In order for higher education providers in Australia to receive federal government funding for research they must report on research activity defined as follows.
For the purposes of these specifications, research comprises:
- creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications
- any activity classified as research which is characterised by originality; it should have investigation as a primary objective and should have the potential to produce results that are sufficiently general for humanity's stock of knowledge (theoretical and/or practical) to be recognisably increased. Most higher education research work would qualify as research
- pure basic research, strategic basic research, applied research and experimental development.
Activities that support research and meet this definition of research include:
- provision of professional, technical, administrative or clerical support and/or assistance to staff directly engaged in research
- management of staff who are either directly engaged in research or are providing professional, technical or clerical support or assistance to those staff
- activities of students undertaking postgraduate research courses
- development of postgraduate research courses
- supervision of students undertaking postgraduate research courses.
Activities that do not support research must be excluded, such as:
- preparation for teaching
- scientific and technical information services
- general purpose or routine data collection
- standardisation and routine testing
- feasibility studies (except into research and experimental development projects)
- specialised routine medical care
- commercial, legal and administrative aspects of patenting, copyright or licensing activities
- routine computer programming, systems work or software maintenance (research and experimental development into applications software, new programming languages and new operating systems would normally meet the definition of research).
Publication categories 
There are four publication categories counted in the 2009 HERDC Research Publications Return:
- Book Chapters
- Journal Articles
- Conference Publications.
Each category has a set of defined criteria which must be met for a research publication to be included. The 2009 HERDC Research Publications Return must report only research publications which are books, book chapters, journal articles and/or conference publications which meet the definition of research, are within the specifications of the reference year and are characterised by:
- substantial scholarly activity, as evidenced by discussion of the relevant literature, an awareness of the history and antecedents of work described, and provided in a format which allows a reader to trace sources of the work, including through citations and footnotes
- originality (i.e. not a compilation of existing works)
- veracity/validity through a peer validation process or by satisfying the commercial publisher processes
- increasing the stock of knowledge
- being in a form that enables dissemination of knowledge.