28 September 2011, by Professor Linda Butler
In both the UK and Australia, the method for assessing university research performance, which feeds into block grant funding has undergone major change. In this short piece, I do not have the space to revisit the full history of developments in both systems, but suffice it to say political and bureaucratic drivers saw the Australian developments in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative and the UK developments in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) arriving at a very similar point in late 2008. The developments occurred from quite different starting points, but at that time both countries were planning to introduce a metrics based system of assessment for the sciences, with a central role for bibliometrics, while relying on peer review for the social sciences, humanities and the arts. After that, the two developments diverged markedly.