SECTION 1: Research Workforce
This section presents an analysis of the research workforce, in terms of FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) and headcount as submitted for the ERA 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018 rounds. Staffing data submitted by higher education institutions for ERA evaluations must meet the ERA definition of a 'member of staff' and the staff member must have an affiliation with an institution on the staff census date (see section 188.8.131.52 of ERA 2018 Submission Guidelines for eligibility criteria for researchers). The ERA definition of ‘member of staff’ also aligns with the definition from the Department of Education Higher Education Staff Data Collection Specifications (HESDC).
FTE represents the time or workload of individuals employed whereas headcount represents the raw number of employees (that is, no apportioning for part-time hours), the composition of the both groups differ as outlined in the following table:
Therefore, FTE staffing figures in this report (and in ERA evaluation reports) are a subset of the eligible researcher staff. This analysis is largely based on the headcount staffing numbers, in some cases the FTE staffing data are included for comparison.
The data was submitted by higher education institutions at the four-digit FoR code level. The two-digit FoR analyses presented in this report are the aggregated data of all the four-digit FoR codes which sit beneath the relevant two-digit FoR code.
Staffing data submitted are as at the staff census date for each ERA round. Therefore the datasets are ‘snapshots’ taken at census dates for respective ERA evaluations.
Changes in Research Workforce
FTE and headcount of research workforce by ERA round
The table below outlines changes in the staffing numbers by headcount during the last four ERA rounds, and the relative growth of disciplines in terms of researchers. It shows the number of researchers reported in each ERA round by the two-digit Fields of Research, percentage increase from ERA 2010 to 2018, the discipline share of researchers as a percentage of the total number reported, and the change in discipline share between ERA 2010 and 2018. Staffing numbers have increased in all the disciplines since ERA 2010. However, the increase varied between disciplines ranging from 3.8 per cent (Studies in Creative Arts and Writing) to 77.2 per cent (Environmental Sciences).
In terms of the discipline share of researchers, FoR 11 Medical and Health Sciences is by far the largest of all FoRs with 30.6 per cent of researchers of the total workforce reported in ERA 2018. Since ERA 2010, Medical and Health Sciences increased its share of the workforce from 26.2 per cent to 30.6 per cent, the largest increase for any discipline. Other disciplines that had an increase in the discipline share between 2010 and 2018 are Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Earth Sciences, Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences, and Psychology and Cognitive Sciences. Fifteen FoRs experienced a decline in their discipline share between 2010 and 2018.
Workforce change by two-digit Fields of Research and ERA rounds (headcount)
Trends in workforce change by two-digit Fields of Research and ERA rounds (headcount)
Workforce change by two-digit Fields of Research and ERA rounds (FTE)
Trends in workforce change by two-digit Fields of Research and ERA rounds (FTE)
Employment Status by Headcount
An eligible researcher's status follows from their affiliation with the institution. The status determines which of the staff member’s research outputs an institution can include as part of their ERA submission. For the purposes of ERA, the status of an eligible researcher is one of the following:
- Employed on a full-time or fractional full-time basis
- Employed on a casual basis
- Other employed, e.g. unpaid, visiting, seconded, or exchange staff members
Staff headcount in terms of Employment Status shows that the research workforce has grown in all three categories between ERA 2010 and 2018: employed 13 per cent (from 43,591 to 49,356), casually employed 61 per cent (from 3,593 to 5,785) and the other employed 144 per cent (a significant increase from 8,658 to 21,120). These increases, as shown in the charts below, also reflect the changes to the proportionate distribution of researchers in the three categories over time. The proportion of full-time or fractional full-time researchers has decreased from 78.1 per cent in ERA 2010 to 64.7 per cent in ERA 2018, while the staff in the other employed category has jumped from 15.5 per cent to 27.7 per cent as a proportion of the total. The proportion of the casual staff grew slightly between ERA 2010 and 2015 but went down to 8 per cent in 2018.
Number of researchers by Employment Status and ERA round (headcount)
Proportion of researchers by Employment Status and ERA round (headcount)
Employment Function by Headcount
The function of an eligible researcher describes the general type of work which they have formally agreed with the institution to undertake. For ERA purposes, the function of an eligible researcher can be described as 'research only', 'teaching and research', or 'other function':
- Research only—this function involves undertaking only research work or providing technical or professional research assistance, or the management and leadership of research staff and of staff who support research staff. There may be limited other work (e.g. participation in the development of postgraduate courses and supervision of postgraduate students). This definition is to be interpreted as having the same content as the HESDC definition of a 'research only' function.
- Teaching and research—in addition to the activities undertaken in the 'research only' function, this function also involves undertaking teaching and associated activities (including lecturing, group or individual tutoring, preparation of teaching materials, supervision of students, marking, and preparation for the foregoing activities), or the management and leadership of teaching staff and research staff and persons who support such staff. This definition is to be interpreted as having the same content as the HESDC definition of 'a teaching and research function'.
- Other function—functions other than 'research only' or 'teaching and research'. A researcher whose function is 'teaching only' who has produced one or more submitted research outputs should be classified as 'other function'. This definition is to be interpreted as having the same content as the combined HESDC definitions of a 'teaching only' and an 'other function'.
Where a staff member has multiple functions within an institution, the institution selects the function most applicable to that staff member.
The staffing numbers for all three employment functions have increased steadily over the period of last four ERA rounds as shown in the charts below. Between ERA 2010 and 2018, the largest growth occurred in the 'other' category, (85 per cent), followed by 'research only' (38 per cent) and 'teaching and research' (16 per cent).
'Research only' staff as a proportion of the total have remained largely unchanged since 2010. The proportion of staff involved in teaching and research has seen a decrease from 52.7 per cent 2010 to 44.6 per cent in 2018.