CEO Professor Aidan Byrne
Image: Professor Aidan Byrne.
Image courtesy: Norman Plant Photography.

 

22 December 2015

Welcome to the last edition of ARChway for 2015.

I was very pleased that we had time before Christmas to announce the results of our 2015 cohort of ARC Future Fellowships. The Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Honourable Simon Birmingham, was with us at Griffith University to award these fellowships. There were 50 fellowships available in this 2015 round and 315 strong applications.

I am extremely pleased that the recent passage of the Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2015 means that funding for the Future Fellowships scheme is also secure as an ongoing scheme into the foreseeable future. The ARC will offer 100 four-year fellowships from 2016 onwards.

The 2015 Future Fellowships outcomes announcement was a fitting finale to what has been a very busy and exciting year for the ARC, and the research sector more widely. This year, the ARC awarded almost $543 million for projects commencing in 2015 through our National Competitive Grants Programme.

Many more of our Industrial Transformation Research Programme (ITRP) Hubs and Centres also officially launched this year, along with some Special Research Initiatives and an ARC Centre of Excellence. We also announced, with the NHMRC, the funding outcomes for the joint dementia fellowships, which is part of the Government’s $200 million Boosting Dementia Research initiative. Overall, the funding outcomes announcements this year included:

  • $40 million for nine new research hubs and training centres
  • $42 million for 15 new Australian Laureate Fellows
  • $37.9 in LIEF grants
  • $86.9 million to promote industry-university linkages through Linkage Projects
  • $4.1 million for new projects under Discovery Indigenous
  • $71 million for 200 new early-career researchers
  • $245 million for 635 new Discovery Projects
  • $38.6 million for 50 new Future Fellowships, as announced just last week.

Another milestone was reached this month with the results of the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2015 released. This highly-anticipated report was our third ERA report and I am confident that it delivered to the sector detailed information about the quality of research in Australian universities.

I was pleased to see a general increase in ratings with more universities moving to 3, 4 and 5 ratings compared to 1 and 2. This is great news for Australia and it does show how ERA has been an important driver to focus attention on the quality, not just the quantity, of Australian research. I’d like to congratulate everyone who was involved in the enormous task that is ERA, from submission and assessment of data, to evaluations and preparation of a 422 page report. This has been achieved via hard work and dedication of our universities, research evaluation committees and ARC staff. As mentioned at the time of release this is only Volume 1 of the data that will be released as part of ERA 2015. Making use of the exceptional longitudinal data now available from all three ERA rounds is a priority for the ARC over the coming year. I look forward to releasing, in the coming months, additional volumes that give further insights into the state of Australian university research.

The Australian Government also recently announced its National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). The NISA announcement confirmed that the ARC will continue to have an important role in delivering government policy in research into the future. The development and introduction of an impact and engagement assessment of Australian university research; and the implementation of a continuous Linkage Projects scheme are two very important components of the wider shifts which are occurring at present to better prepare Australia for an Innovative future. I am very pleased that the ARC’s excellence and capabilities have been recognised.

This month the ARC was also proud to co-host, with PNG, the Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting of the Global Research Council in Canberra. It is great at these events to discuss research policy and compare experiences and lessons learned for issues which cross national boundaries, such as research interdisciplinarity and gender equality.

The ARC also released this year our new Gender Equality Action Plan 2015–16 and Gender Equality in Research: ARC Statement of Support and Expectations for Gender Equality. This release follows many changes we have made over recent time to ensure gender equality in the awarding of grants.

We have also been working hard this year to make it easier for our researchers to submit their applications and receive funding announcement material through our Research Management System (RMS). There has been a great deal of work undertaken on RMS and our Data Warehouse. This has been met with great enthusiasm by many of you and the improvements are set to continue.

Mid-year we also launched a new website and our new ARC Grants Search. Grants Search has made it much easier for our stakeholders to search for information and goes a long way to contributing to the ARC’s requirements under the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our ARChway readers and stakeholders, and send you warm Season’s Greetings from all at the ARC.

As we look back on what has been a very busy 2015 we start to turn our attention to 2016. For the ARC this will be an even busier period, but all staff here welcome the challenge ahead and look forward to hitting the ground running in 2016 and again working with all in the higher education and research sector.

Aidan