The Australian Research Council (ARC) is a Commonwealth entity within the Australian Government. The ARC advises the Government on research matters and administers the National Competitive Grants Program, a significant component of Australia's investment in research and development. Through Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) the ARC is also tasked with identifying excellence in research, by comparing Australia's university research effort against international benchmarks, creating incentives to improve the quality of research and identifying emerging research areas and opportunities for further development.
The ARC's mission is to deliver policy and programs that advance Australian research and innovation globally and benefit the community.
In seeking to achieve its mission, the ARC supports the highest-quality fundamental and applied research and research training through national competition across all disciplines. Clinical and other medical research is primarily supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council. In addition, the ARC encourages partnerships between researchers and industry, government, community organisations and the international community.
The outcomes of ARC-funded research deliver cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits to all Australians.
The ARC Team
The people of the ARC are a mix of academics, including a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and four professor-level Executive Directors (EDs) with strong research backgrounds, and about 100 career public servants.
The ARC's academic EDs are contracted, usually for between three and five years, to:
- oversee the assessment of funding proposals through a peer review process
- integrate the views of external reviewers with the views of selection advisory or ARC College of Experts committees
- liaise and communicate with the research community and users of research
- identify emerging disciplinary and cross-disciplinary developments and innovative approaches to research
- conduct forums and reviews of the state of Australian research in an international context.
The EDs are among the most respected researchers in their fields and have extensive Australian and international research networks with whom they interact. They are well placed to assist researchers and research users to understand the Government's research objectives.
They are also able to provide high-quality advice to Government, through the ARC, to help ensure that its approaches to research are aligned with the realities of the research environment and can respond flexibly to changes in those conditions.
The ARC College of Experts supports the advancement of knowledge and contributes to national innovation through its role in assessing and ranking funding proposals, making funding recommendations, and providing strategic advice on emerging disciplines and cross-disciplinary developments.
The ARC College of Experts members are drawn from a multitude of disciplines in the Australian research community—from higher education, industry and public sector research organisations. They are drawn together flexibly to form groupings of expertise to meet particular needs at different times. Members of the ARC College of Experts are appointed for periods of between one and three years.
The ARC College of Experts is supported by thousands of well credentialed Australian and international referees whose expert reviews underpin the peer review processes conducted by the ARC.
A key function identified for the ARC under its legislation (the Australian Research Council Act 2001) is to provide advice to the Government on research matters. The aim of the ARC is to deliver analysis and evidence-based advice and contribute to the development of national research and innovation policy.
The ARC aims to facilitate excellent research outcomes for Australia by:
- providing high quality policy advice on research matters to Government—advice that:
- is evidence-based, innovative and strategic
- takes account of relevant national and international developments
- is informed by consultation and dialogue with stakeholders
- is informed by program monitoring and evaluation
- supporting the development of whole-of-government research policy initiatives and participating in coordinated policy development across portfolios
- advising the government on emerging issues and strategic policy challenges.
National Competitive Grants Program
The ARC funds research and researchers under the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP). As part of its commitment to nurturing the creative abilities and skills of Australia’s most promising researchers, the NCGP provides:
- support for the highest-quality research leading to the discovery of new ideas and the advancement of knowledge
- financial assistance towards facilities and equipment that researchers need to be internationally competitive
- support for the training and skills development of the next generation of researchers
- incentives for Australia’s most talented researchers to work in partnership with leading researchers throughout the national innovation system and internationally, and to form alliances with Australian industry.
The NCGP comprises two main elements—Discovery and Linkage—under which the ARC funds a range of complementary schemes to support researchers at different stages of their careers, build Australia's research capability, expand and enhance research networks and collaborations, and develop centres of research excellence.
Funding recommendations are made to the Minister responsible for research by the CEO following independent and extensive competitive peer review by Australian and international experts.
Science and Research Priorities
ARC funding schemes aim to support research and research training in the Australian Government's Science and Research Priorities:
- Soil and water
- Advanced manufacturing
- Environmental change
- For more information on the Government’s Science and Research Priorities please visit the Science.gov.au website.
The ARC's Discovery funding schemes recognise the importance of fundamental research to the national innovation system. The national innovation system includes the people (for example, in government, higher education and business), processes and relationships involved in 'new' knowledge in a knowledge-based economy.
