For the purposes of both internal and external research-related funding formulae, income and publications can only be considered if they fall within the definition of 'Research' (see below) as provided by the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training. Other specific inclusions and exclusions must also be considered. For full details refer to the latest Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) - Specifications for collection of data, available from the Australian Government website.

Definition of Research

The HERDC definition of research is consistent with the OECD definition of research and experimental development (R&D) set out in the 2015 Frascati Manual and is therefore defined as:

‘creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge.'1

For an activity to be an R&D activity it must satisfy five core criteria:

  1. To be aimed at new findings (novel),
  2. To be based on original, not obvious, concepts and hypotheses (creative),
  3. To be uncertain about the final outcomes (uncertain),
  4. To be planned and budgeted (systemic), and
  5. To lead to results that could be possibly reproduced (transferable and/or reproducible).2

The above definition encompasses pure and oriented basic research, applied research and experimental development.

Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.

Pure basic research is carried out for the advancement of knowledge, without seeking economic or social benefits or making an active effort to apply the results to practical problems or to transfer the results to sectors responsible for their application.

Oriented basic research is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of knowledge likely to form the basis of the solution to recognised or expected current or future problems or possibilities.

Applied research is original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective (including a client-driven purpose).

Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products or processes.

Activities that support the conduct of research and therefore meet the above definition can include:

  • professional, technical, administrative or clerical support staff directly engaged in activities essential to the conduct of research,
  • management of staff who are either directly engaged in the conduct of research or are providing professional, technical, administrative or clerical support or assistance to those staff,
  • the activities and training of HDR3 students enrolled at the HEP,
  • the development of HDR training and courses,
  • the supervision of students enrolled at the HEP and undertaking HDR training and courses,
  • research and experimental development into applications software, new programming languages and new operating systems (such R&D would normally meet the definition of research),
  • Prototype development and testing,
  • Construction and operation of a pilot plant where the primary objective is to make further improvements,
  • Trial production where there is full scale testing and subsequent further design and engineering,
  • Phases I to III of clinical trials.

Activities that do not support the conduct of research must be excluded, such as:

  • scientific and technical information services,
  • general purpose or routine data collection,
  • standardisation and routine testing,
  • feasibility studies (except into research and experimental development projects),
  • specialised routine medical care,
  • literature reviews that are predominantly a summary of the current knowledge and findings of a particular research field or topic and do not include any critical assessment or report any new findings or original experimental work,
  • commercial, legal and administrative aspects of patenting, plant breeders rights, copyright, material transfer agreements or intellectual property licensing, option and assignment activities,
  • routine computer programming, systems work or software maintenance,
  • Stages of product development that do not meet the five R&D criteria,4
  • Pre-production development,5
  • Market research,
  • Construction of fully tested prototypes for marketing purposes,
  • After sales service and trouble-shooting,
  • Industrial engineering and design for production purposes,
  • Artistic performance or expression,
  • R&D financing and support services.

1 OECD (2015), Frascati Manual 2015: Guidelines for Collecting and Reporting Data on Research and Experimental Development, The Measurement of Scientific, Technological and Innovation Activities, OECD Publishing, Paris, pp 44-45

2 Ibid. pp 46-48

3 Higher degree by research (HDR) training is training undertaken by students to achieve a Research Doctorate or Research Masters. A Research Doctorate means a Level 10 Doctoral Degree (Research) qualification as described in the Australian Qualifications Framework and a Research Masters means a Level 9 Masters Degree (Research) qualification as described in the Australian Qualifications Framework. Professional Doctorates may be included but only where two-thirds of the qualification is research.

4 OECD (2015), Frascati Manual 2015: Guidelines for Collecting and Reporting Data on Research and Experimental Development, The Measurement of Scientific, Technological and Innovation Activities, OECD Publishing, Paris, pp 53-54

5 Ibid. pp 54  
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