Message from the Acting CEO
Leanne Harvey

 Leanne Harvey

Image: Ms Leanne Harvey
Image courtesy: Norman Plant Photography

Welcome to another edition of ARChway newsletter, and my final message to you as Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council (ARC). Announced in April, our new incoming Chief Executive Officer, Professor Sue Thomas, joins the ARC from The University of New England, and we eagerly await her commencement at the beginning of July.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your support while I have been fulfilling this role. I have thoroughly enjoyed this busy time, and I am amazed we have managed to arrive at our mid-year edition—and nearing the close of another financial year—in what seems to be the blink of an eye.

Engagement and Impact Assessment

On to other matters that are advancing rapidly, I am pleased to report that the ARC’s Engagement and Impact Assessment (EI Assessment) Pilot is now in full swing. The EI Assessment—an important measure identified in the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA)—aims to encourage universities to focus on improving their engagement and the translation of research into wider economic, social and other benefits.

In April, the ARC held training for EI Assessment panel members, and in May, we received submissions from universities participating in the pilot. We were pleased to see the enthusiastic participation of almost all of Australia’s universities—in total, data was submitted for nearly 300 units of assessment—with each unit representing a broad discipline area at a university. This will ensure that assessment panels can effectively test the assessment process.

The next step is for panel members to undertake their assessments before meeting to decide ratings. Some feedback on the pilot submission phase has already been received from participating universities, with further feedback opportunities over the coming months as a review of the pilot takes place. The pilot and the review will inform the development of the EI Assessment in 2018.

Excellence in Research for Australia

It is important to emphasise that the ARC remains committed to supporting both the highest-quality fundamental and applied research. The EI Assessment will complement our Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) evaluation, which identifies and promotes excellence in research, and the ERA team is continuing its preparation for the upcoming 2018 round.

Earlier this year, input was sought from universities for updates to the ERA 2018 Journal List. This university consultation period closed on 17 March. Since that time, the team has been closely reviewing the submissions received. The ARC is extremely grateful for the feedback we have received, as it shows how engaged the sector is when it comes to ERA and its assessment of the quality of research in Australia.

The team is now consolidating the information gathered during this phase and will shortly consult with a number of peak bodies to seek feedback on the consolidated responses to the journal list. The ARC will finalise and release the journal list in the second half of this year.

National Competitive Grants Program

Over the past few months, we have continued to meet other key milestones, including further announcements of grants awarded under the Linkage Projects scheme. Through this scheme, the ARC is building stronger connections between researchers and industry and delivering on another important measure identified within NISA—implementing a continuous application and assessment process. We have worked hard over this past year with universities to assist with this transition and now, with our new processes firmly in place to support the continuous application and assessment model, we are set to carry on with ongoing announcements throughout the year.

Just in the past month, we have also announced the successful outcomes of a number of other funding schemes under the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP), including $37.0 million for nine new Industrial Transformation Training Centres and $9.6 million for three new Industrial Transformation Research Hubs. Also announced were our 91 new Future Fellows and 17 new Australian Laureate Fellows to commence their innovative research in 2017. In this edition, we expand on the work of one notable Australian Laureate Fellow, Professor Ann McGrath from The Australian National University, who received our 2017 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship to undertake an additional ambassadorial role for women in the humanities and social sciences (HASS).

On the subject of HASS research, you might have seen that we have recently received some media attention with criticism of funding for some projects within the HASS disciplines. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the ARC’s strong commitment to funding research across all disciplines. All fields of knowledge play a role in contributing critical intellectual research, not only on domestic challenges such as health, social cohesion, the environment, the economy and security, but also on Australia’s place in the world. Our rigorous peer review principles and processes ensure that funding is spent on the highest quality research—whatever the discipline—that will advance knowledge and benefit the community.

Enjoy reading our NCGP articles in this ARChway edition, covering ARC’s support for part-time research arrangements, as well as the exciting work underway by two of our ARC Future Fellows—Professor Michael Breadmore and Professor Dayong Jin—including how each of their associations with an ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre and Research Hub are providing valuable industry-research opportunities.

Once again, thank you for your support whilst I have been acting CEO. Exciting times ahead for us all.