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Division of Research Town Hall Roundup: Quality vs. Quantity
Dear all,

We saw an impressive turnout of UNSW staff to our mid-year Research Town Hall, and I thank those who took the time to attend and offer valuable input into one of the hottest topics (or most vexed questions) on the research landscape- quality vs. quantity.

For a long time, publication quantity- ‘the publish or perish' mantra, has been the game. HERDC and Research Block Grant funding, academic promotion and grant success were all considered rewards for prolific publishing.
Yet the way research, impact and engagement is gauged is changing. Frameworks around the globe now increasingly value quality over quantity, and Australian universities must change with the times. ERA for instance penalises citation disciplines for the proportion of lowly cited outputs.

Then there is our performance in university rankings - love them or loathe them, rankings are here to stay. Global rankings are useful as a benchmarking tool, widely used by international students in deciding where to study, and play an important role in academic recruitment, industry and government engagement, and peer perception.
Our 2025 Strategy aspires to be a top 50 university – as measured by the average of the three main ranking systems (THE, QS, ARWU) - and we have never shied away from this ambitious target. There are many components to the different rankings, but each includes a citation/publication score directly relevant to this quality over quantity challenge. This is one area where the University could be performing better, including our field weighted citation impact, our number of highly cited researchers, and our Nature and Science papers.
Tips for improving your citation impact:
  • Ensure you have an ORCID number, and especially if you have a common name, so that all your citations are correctly attributed.
  • Create a Google Scholar page- this increases public access to your outputs, boosting your profile across the board.
  • Increase your Altmetrics score- tweeting and other social media significantly increase attention and engagement around your research.
  • Engage with Open Access- evidence suggests that if a paper is more widely available, it has more chance of being cited. Just beware of low impact or predatory open access journals.
  • Attend the UNSW Nature Masterclass or Publishing for Impact workshops, hosted by the Researcher Development Unit and free for UNSW staff.
  • Contact your Outreach Librarian for tailored, discipline-specific workshops on maximising scholarly reach for citation impact, including metrics, curating your digital presence and negotiating publishing contracts.
High Quality Research Papers Incentive Scheme
An incentive scheme has been launched to reward researchers and research groups for publishing high quality research papers. Its three tiers are found below, with additional details on the High Quality Research Papers Scheme webpage.

Key Incentive 1: Increasing the number of articles in High Quality Journals
This initiative provides $500 per paper for the lead UNSW author of published papers in the Nature Index, SJR journals >8, and intramurally-selected top 1% Humanities, Arts & Social Science journals.

Key Incentive 2: Increasing the number of Highly Cited Journal Articles
This initiative provides $1,000 for each paper identified once in any one year of the THE/QS five-year windows as a ‘Highly Cited Paper’ in Web of Science.

Key Incentive 3: Increasing the number of Nature & Science Articles
This incentive provides up to $10,000 for Corresponding Author of articles published in Nature or Science, and sliding amounts for other authors.
What else is UNSW doing to support quality publishing?
  • BORIS was introduced in 2017 to encourage researchers to reflect on their own metrics. Our next step will be enhancements to help you work out before you submit a paper, how likely you are to be cited and where a particular journal fits into various quality indicators.
  • Over 200 education-focused roles created across the university for those wishing to move out of teaching/research into teaching-only roles.
  • Quality now factored into MyCareer discussions, performance expectations, and promotions.
  • A pilot to embed similar ‘quality principles’ into other publication outputs, including non-traditional research outputs (NTROs), to ensure quality is addressed across the full spectrum of UNSW research output.
  • A series of well attended roadshows with Schools and Faculties to talk about quality vs. quantity, where our Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Excellence) present data using CiteScore to show the impact of your choice of journal on citation outcomes. If your School has yet to arrange one, please email Professor Ana Deletic (
Targeting journals, as well as performance, training and support tools, are all part of a balanced multifaceted approach to enhancing research and citation performance at UNSW, and I encourage all staff to familiarise themselves with these initiatives. For those of you couldn’t make it to the Town Hall, both the video recording and slides are available at

My regards,

Professor Nicholas Fisk
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research
UNSW Sydney
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research

UNSW Sydney NSW 2052
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