Combining the two research indexes
The two research indexes described above need to be combined to produce a composite index that reflects both the number of research degree completions and the amount of research funded by government and industry. Government funding policies have varied over time, which makes it difficult to find a consistent way to aggregate these two indexes. To allow future periods to be easily incorporated into the index, the government’s most recent funding rule, of 2017, was chosen to derive aggregation weights.9
In 2017, two government university research support programs were established: the Research Support Program (RSP); and the Research Training Program (RTP). The RSP funds the systemic cost of university research not already supported through specific research projects, such as libraries, laboratories, consumables, and computing centres whereas the RTP funds scholarships to support the training of students undertaking higher degrees by research.
The government allocates RSP funding purely on the basis of performance in research grant income generation (including both government and industry grants). 50% of RTP is allocated on the basis of research grant income generation and 50% on the basis of research degree completions. Using 2017 data, total RSP funding to universities was added to half of the total RTP funding, and this figure was divided by the combined total of RSP and RTP funding to derive the proportion of funding based on research grant success. The proportion is estimated to be about 73%, which was used as the relative weight for research output funded by government and industry. The residual 27% was used as the relative weight for research degree completions. (This calculation is outlined in greater detail in the technical appendix.) These weights are used to combine the two research activities into a composite index of research output.