24 December 2013 

ARC CEO Professor Aidan Byrne

Image: Professor Aidan Byrne.
Photo courtesy Norman Plant

Welcome to the last ARChway for 2013, which has been a busy year for the ARC.

We started January with a brand new Open Access policy, and through the course of the year we have announced a new Science of Learning Centre, an additional round of Future Fellowships (for funding commencing in 2014), as well as awarding over 1000 grants in both Linkage and Discovery funding schemes.

I apologise that some of our announcements were pushed back towards the end of the year; this is one of the consequences of having a general election in the second half of the year! Caretaker Conventions result in a pausing of the award of all new grants during the election period, and this affects the ability of the ARC to make recommendations to the Minister for announcement.

We have had very good support from our new Minister, the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP, and last week we released the final funding outcomes for 2013, including:

  • 12 Centres of Excellence announced (Centres of Excellence scheme)
  • 7 new Industrial Transformation Research Centres (Industrial Transformation Research Programme)
  • 3 new Industrial Transformation Training Hubs (Industrial Transformation Research Programme).

We have also been busy behind the scenes this year, with ongoing work to simplify and streamline the grants application process through our Research Management System (RMS)—our electronic system used to submit grants. The ARC is working closely with the NHMRC to streamline the grant application process and core improvements are currently being made to RMS to make the process simpler and reduce duplication. This work will continue in the coming years. It is the desire of the ARC to reduce the amount of content researchers are required to enter into the system, in particular personal information, which can be automatically populated from previous applications.

On the Excellence in Research for Australia front—the ARC recently released the ERA Benefits Realisation Review. The review was conducted independently by ACIL Allen and is very positive about the benefits of ERA and the potential for further benefit, given the reasonably recent introduction of ERA. Benefits identified in the report include:

  • ERA is improving the quality of research by focussing behaviour of researchers on measures of research quality
  • ERA is one of the primary mechanisms that Government, public and private sectors have to account for their expenditure on higher education research sector
  • ERA is an investment in intangible knowledge-based assets and a means of tracking that investment over time
  • ERA is assisting with the concentration of research effort by universities into areas of strength.

The Report concludes that these and other beneficial effects are likely to multiply over time.

Our ERA team is also busy with its preparations gearing up for ERA 2015. Further discussions about the ERA 2015 will be held during 2014. More information about ERA 2015 can be found on the ARC website.

An internal review of the Future Fellowships scheme has also been conducted, and is now on our website. As I have said publicly before, this has been a very successful scheme and one that the sector strongly supports.

Looking ahead to the New Year, it will be another busy time for the ARC, including more funding scheme round openings and outcome announcements, consultation for ERA 2015, more detailed work on RMS and communicating ARC-funded research outcomes to the general public.

One of the rewards of my position is the inspiration I get from seeing the quality of the work that we facilitate. All of it has the potential to change the world and we are fortunate to have such a vibrant and dynamic research community in this country.

I look forward to hearing of the breakthroughs made by Australian research in 2014, and hope that the sector manages to get a well-earned rest over the Christmas period.

Season’s Greetings from all of us here at the ARC and thank you for your support in 2013.