New ways to distribute research funding: the ARC has ideas

The Australian Research Council (ARC) is reviewing the National Competitive Grants Scheme and invites “all interested parties to engage.”

At least, that is, parties who remember Minister Clare’s Statement of Expectations for the ARC of August 22 last, and are sufficiently in  the social-media loop to know about the Council’s discussion paper, released last month (FC found mentions on what was Twitter dating from April 8 and 30).

The paper asks for advice on six themes: grant purpose/impact; structure of program; alignment with other government funding for research; diversity of research sector; support for Indigenous researchers and research and national priorities.

While the ARC is asking for feedback, there are hints on what it thinks should happen.

The report acknowledges “different approaches to monitoring, evaluating and communicating the impact of the projects” and then points to a consultant report for the Council, which suggested an “impact evaluation framework, including data-driven approaches,” for the NCGS.

And it suggests there may be opportunities to, “to support greater creativity and innovation through research that pushes the frontiers of knowledge,” perhaps by allowing peer reviewers to access AI.

Plus, it considers encouraging collaboration, across countries, disciplines and with SMEs (noting this should not get in the way of other government programs).

The ARC also asks for advice on how to support “a more diverse cohort of early and mid career researchers.” But it hints that, “there may be options to provide greater opportunities for ECRs to be supported.”

As for “improving access for underrepresented groups,” the ARC says that, “measures that could further promote the diversity of researchers funded through the NCGP include applicant anonymisation, or semi-anonymisation, and partial randomisation of grant selection.”

For women specifically, the ARC mentions the Irish requirement for equal numbers of men and women on grant applications and the National Health and Medical Research Council’s gender balance on grants. For Indigenous Researchers, “there may be the opportunity to support more Indigenous researchers through Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Awards or similar fellowships.” The paper points to the Canadian requirement that Indigenous research applications, “include evidence of support from affected or invested communities” but suggests this could increase administration, which is already identified as a burden.

On encouraging basic research and relating ARC funding to other government programmes, the council’s aspirations are ambiguous, “acknowledging the unique role of the ARC in supporting basic and applied research, but not experimental development, there may be opportunities to build better connections and strengthen the NCGP’s links to the wider network of government research funding.” This takes the Council to research that supports national priorities, which it points out are not a requirement for most NCGP schemes. But on this, the biggest policy question in the paper, there a no nudges. The ARC points to an EU programme that has three purposes, curiosity driven basic research and infrastructure, mission driven and innovation, including with business, but otherwise asks how the NCGP be structured to support national priorities.

Anybody interested who missed the ARC announcement needs to get cracking. Deadline for submissions is May 13.



Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Subscribe to us to always stay in touch with us and get latest news, insights, jobs and events!