Melbourne Law School Definition of Research Excellence
- Substantial Body of High Quality Work
- Recognition as a Leading Researcher in the Field
- Research Leadership Within the Law School or University
This definition of an excellent researcher within the Melbourne Law School has been prepared to assist the University and Law School in identifying outstanding researchers in law and to provide an aspirational standard for scholars at all levels, including professors.
In order to be considered an excellent researcher, an academic would have a substantial body of high quality work published over a sustained period of time. In addition such researchers would have a reputation as excellent researchers in their field and have demonstrated research leadership within the Law School, University (or, in the case of new appointments, research leadership in their previous workplace).
In law most high quality publications consist of:
- Books of high quality (both authored and edited).
- Articles and book chapters of high quality.
- Highly influential reports, submissions, working papers or other similar works.
Researcher excellence may take a number of different paths in law. Some researchers aim primarily or solely to influence the academic community and the quality of their work is most appropriately recognised through academic quality indicators. Other researchers aim to influence law and policy in a more direct way and the quality of their work may in part be measured by the impact that is has on legal outcomes and debate about legal issues in the public domain.
Law is also a broad discipline where quantitative measures as a proxy for quality are not always suitable or appropriate. For example, some scholars may undertake empirical or multi-disciplinary work, or research and write in a language that is not their native language, which may require more time in undertaking data collection or preliminary research than other forms of legal research. The length of articles written for law journals also ranges from anywhere from around 8,000 words up to 25,000 words (and sometimes more, particularly in US journals). Some research is in the form of substantial books that take some years of concentrated research to produce; others are in the form of relatively short articles. Some researchers work part time and others take on substantial administrative or teaching loads, well beyond that of most members of faculty. Thus the time taken to produce a single piece of research will depend on a number of factors and benchmarks that assume that all legal researchers can and should produce the same quantity of research are inappropriate.
For this reason no minimum quantity of published works is included in the definition of an excellent researcher for law. Instead, it is expected that an excellent researcher would produce a substantial body of work over a sustained period of time and reflecting their time-fraction of employment. What is considered to be a substantial body of work will depend on the precise type of research that a member of the Law School is engaged in. But the research that is undertaken should be substantial and innovative. Innovation and high quality research in law may take a number of forms, but would always aim to meet world standards of excellence. That does not mean that the work should always be published in international outlets. The domestic nature of some law research and the fact that some researchers have as their primary aim influencing domestic law or policy, mean that world class research will in some cases be published domestically. Those whose research takes a primarily international, comparative or theoretical approach, on the other hand, would usually be expected to be publishing at least part of their research output in international outlets.
Quality may be demonstrated by a combination of many (though not necessarily all) of the indicators listed below or by making a case, supported by appropriate evidence, as to the quality of a particular work. A quality work is one that has significant influence in the field in which the scholarship is undertaken. The indicators below are some proxies for quality, but not intended to be comprehensive or to exclude other indicators of quality that may be more appropriate for particular types of scholarship. (In particular, as many leading law journals are not refereed, this is not included as an indicator of research excellence, although it may be a relevant factor in some legal research).
Indicators of Research Excellence of Published Works
- Publication of a book (or a chapter in a book) published by a top tier scholarly publisher or a leading legal publisher or leading publisher in another discipline area where the work is interdisciplinary.
- Publication of the researcher's journal article in a leading generalist or specialist journal.
- Positive reviews of the researcher's authored or edited books.
- Reviews or articles that engage in a substantial (even if critical) debate with works by the researcher.
- Citations of works by the researcher by authors (from a range of jurisdictions where appropriate), particularly citations by leading scholars in the field.
- Citation of works by the researcher by courts in Australia or elsewhere.
- Citation and other use of works by the researcher by government, industry, the non-government sector or other end users.
- Adoption of proposals by the researcher in law or policy by any level of government, international organization, industry, NGO etc or the work leading to a substantial debate/discussion about whether reforms in a particular area are needed.
- Use of extracts from works by the researcher in cases and materials or similar texts or as prescribed reading in reading guides at other universities.
- Excellent results in SSRN rankings and other similar schemes that the Law School participates in over time.
In addition to a core body of excellent scholarship, an excellent researcher is expected to be recognised as a leading researcher in his or her field (whether that field is defined in primarily domestic or international terms will depend on the type of research involved). Some indicators of recognition are set out below. No-one would be expected to achieve all of these markers and the most appropriate combination of these markers to reach research excellence will depend on the type of research being undertaken, but an excellent researcher would be expected to achieve a significant number of them.
Indicators of Recognition as a Leading Researcher in the Field
- Editorships of journals or other significant responsibilities such as section editor.
- Series editorship of a book series.
- Membership of advisory committees for journals, research centres, law programmes etc.
- Invitations to speak at conferences, particularly as a plenary speaker.
- Partnership in research collaborations or research networks, including programmes such as the ARC Research Networks programme.
- Fellowships or honorary positions at other universities.
- Research fellowship or scholarship (eg Fulbright Senior Scholar, Jean Monnet Visiting Fellowship) and awards of a research fellowship from the ARC or other external funding sources.
- Contributions to highly regarded non-specialist publications.
- Awards or honours for research by government or non-government bodies.
- Recognition as an Australian Reader, International Reader or other serious responsibilities by the ARC or similar international research scheme.
- Membership of government, industry, non-government advisory boards (including boards of management) or consultancies/advisory positions with such bodies where such membership is attributable to research expertise.
- Invitations to contribute to law reform projects (by government or non-government groups) or to be involved in training or education where such invitations are attributable to research expertise.
The final requirement for an excellent researcher is that they make a contribution of research leadership within the Law School. Again, no researcher would be expected to meet all of these indicators. Some areas of scholarship may be better able to attract grant money, for example, while others may attract more research students. Other people may make their contribution to the Law School through assisting with the development of research policy or mentoring for junior scholars. Others may do so through university initiatives and committees where they substantially contribute to research development. Those who are recent appointments to the Law School may demonstrate equivalent research leadership in their previous workplace.
Indicators of Research Leadership within the Law School
- Success as a CI on ARC research grants.
- Obtaining other competitive, external research grants.
- Leadership in obtaining industry or other funding for research.
- Successful role as grants shepherd for the Law School.
- Leadership of a successful and research active Centre or research group (where there is a demonstrated link between the leadership of the group and the research output of the group).
- High level of successful research supervision of RHD students.
- Leadership role in developing links that led to an ARC Linkage Grant or other external funding, even if not participating in those grants as a CI.
- Mentoring role for junior research staff and research students.
- Leadership in research training for JD, LLB, LLM or graduate research (PhD or MPhil) students.
- Leadership in developing research policy and planning for the Faculty or University.