Research is also the bedrock of the modern university. In this, Australian universities tend to punch above their weight: they consistently rank highly in the OECD per capita outputs, above even other strongly performing systems across Europe and North America. As a culture, we are aware that our educational institutions cannot only be places where students are taught what has already been discovered by others; creating new information is equally important. Universities provide the infrastructure, facilitate networking and collaboration, streamline paths toward effective funding, and deliver outstanding education and training to create and nurture superior researchers within their areas of research strength and priorities.
However, universities do not exist in a vacuum, bringing forth new knowledge from the void. They are subject to unique challenges, from increasingly complex competitive grants applications, to data quality challenges and relentless demands on internal resourcing. One of the biggest challenges is that the regulatory landscape universities cross continually changes.
We know from the recent Inquiry into Funding Australia’s Research that the competitive grants landscape is not just fragmented and laborious to navigate, but also bewildering in its complexity. Universities reported directly that funding requirements and processes represented a significant administrative challenge, particularly highlighting that they are all subject to regular change.
Internal administration provides its own challenges. Research management draws on multiple functions within the university, from human resources to finance, and has to carefully balance the needs of a variety of disparate stakeholders. Despite this, research administrators’ roles and powers are not always as clearly defined as they would like.