The results of the latest assessment of research excellence in Australia have been released. Now, every university will spin the results to suit their own purpose*. While we can leave universities to report their results so they appear to shine in the best possible light, it would be interesting to see how different research fields performed.
Which are Australia’s strongest research fields? The broad research fields with the most universities rated above world standard are “Medical and Health Sciences” and “Environmental Science”.
Following them are “Chemical Sciences”, “Biological Sciences”, and “Engineering”, with “Mathematical Sciences”, “Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences”, and “History and Archaeology” not far behind.
Within the two strong fields in which I am involved (Environmental Sciences and Biological Sciences), the strongest areas are “Environmental Science and Management” and “Ecology”. Somewhat perversely, “Ecological Applications” is separated from “Ecology” – many of the publications assigned to one during the ERA process could just have easily be assigned to the other. However, it is clear that Environmental Sciences and Ecology are two of Australia’s strongest research fields.
This strength of Environmental Sciences and Ecology in Australia is also reflected in Australia’s representation in the list of the most highly-cited authors in the Thomson-Reuters list, something I’ve noted previously.
Some other interesting data exist in ERA15, such as total research funding (see below). With that much research funding, you’d hope medical research in Australia would perform well!
But in terms of bang for buck, it is hard to go past some other fields, such as mathematics, environmental sciences and history.
So, while the Environmental Sciences and Ecology are not the most heavily funded, they are two of Australia’s strongest research fields. Not only that, this research, conducted across many of Australia’s universities, has a large impact, helping manage Australia’s and the world’s environment more efficiently.
So people, let’s recognize the excellence of environmental and ecological research that occurs across Australia!
* Footnote: ANU even devised their own method for ranking institutions, and you won’t be surprised to know that (judged by their own criteria) ANU won. That outcome was parroted by Campus Review, which failed to note that at least one other university out-performed ANU on at least one of their criteria (the proportion of broad research fields rated above word standard). Universities love playing the ranking game, but I’m surprised a news outlet would publish claims without checking them.