“When quantitative measures have an outsized impact on how people are rewarded, it can increase the temptation to focus on a narrow set of activities and reduce investment in other meaningful, but less rewarded, achievements.” Using traditional bibliometric standards of “quality” to inform research assessment can have a deleterious effect on how and what types of research are valued, as stated in DORA’s Unintended Cognitive & Systems Biases brief.
The 2019 review of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) found a lack of visibility, and therefore recognition, of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Māori, and Pacific Peoples research, which impeded policy development. It also reported a reduced ability for people in Indigenous communities to access Indigenous-focused research and data. The result of the 2019 ANZSRC review was a new classification system with divisions created for Indigenous research in consultation with Indigenous research communities in Australia and New Zealand. The 2019 ANZSRC review indicates the importance of ongoing efforts in Australia and New Zealand to recognize and support Indigenous research, which were discussed at DORA’s second Asia-Pacific Funder Meeting on March 8, 2021. In this meeting, representatives from some of the public and private funders of research in New Zealand and Australia exchanged information about new and ongoing Indigenous research policies and funding opportunities.
Research that specifically holds value for local and Indigenous populations may have a lower citation impact than global or regional baselines, as found in the 2020 study The state of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Māori and Pacific Peoples research. In the current funding climate, lower citation impact translates to greater difficulty garnering research funding. To address this challenge, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) discussed its reforms to incorporate research impact into their new track record framework and redefine ‘quality’ by asking researchers to include their best publications with an explanation for why those publications are impactful. NHMRC emphasized the importance of including different fields of research in the assessment and funding process.
In addition to making efforts to move away from bibliometric indicators, the need for current and ongoing mechanisms to better acknowledge Indigenous researchers and research were also discussed. An example at the institutional level is the Carumba Institute at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). The Carumba Institute is specifically dedicated to prioritizing Indigenous Australian research, developing Indigenous Australian researchers, and also supports the QUT-published International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies. Research conducted within the Carumba Institute includes the development of Indigenous people’s education, academic professional development, and organizational leadership. At a national level, NHMRC’s Road Map 3 helps chart the direction for Indigenous health and medical research investment. NHMRC also recently called for submissions of research priorities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Additionally, improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a Strategic Priority in the NHMRC Corporate Plan 2020-2021. Key actions of this plan include establishing a National Network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Researchers. This network will bring together Indigenous health research groups and their support networks to build the capacity and capability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers. NHMRC also added that it specifically supports research that will provide better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is committed to allocating at least 5% of the Medical Research Endowment Account annually to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. Finally, the tripartite agreement between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC), and the NHMRC is an important commitment to collaborate on mutual health research priorities for these three countries.
Similarly, HRC is refining key pieces of policy related to equity and prioritization of funding for Māori health research. Over the past few years, in addition to ring-fenced funds targeting Māori health research, the HRC has been progressively implementing requirements for Māori health advancement to be embedded within all biomedical and applied research. Applicants are asked to specifically explain how their research will support Māori-health advancement and this is assessed as part of peer review. In terms of structure, HRC also discussed their dedicated Māori Health Research Committee, whose members are recruited from among qualified Māori health researchers. The Māori Health Research Committee is responsible for funds distribution and advising Council on how to proceed with Indigenous-related strategy and policy creation. Additionally, it was noted that a positive outcome of HRC Indigenous funding initiatives over the past years has been an increase in New Zealand universities creating positions to support Indigenous researchers. Although HRC currently has infrastructure in place, it was noted that they are constantly looking to improve through iterative feedback and are planning to work to explore the relevance of narrative CVs in HRC’s context. Additionally, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment includes an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Capability Fund that specifically seeks to support research organizations to grow an equitable and inclusive workforce.
DORA’s funder discussion group is a community of practice that meets virtually each quarter to discuss policies and topics related to fair and responsible research assessment. If you are a public or private funder of research interested in joining the group, please reach out to DORA’s Program Director, Anna Hatch ([email protected]).
Haley Hazlett is DORA’s Policy Intern