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JOURNALS will no longer be assigned rankings in a radical shake up of the Excellence in Research for Australia initiative, announced by Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Kim Carr today.
The ranking of journals as A*, A, B and C was the most contentious aspect of the ERA exercise devised and administered by the Australian Research Council, with the first results published in January.
``I wished to explore ways in which we could improve ERA so the aspects of the exercise causing sector disquiet, especially issues around the ranked journals list, could be minimised or even overcome,'' Senator Carr said in a ministerial statement.
He chastised the research community, saying: ``There is clear and consistent evidence that the rankings were being deployed inappropriately within some quarters of the sector, in ways that could produce harmful outcomes, and based on a poor understanding of the actual role of the rankings.
``One common example was the setting of targets for publication in A and A* journals by institutional research managers.
``In light of these two factors - that ERA could work perfectly well without the rankings, and that their existence was focussing ill-informed undesirable behaviour in the management of research - I have made the decision to remove the rankings, based on the ARC's expert advice.''
Senator Carr said lists of journals would still be important, and each journal would be provided with a publication profile, that is, an indication of how often it was chosen as the forum of publication by academics in a given field.
``These reforms will strengthen the role of the ERA Research Evaluation Committee members in using their own, discipline-specific expertise to make judgments about the journal publication patterns for each unit of evaluation.''
ARC chief executive Margaret Sheil said the change empowered ``committee members to use their expert judgement to take account of nuances in publishing behaviour''.
``This approach will allow experts to make judgements about the quality of journals in the context of each discipline,'' Professor Sheil said.
Other changes announced include: increasing the capacity to accommodate multi-disciplinary research and investigating strategies to strengthen the peer review process, including improved methods of sampling and review assignment.