradition and develop research in the focus research domains that will have impact and "lead to early improvements in the changing world".

Recently, the Office of the Chief Scientist published a "2012 National Investment Plan" which identified the key research and innovations challenges for Australia. These ideas have now been developed into five societal challenges and will soon be underpinned by up to 15 areas of research priority.

The university is in a position to make a significant contribution to research and application in many of these key priority areas will support linkages with government, industry, business and the community in order to facilitate the translation of our research in areas of national priority.

While we will continue to communicate our research through traditional peer reviewed research publication, we will also communicate the impact of our research through new and traditional forms of media and we will develop and support the notion of open access to the knowledge we create.

While traditionally the doctorate was a training ground for an academic and/or research career, it is now becoming clear that many research qualified students will not, nor in fact do they aim to, work in academia but seek productive and rewarding employment in business, government, industry and not-for-profit organisations.

The research degree is changing worldwide and UC wishes to ensure that it is at the forefront of such changes.

Research degree candidates need to be equipped to enter the workforce with skills well beyond a technical focus on a specific research topic. The university is committed to providing research students with the skills and training required for the varied careers to which they will aspire. The research training environment that we develop should also ideally provide opportunities for a) inter-disciplinary work and b) links with the professions in business, industry and government. Opportunities will be created for research students to carry out projects with partners outside of academia with our research stakeholders and end-users of our research.


In order to ensure that our research is translated into real solutions, we will:

  • Support the development of strategic partnerships with government, business, industry and the community sector.
  • Provide advice and support for commercial and contract research.
  • Provide support for the development of bids to relevant collaborative schemes.
  • Develop a framework for patenting and licencing of inventions that may be of commercial value.
  • Develop research training hubs that have external stakeholders as partners and support "internships" for HDR students.
  • Provide a strong program of researcher development activities aimed at providing transferable skills.
  • Develop a framework for measuring the economic, social and environmental impact of our research.

Measures of success will include:

  • Total research income and especially Categories 2, 3 and 4 research income.
  • The number of HDR students linked with research end-users through internship arrangements.
  • The number of patents and licencing agreements.

Research is now a global enterprise where success is measured on an international scale as well as a national scale but benchmarked internationally.

Significant funding is directed to larger collaborative teams, bringing together different disciplinary expertise and capability to address "wicked" problems. In Australia, examples include AR C Centres of Excellence, CRCs and NHMR C Program Grants and international examples include the European Framework Funding programs. It is essential that we engage in collaborative research with our colleagues nationally and internationally bringing increased recognition for our research contribution.

The university has made a commitment to be truly international through the development of strategic relationships with international universities, especially in Asia. A key focus for this research plan will be the development of strategic research partnerships, both national and international, with the aim of increasing the national and international reach and reputation of our research.


Two key measurements to this theme;

* Increase the proportion of publications co-authored with international collaborators; and

* Improve our international reputation for research and teaching.

This strategy will also see research students provided with increased opportunity to gain international experience during their studies.

Partnerships will be supported at several levels; individual researcher-to-researcher collaborations, research centre strategic collaborations and university level strategic collaborations.


To support these objectives we will;

* Develop strategic partnerships with national and international universities especially in areas of research focus.

* Support university and faculty research centres in the development of strategic national and international partnerships.

* Ensure the Outside Studies Program is aligned with the international research strategy.

* Develop joint research degree programs both nationally and internationally.

* Provide increased opportunity for research students to gain an international experience.

* Provide opportunity for collaborating researchers and research students to spend time at UC.


Measures of success will include:

* the number of papers published with international co-authors.

* the amount of funding obtained through collaborative national and international grants and contracts.

* the number of HDR students who gain an international experience.