The impact agenda and academic publishing in Australia

The Australian government is currently considering scrapping entirely the use of academic research outputs as a determinant of university block grant funding in favour of a measure based on non-academic ‘impact’ with industry collaborators. In general, I am a big fan of the ‘impact agenda’ – the idea that publicly funded universities should explicitly and accountably articulate their research towards non-academic benefits, whether economic, social, or cultural.  The Australian interpretation of this seems to be veering towards a very narrow definition of impact in primarily economic terms and oriented primarily towards the private sector.  My concern in this piece, however, is the effect that radically devaluing academic publications would have on Australia’s higher education sector.  Put simply, I think there is a very clear case to be made that this would have a significant deleterious effect on Australian universities’ international standing, with consequent knock-on effects on the country’s ability to recruit high quality academics and international students alike. Continue reading