Australia's attempts to devise a research quality framework (RQF) for allocating nearly A$600 million (£242 million) a year in grants have run into further opposition.
The Group of Eight research-intensive universities has criticised federal government plans for assessing research impact.
The group claimed that the plans would exclude potential Nobel laureates, generate a massive amount of paperwork and reward low-quality research.
But the Australian Technology Network of universities said its five members believed that research impact could be defined, validated and assessed credibly. The ATN said the inclusion of quality and impact in the proposed research quality framework offered a unique opportunity "to position Australia as a leader" in the area.
Glyn Davis, chair of the Go8, said the proposal to require research impact statements of up to ten pages for each research grouping would create 16,000 pages of reading - the equivalent of about 160 PhD theses.
"(The impact statements) will produce a mass of paperwork in a format that will be very difficult for assessors to absorb," Professor Davis says in a letter to the federal Education Department.
"The tragedy is that most of the paperwork will mean nothing, little will be read and nothing of benefit to Australia will result."