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Establishing best practice university research funding strategies using mixed-mode modelling

By Miles G. Nicholls and Barbara J. Cargill

Abstract

This paper develops a model representing the university research funding problem under a performance based research funding (PBRF) scheme during the 'lead-up period' using a mixed-mode modelling approach (involving soft and hard models) and suggests a solution heuristic. The resultant model facilitates the development of 'best practice' strategies to assist in raising the level of research quality and participation, thus placing the university (or academic unit) in the best possible position for facing the final hurdle, the formal research assessment process. This assessment process constitutes the 'positioning problem', for which models already exist to assist individual universities to adopt the most favourable strategy. However, the ultimate position of the university depends on the results from the lead-up period. The suggested model facilitates 'research enhancement' strategy formulation, evaluation and revision and actively involves the researchers themselves. Benchmarking, an Expert Panel (operating on panel consensus) and subjective strategy impact evaluation are the key tools used. The suggested methodology relies on the knowledge, wisdom and experience of the researchers themselves and will hopefully facilitate the achievement of an academic unit's research goals over the lead-up period preparing them for the 'positioning problem'. The paper also offers some suggestions as to how to establish and obtain maximum usefulness from the expert panel. Lastly, the suggested solution to the suggested model is user friendly, requiring no more than the use of a spreadsheet.University research funding Mixed-mode modelling Strategy evaluation

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