23 July 2013

  ARC CEO Professor Aidan Byrne

Image courtesy: Photography by Norman Plant.

 

Welcome to another edition of ARChway, which comes hot on the heels of some busy weeks, as the Australian Research Council (ARC) has made several new funding announcements. The first of these was Linkage Projects 2013, which we were pleased to announce on 28 June. When I look through the list of over 300 successful proposals I am really impressed with the range of activities supported and the potential for these projects to have a positive impact in society. Linkage Projects are a fundamental tool for encouraging engagement between the research sector and the wider economy, and it is an excellent complement to our other schemes. Stimulating this kind of activity, which encourages researchers to think about what is impactful, is an essential part of what the ARC is about. I note that the more regional universities often punch above their weight in this scheme, which is an important signal, and shows how knitted they are into the communities they serve.

Last week was another big one for ARC announcements, with the release of the Australian Laureate Fellowships, and the funding extension for our Special Research Initiative Research in Bionic Vision Science and Technology. We have a great crop of Laureates this year, and I encourage you to familiarise yourself with their fantastic work, which is showcased on the ARC website. Likewise, the work of Bionic Vision Australia, which will receive $8 million, and Monash Vision Group, which will receive $1.9 million from the ARC, is a great example of the power of a focussed research effort to crack one of the most fundamental challenges in medical science. Only a truly multidisciplinary effort can hope to achieve success in this endeavour and the ARC is a proud supporter.

While providing the financial resources to conduct great research is the ARC's most obvious role, it's also a privilege to be able to congratulate and reward some of Australia's top researchers. Part of the role of the ARC is to communicate to the wider world the success of Australian research, and through recognising the achievements of our Laureates we hope to go a long way towards achieving this. In this spirit, we have a feature in this edition on the work of an Australian Laureate Fellow from the 2011 round, Professor Peter Hall. Peter is from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics and has recently been elected to the prestigious US-based National Academy of Sciences. Also featured in this edition, is a fascinating story about art meeting science at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology.

Over many years the ARC has provided funding through the Discovery Indigenous scheme for research programs led by Indigenous Australian researchers and built research capacity of higher degree research and early career researchers. But with the launch on 15 July of the National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network, with funding of $3.2 million over four years, we have made the a significant step in harnessing the leadership and expertise of experienced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, to mentor research students and early-career researchers. It is an excellent achievement for the betterment of indigenous researchers, indigenous communities, and all Australians.

Finally, I should draw your attention to a discussion paper, released by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, which seeks your views on the assessment of the wider benefits arising from university-based research. If we are to embark on a detailed evaluation of impact emerging from the university sector it is my view that the most important question to be first addressed is the reason why we want to do it! Comments are sought from the research sector and from search users within business, the not-for-profit sector, across government and the broader public.

The submission period extends until 5.30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEDT) Friday, 16 August 2013. Organisations and individuals wishing to make a submission are encouraged to make a submission to the Department.