A strong capability in fundamental research (sometimes called discovery, basic or blue sky research) will result in the development of new ideas, the creation of jobs, economic growth and an enhanced quality of life in Australia.
The objectives of the Discovery Program are to:
- support excellent fundamental research by individuals and teams
- enhance the scale and focus of research in the research priority areas
- assist researchers to undertake their research in conditions most conducive to achieving best results
- expand Australia's knowledge base and research capability
- foster the international competitiveness of Australian research
- encourage research training in high-quality research environments
- enhance international collaboration in research.
The main Discovery schemes are: Discovery Projects, Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, Future Fellowships, Australian Laureate Fellowships and Discovery Indigenous.
The Discovery Projects scheme provides funding for research projects that can be undertaken by individual researchers or research teams.
Proposals for funding under the Discovery Projects scheme are processed once a year.
The objectives of the Discovery Projects scheme are to:
- support excellent basic and applied research by individuals and teams;
- encourage research and research training in high-quality research environments;
- enhance international collaboration in research;
- expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability; and e. enhance the scale and focus of research in the Science and Research Priorities.
Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)
The DECRA scheme was introduced to provide more focused support for researchers and create more opportunities for early-career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions.
The objectives of the DECRA scheme are to:
- support excellent basic and applied research by early career researchers
- advance promising early career researchers and promote enhanced opportunities for diverse career pathways
- enable research and research training in high quality and supportive environments
- expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability
- enhance the scale and focus of research in the Science and Research Priorities.
Researchers may be eligible to apply if they have been awarded a PhD within five years or, commensurate with a period of significant career interruption, have been awarded a PhD within nine years of the closing time of submission of Proposals.
Researchers may claim a career interruption greater than four years due to providing the primary care to a dependent child provided that where eligible interruptions are taken into account this would be commensurate with a PhD being awarded during the eligible time period. Please refer to the relevant Funding Rules for this scheme for eligible periods and types of career interruptions.
Australian Laureate Fellowships
The Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme reflects the ARC’s commitment to support excellence in research by attracting world-class researchers and research leaders to key positions, and creating new rewards and incentives for the application of their talents in Australia.
Open to applications from outstanding researchers of international repute, the Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme particularly encourages proposals involving Australian and non-Australian researchers currently working overseas by providing eligible Australian Laureate Fellows with Project Funding in addition to a salary supplement and salary-related (on-cost) support.
The Future Fellowships scheme was introduced to promote research in areas of critical national importance by giving outstanding researchers incentives to conduct their research in Australia. The aim of Future Fellowships is to ensure that outstanding mid-career researchers are recruited and retained, by Administering Organisations in continuing academic positions.
Future Fellowships will encourage proposals from researchers working in areas of national priority. Preference will be given to those researchers who can demonstrate a capacity to build collaboration across industry and/or research institutions and/or with other disciplines.
Although international experience is important for Australian researchers, it is also important they have the opportunity to return home to continue their work. The Future Fellowships scheme aims to encourage outstanding Australian researchers currently based overseas to return to Australia.
The Discovery Indigenous scheme provides funding to Eligible Organisations to support research programs led by an Indigenous Australian researcher and build research capacity of higher degree research and early career researchers.
Under the Discovery Indigenous scheme, the Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DAATSIA) is available to Chief Investigators who are Indigenous Australian researchers.
The objectives of the Discovery Indigenous scheme are to:
- support excellent basic and applied research and research training by Indigenous Australian researchers as individuals and as teams
- develop the research expertise of Indigenous Australian researchers
- support and retain established Indigenous Australian researchers in Australian higher education institutions
- expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability.
Proposals for funding under the Discovery Indigenous scheme are processed once a year.
The Discovery Indigenous scheme was previously named the Discovery Indigenous Researcher Development scheme.
The ARC's Linkage funding schemes aim to encourage and extend cooperative approaches to research and improve the use of research outcomes by strengthening links within Australia’s innovation system and with innovation systems internationally.
Linkage promotes national and international research partnerships between researchers and business, industry, community organisations and other publicly funded research agencies.
By supporting the development of partnerships, the ARC encourages the transfer of skills, knowledge and ideas as a basis for securing commercial and other benefits of research.
