13 June 2014

ARC CEO Professor Aidan Byrne

Image courtesy: Photography by Norman Plant.


Welcome to this edition of ARChway, as we approach the end of the 2013–14 financial year, a  time when all things budget are well and truly being considered and actioned.

The Minister for Education, the Hon. Christopher Pyne  MP, yesterday announced the funding outcomes of the most recent round of Research Hubs under the ARC's Industrial Transformation Research Programme (ITRP). This scheme seeks to build critical mass through collaborative hubs and training centres of research excellence  linked closely with industry, and the latest round has focused on some of  Australia's strengths in manufacturing; food and agriculture; oil and gas;  mining and mining services; and medical devices and biotechnology. I look forward to seeing our new hubs and centres as they begin to make their presence felt within the research landscape and deliver strong partnerships with industry.

In this edition of Archway we feature the work of three talented Future Fellows—two of whom have recently completed their Fellowships—whose different research pathways show us the versatility of this scheme. I was of course delighted with the results of the recent Federal Budget which provided for ongoing support for this scheme enabling the award of 100 four-year fellowships per year in the forward estimates. The Future Fellowships scheme is highly regarded across the higher education and research sector, not least by the Fellows themselves, which you will discover upon reading their stories. 

The Federal Budget also highlighted a number of significant new measures that the ARC will administer, including $35 million for a Special Research Initiative for Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, $42 million for a Special Research Initiative for Tropical Health and Medicine, $26 million for targeted research in the field of dementia and $24 million for a Special Research Initiative for an Antarctic Gateway. The ARC will be working closely with other organisations, including the NHMRC, the CSIRO and Australian Antarctic Division  along with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, to deliver these  enterprising new programmes.

As many of you will have heard, the ARC is also required to deliver a 3.25% efficiency dividend (from 2015–16), which is to be delivered from the  ARC's administered (or grant) funds. While the ARC will need to adjust some of its scheme budgets in coming years to make this saving, the loss to the sector is compensated by the continuation of the Future Fellowships scheme. Rest assured that the ARC's core role as the primary supporter of the highest quality research across a broad range of disciplines will continue.

On the international front, I recently attended the 3rd annual meeting of the Global Research Council in Beijing which brought together the heads of research funding councils from around 60 countries. As one observer at the meeting put it, the people around the table were responsible for the allocation of around 95% of all the funding for basic research in the world—a statistic which was helped enormously by having the heads of the USA's National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health present! The key focus of  the meeting this year was open access and I spoke about the Australian experience from the perspective of the ARC. It was very interesting to see and hear how far the discussion has moved in one year, and I believe the need for a  consensus position among funding bodies is becoming ever more important.

Looking ahead for the ARC we have more funding outcomes pending. Various teams at the ARC are extremely busy working on finalising outcomes along with reviewers who are working on final assessments in our research management system. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our reviewers for the outstanding work they do and the important role they play in producing the outcomes that fund the highest quality research in Australia.

Enjoy this edition of ARChway, which also includes features on ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, Professor Nicholas Evans, who is now also Director of one of our newest Centres of  Excellence, in the Dynamics of Language. I hope in reading his story you can share my enthusiasm for this very worthwhile research project.

Also in this edition, we feature a story on Dr Lisa  Williams, an animal scientist who conducted her postdoctoral studies under the supervision of ARC grant recipient and Australian Museum Eureka Prize (AMEP)  Winner, Professor Paul McGreevy. Her PhD project focussed on objective measures that can be used to determine the suitability of canines for guide dog work.