Benchmarking is a recognised business tool to improve quality and competitiveness. It has been widely and successfully implemented in a range of industries. Implementation of benchmarking procedures as a means of measuring quality of research is recommended by a number of international reports, government and funding bodies. Most importantly, a clear need for benchmarking of research is included in the recent Discussion (Green) Paper on research, New Knowledge, New Opportunities. Such recommendations, however, are rarely accompanied by guidelines on processes to be followed. The issue to be explored here is whether an appropriate framework can be identified from practices in. industry and particularly the public sector, suitable for benchmarking research in higher education. The aims of the study are to
1. examine the applicability of industry and prior university-based attempts to implement benchmarking; and
2. develop a model that will assist a university develop research managen1ent procedures and policies that are world best practice.
Examination of the literature, discussion of approaches and analysis of case studies led to the development of a propositional model that suggests that there are four key factors that appear to influence any benchmarking approach. Three of these variables - organisational level (focus of activity), type or intended outcomes, and purpose or drivers (ranking or empowennent) - are combined to provide a three-dimensional model that is surrounded by the fourth dimension, environmental factors. The model has been extended to develop a series of elements and stages that should be adopted when developing a benchmarking process for research. This model is currently being tested by means of a pilot study with an overseas institution.