The main Linkage schemes are: Linkage Projects; Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities; the Industrial Transformation Research Program, ARC Research Centres; and Special Research Initiatives.
The Linkage Projects scheme supports research and development (R&D) projects which are collaborative between higher education researchers and other parts of the national innovation system, which are undertaken to acquire new knowledge, and which involve risk or innovation.
Proposals for funding under the Linkage Projects scheme must include at least one Partner Organisation. The Partner Organisation must make a significant contribution in cash and/or in kind, to the project that is equal to, or greater than, the ARC funding.
Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities
The Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities scheme fosters collaboration through its support of the cooperative use of national and international research facilities.
Essentially, the scheme provides funding for large-scale cooperative initiatives so that expensive infrastructure, equipment and facilities can be shared by researchers in partnered organisations. However, the ARC may fund single-organisation proposals in some circumstances.
Under the scheme, applicants may seek funding for:
- infrastructure, equipment and facility purchases, construction and installation
- major computing/data facilities, animal houses, herbaria and experimental farms
- salaries directly associated with creating and installing infrastructure, equipment or facilities
- consortium membership costs, in the case of Australia's participation in the use of significant international-scale research facilities
- library and research information infrastructure.
Applications for funding under the Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities scheme are processed once a year.
Industrial Transformation Research Program
The Industrial Transformation Research Program offers a suite of funding schemes attractive to both university-based researchers and industries.
This dynamic Program will:
- fund research hubs and research training centres; and
- support Higher Degree by Research students and postdoctoral researchers in gaining real-world practical skills and experience through placement in industry.
To achieve this, the Program will fund Industrial Transformation Research Hubs and Industrial Transformation Training Centres.
Industrial Transformation Research Hubs
These research hubs will encourage R&D projects that could help solve the big problems facing our industries today.
This scheme will support collaborative research activity between the Australian higher education sector and industry designed to focus on strategic outcomes not independently realisable.
Industrial Transformation Training Centres
These training centres will foster close partnerships between university-based researchers and other research end-users to provide innovative Higher Degree by Research (HDR) and postdoctoral training for the end-user focused research industries vital to Australia's future.
ARC Research Centres
ARC-funded research centres support large teams to undertake focused and sustained investigations into, and find solutions to, challenging and important problems. The funding enables groups of first-class researchers to come together to work on a problem and to leverage additional research funding from other sources.
ARC Centres of Excellence
ARC Centres of Excellence are prestigious foci of expertise through which high-quality researchers maintain and develop Australia’s international standing in research areas of national priority. Through the ARC Centres of Excellence scheme, a high level of collaboration occurs between universities and other organisations in Australia and overseas.
Applications for funding of ARC Centres of Excellence are invited periodically.
The ARC works collaboratively with other agencies to jointly fund high-quality research. There are three co-funded Centres:
- Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, with the Grains Research and Development Corporation
- National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, with the National Water Commission
- National ICT Australia, also called NICTA, with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
Applications for funding under the Co-funded Centres scheme are invited periodically.
Special Research Initiatives
The Special Research Initiatives scheme provides funding for new and emerging fields of research and builds capacity in strategically important areas.
The objective of the Special Research Initiatives scheme is to support high-quality research which will assist in advancing Australia’s research excellence to be globally competitive and deliver benefits to the community. This extends, but is not limited, to supporting research-related activities which will respond to emerging opportunities or changing priorities.
Applications for Special Research Initiatives funding may be submitted only when invited by the ARC by means of a call for proposal(s) for funding.
Excellence in Research for Australia
The ARC is responsible for administering Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA), which aims to identify and promote excellence across the full spectrum of research activity in Australia’s higher education institutions.
ERA evaluates the quality of the research undertaken in Australian universities against national and international benchmarks. The ratings are determined and moderated by committees of distinguished researchers, drawn from Australia and overseas.
The first full round of ERA occurred in 2010 and the results were published in early 2011. This was the first time a nationwide stock take of discipline strengths and areas for development had ever been conducted in Australia. There have been two subsequent rounds of ERA in 2012 and 2015. The results from each ERA round are published in the ERA 2010 National Report, the ERA 2012 National Report and State of Australian University Research 2015-16: Volume 1 National Report, which are available online in ERA Reports.
For further information regarding ERA, please visit the ERA page on the ARC website.
Content Last Modified: 22/11/16