Research and HERDC

Universities annually report to the Australian Government on their research income as part of the Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC). Such income is included as one component in the formulae by which the appropriate Government Department determines the quanta of research block grants (Joint Research Engagement (JRE), Sustainable Research Excellence (SRE), Research Training Scheme (RTS) and Research Infrastructure Block Grant (RIBG), International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (IPRS), Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA))

For this purpose, the Government uses a narrow definition of “research” which may be found in the HERDC specifications at the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research website.

All other income from research-related activities is loosely aggregated (sometimes misleadingly) under the term “consultancy”.

Research Services makes the determination on whether a project can be counted as research for HERDC, as per the excerpted rules below. If you have any queries about this matter, please contact Research Services on (07) 4781 5011.

Accounts for research-related activities are established by Grants Finance, within FaBS. If an account is for “research” (ie. to be counted as such for HERDC) it will have the following structure: @@@@.9@@@@.2@@@. “Consultancy” accounts are structured: @@@@.7@@@@.2@@@.

‘Research’ as specified for HERDC

Research is defined as the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way so as to generate new concepts, methodologies and understandings. This could include synthesis and analysis of previous research to the extent that it leads to new and creative outcomes.

This definition of research is consistent with a broad notion of research and experimental development (R&D) as comprising of creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humanity, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications .

This definition of research encompasses pure and strategic basic research, applied research and experimental development. Applied research is original investigation undertaken to acquire new knowledge but directed towards a specific, practical aim or objective (including a client-driven purpose).

Activities that support the conduct of research and therefore meet the definition of research 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 Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students enrolled at the Higher Education Provider (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)

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

  • commercial, legal and administrative aspects of patenting, copyright or licensing activities

  • routine computer programming, systems work or software maintenance.

Income that may be counted:

  • travel grants where funds are provided specifically for the purpose of travel and used to enable access to a program of research. Researchers using the funds are expected to be active participants in the research program, rather than observers or visitors

Income that cannot be counted:

  • funds provided specifically for the purpose of hosting, organising or travel to and attending a conference, workshop or meeting unless funds are specifically for enabling access to a program of research

  • funds provided specifically for the purpose of producing research publications (that is, for publishing research rather than conducting it)

The full HERDC specifications are available here: Higher Education Research Data Collection