What Does Research Excellence Look Like

Research excellence is clearly discipline specific, but a common characteristic of world-class researchers is that they are involved in shifting paradigms and creating new models of human understanding. They are actively involved in constructively criticising perceived wisdom in a specific field. Their views are usually based on new observations, including qualitative observations or quantitative scientific evidence, or new interpretations that ultimately support logical conclusions. Not infrequently, such observations are stimulated by the application of new technologies and methodological advances.

The world's greatest universities have a critical mass of individual researchers, or research teams, capable of performing at this level and a concentration of research excellence that allows or facilitates highly creative approaches to tackling some of the world's most complex and difficult problems across disciplines [2]. Such 'concentration' of research excellence is a fundamental concept that every institutional leader must foster and support. At the very highest levels of worldclass performance universities demonstrate this level of excellence, not only at the level of specific individuals, but also within and across multiple disciplines.

World-class research universities are typically engaged in trying to solve the most complex and intractable problems facing their own societies, or global society, in a coordinated and systemic manner across multiple departments, and in confident partnerships with other world-class institutions, local or global industry, governments and ministries and their health care, education, social care and public policy systems. Being an effective and seriously engaged partner is now an essential aspect of being a world-class university.

No world-class university can be universally excellent at everything and thus each institution must decide where to focus institutional efforts and resources. Institutional leaders must be bold enough to focus resources where they might have the greatest impact on research performance and profile. Deciding where an individual university can be truly distinctive and have the greatest international impact in its research activity is of fundamental importance to achieving world-class status.

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