Bradley Smith says so-long to SEO codes

By Bradley Smith

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is advising universities they do not have to report data by socio-economic code for biennial Higher Education Research and Development reports

While SEOs are used for some grant applications, including to the Australian Research Council, they have never been taken that seriously in the sector.

It is interesting, although no doubt mere co-incidence, that the ABS advice comes a couple of weeks out from final submissions for the ARC review of Excellence for Research in Australia and the new Engagement and Impact measure. There was an argument, (including a specific question in the ARC discussion paper), about whether it would be better to use SEOs for EI rather than disciplinary Fields of Research, which are the primary research classification.

A reason to consider that change is SEOs would be better aligned to the policy/political intent of university accountability in generating social, economic, environmental and cultural impacts outside the academic field. This decision may kill off that thought.

The ABS decision saves work for it and universities, but is another example of the declining scope of the ABS data portfolio due to steady, unrelenting budget constraints. It also comes a mere three months after the updated research classifications, including SEO, were released by the ABS and Stats NZ after a long period of consultation.

An additional outcome is universities may choose to cease recording SEO codes in their publications repositories.

Bradley Smith is senior research policy advisor at James Cook U