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Performance-based Funding for Public Research in Tertiary Education Institutions

Workshop Proceedings

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Governments are seeking to channel research funds into universities and other institutions in ways that support high-quality research in strategically important areas and bolster effective knowledge diffusion. These issues of steering and funding have even more relevance in light of the current  financial crisis and economic downturn which have seen severe fiscal pressures fall on many countries.

This publication presents a collection of papers presented at an OECD workshop on performance-based funding of public research in tertiary education institutions. It takes stock of current thinking and practice around performance-based funding of public research in tertiary education institutions, as a tool to help governments meet their research goals. These funding models are essentially systems of ex-post evaluation of research outputs and outcomes from universities and other tertiary institutions, and are generally based on peer review, bibliometric or other quantitative indicators. Their results are used to inform government decisions about how much and which institutions to fund.

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Executive summary

Tertiary education institutions (TEIs) are a key pillar of countries’ research and innovation systems. As part of the public research system, they play many roles: education, training, skills development, problem solving, creation and diffusion of knowledge, development of new instrumentation, and storage and transmission of knowledge. Expenditure on R&D performed by the higher education sector forms a relatively small component of total R&D spending in OECD countries: an average of 0.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008, equivalent to around 17% of total gross domestic expenditure on R&D. Nevertheless, because TEIs often undertake longer-term, higher-risk research activities at some distance from commercialisation, they make an essential contribution to the knowledge base and complement the research activities undertaken by the private sector.

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