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Results and Commentary on Performance

AIMS successfully achieved all high-priority research outcomes detailed in the AIMS Portfolio Budget Statement 2019-20, and the AIMS Corporate Plan 2019-20.

At the start of each annual reporting cycle, only a proportion of external revenue (40–60%) is contracted. This creates two risks that AIMS manages within the cycle:

  • Annual external revenue earnings, and hence the capability that AIMS can retain and the associated research outputs it should target, is subject to forecasting error. Note that the market sectors in which AIMS operates are dominated by short-term bespoke research projects; there are few routine or regulated external revenue sources.
  • Clients contract AIMS to undertake specific research projects (i.e. the research scope is contractually linked to the funding). While AIMS undertakes extensive stakeholder consultations when setting plans, it is still not feasible to predict exactly which areas of research will be externally funded.

In response, AIMS operates an adaptive research planning process that continually reviews and adjusts its research portfolio so that the highest priority research is completed.

COVID-19 did not have a significant impact on our science deliverables in 2019-20, but it did affect negatively our external revenue earnings. Expected projects were deferred or cancelled, and COVID-19 controls to ensure the safety of AIMS staff resulted in a reduced field program, which meant that some contracted work could not be delivered, and the associated planned external revenue could not be realised. The COVID-19 controls also resulted in lower utilisation of AIMS major research assets – the National Sea Simulator and the two large research vessels, the RV Cape Ferguson and the RV Solander.

The longer-term impact of COVID-19 on AIMS, its science and finances remains unclear. However, we expect the impacts on asset utilisation and external revenue to carry forward into 2020-21. AIMS is responding by maintaining existing capacity and capability, continuing to liaise with its stakeholders and, whilst the future is unpredictable, taking every opportunity to position itself well to enable the Institute to maintain scientific excellence and rebuild external revenue.

The 2019–20 external revenue budget was set at a high level, reflecting more optimism in the market, particularly in the offshore oil and gas sector and the government sector. COVID-19 impacts and controls meant that AIMS achieved external revenue of $15.291M with some work deferred and rolled over to 2020-21. (refer to revenue section).

Table 1 provides a summary of our performance against the AIMS 2019-20 Key Performance Indicators.

Table 1: Overall performance summary

Performance Criteria

Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) performance targets

KPIs (Corporate Plan)


Expectations Met

Demonstrate the outcomes and impact of AIMS’ work through case study impact narratives and evaluations

Minimum two case studies

≥ 2 case studies per year

Four case studies were produced in 2019-20.


Demonstrate ≥$10m total impact value

Valuations of AIMS societal impact through case studies demonstrated delivery of at least $29.2 million per year in 2019.

Noting that these case studies represent a small proportion of AIMS’ outputs, it is estimated that our overall impact is greater than $100 million per annum.


Deliver strategic and applied research and monitoring that addresses national research priorities and stakeholder needs

Maintain or increase the amount of stakeholder commissioned research

Increase net external revenue generated from stakeholder commissioned research by ≥2.5% per annum

Net external revenue for 2019-20 is $10.45 million compared with an actual of $12.88 million in 2018-19, a decrease of 18.8%.

The lower than planned performance was primarily due to COVID-19, which led to substantial external revenue reductions, particularly from the oil and gas market sector.


Maintain or increase current standings for scientific excellence, innovation and impact

Maintain acknowledged domestic and global high standing in relevant fields of research and confidence of key stakeholders in research outputs

Maintain Top 3 global ranking

Benchmarking of AIMS’ Citation Impact in June 2020 demonstrated that in the field of marine and freshwater biology, AIMS was the top ranked research institution in the world.


Maintain high stakeholder confidence in AIMS’ scientific outputs gauged using a net promoter score

A survey of key stakeholders conducted in late 2019 assessed AIMS as having a ‘great’ net promoter score (NPS) of 53. The NPS is a common method to measure and improve customer loyalty, with customers rating their likelihood of recommending a company to others on a scale of 0-10, which provides an index range from -100 (unlikely to recommend) to +100 (very likely to recommend).


Deliver research advice and scientific products that are critical for stakeholders to assess the impacts of natural and human pressures on sensitive marine ecosystems

Maintain or increase the number of peer reviewed publications, datasets and derived knowledge products that are used by stakeholders and are publicly available

Maintain annual journal publication rates > 200 papers per annum

This measure is reported on a calendar year basis. AIMS has exceeded 200 publications each year between 2015 and 2018. In 2019, AIMS published 195 journal articles.


100% of datasets collected using public monies are made publicly available within one year of collection

The outputs of research funded by specific government programs are available on the appropriate (government) website or on request, at the completion of the project.


Increase research capability, capacity, impact and science diplomacy through participation in formal national and international collaborations, joint ventures, partnerships and strategic alliances

Maintain or increase the number and scale of domestic and international research partnerships, collaborations, joint ventures and strategic alliances

Maintain or increase participation by AIMS on advisory panels and committees

Maintain proportion of AIMS’ projects involving collaborators (≥ 70%)

During the 2019-20 FY, AIMS maintained its strong record of collaboration with >85% of its projects involving external collaborators.


Maintain proportion of published papers and reports that include collaborators (≥ 80%)

During 2019, AIMS maintained its strong collaborative publication record. Ninety-four per cent of papers authored or co-authored by AIMS scientists involved collaborators.


Representation on relevant advisory committees (100%)

AIMS continues to play a significant advisory and leadership role on relevant panels and committees. Most notable are the National Marine Science Committee, the Reef 2050 Plan Reef Advisory Committee, Independent Expert Panel and RIMReP Interim Executive and Operations Committees, Secretariat for the International Coral Reef Initiative and the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network Steering Committee. In addition, AIMS has contributed advice to a range of government reviews and Parliamentary inquiries.


Improve research outcomes and impact through increased Traditional Owner engagement in the planning and delivery of coastal research and development

Increase the percentage of projects with Indigenous engagement in the planning and delivery phases

Increase % of projects with Indigenous engagement

In 2020, AIMS implemented its Indigenous Partnership Plan, which describes a tiered approach to inform the level of engagement required of projects. Four projects with Traditional Owner partners are underway, including coral reef research with the Woppaburra Traditional Owners of the Keppel Islands in Queensland, and several more are in development.


Reduce AIMS’ environmental footprint

10 per cent reduction in AIMS’ carbon emissions compared with 2017-18

Carbon emission reduction ≥ 10% compared with 2017-18

The PV solar system in Townsville was commissioned late 2019 and is performing to expectation. The overall % reduction in total CO2 compared with 2017/18 is 21.8%


Develop an environmental management plan to reduce carbon emission by a total of 25 per cent by 2020

Environmental Management Plan developed

An environmental management plan has been drafted. Emergency management and business continuity activities associated with COVID-19 have delayed completion of the plan, which will be finalised in early 2020-21.


Optimal utilisation of research infrastructure assets

Maintain or increase usage of research infrastructure

≥ 90% use of major research assets

SeaSim utilisation remains high, although is slightly lower than target due to reduced numbers of new experiments commencing during the COVID-19 crisis.

RV Solander and RV Cape Ferguson utilisation were significantly impacted due to restrictions in field work management required to control COVID-19 risks.

The overall utilisation of major research assets was 74%. Prior to COVID-19, the utilisation of AIMS’ major research assets was on target.