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Med J Aust. 2006 May 1;184(9):463-6.

The Research Quality Framework and its implications for health and medical research: time to take stock?

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  • 1Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


As the Australian university sector awaits final decisions about the introduction and stipulations of a research quality framework (RQF), to assess the quality and impact of research, we have studied international commentary on the value of such exercises. This suggests there is little hard evidence to recommend the proposed RQF. The UK government led the field in 1986 with its research assessment exercise (RAE), which is widely believed to have compromised clinical academic medicine by failing to satisfactorily acknowledge the contribution of clinical academics, not only to research but also to teaching and clinical practice. After the 2008 RAE, the UK government will move to a simpler, metrics-based system for assessing research quality and allocating funding. The New Zealand Performance Based Review Fund (PBRF), introduced in 2003, is based on a combination of peer review and performance indicators. Several concerns have been raised; among them is the real cost-benefit ratio of participation, with reports that many universities have spent more on the exercise than they will gain in funding increases. The scoring system has received the most criticism and, after the partial round assessment scheduled for this year, the controversial unit of assessment will be reviewed. It might be more cost-effective for Australia to modify existing research assessment processes than to undertake a potentially costly and arduous exercise.

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