23 October 2015

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

 

Welcome to another edition of ARChway. There has been a great deal of activity at the ARC since our June edition.

June and July marked two important announcements for the ARC—outcomes for the 2015 Australian Laureate Fellowships and 2015 Linkage Projects schemes.

The 15 outstanding recipients of our 2015 Australian Laureate Fellowships were awarded $42 million for an extremely diverse portfolio of research in topics, from Adolescence to Zoology.

As in previous years, the ARC awarded two special female Laureate Fellowships. Recipients of these awards undertake an ambassadorial role to promote women in research, in addition to their research programme. This year the recipients were:

  •  Professor Leann TilleyGeorgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship—who will conduct research on the malaria parasite to deliver new biotechnology and biomedical outcomes that may combat disease in livestock and humans
  •  Professor Anne OrfordKathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship—who will investigate legal issues involved in decisions about intervention in civil war.

We held a commemorative pin ceremony at the ARC offices for our 2015 Australian Laureate Fellows. Many commented on how it was nice to actually meet ARC staff at the ‘coalface’—it was certainly a pleasure to welcome our newest fellows.

In July, the Minister announced 252 new research projects awarded under the 2015 Linkage Projects scheme, with a total value of $86.9 million. The government increasingly recognises that collaborative research connecting industry with university researchers is vital to Australia’s prosperity and the jobs of the future. The Linkage Projects scheme has now been running for over a decade and aims to do just this, by linking contributions from industry and business with ARC grant money.  

July also saw the launch of our new website, which has been well-received across the sector—feedback is now easier to collect through our e-form on the website itself. Redeveloping a website is a significant task and the new website is a great achievement for the ARC. We want to continue to improve our website based on the needs of our stakeholders, so please feel free to provide your feedback. We have also worked extremely hard to ensure our new website meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

I hope that you have all had a chance to experiment with our new ARC Grants Search. This is another new tool that was also launched on the same day as our new website. This tool has also received great feedback from the sector, and again we will continue to improve this service. This repository is designed to make it easier for our stakeholders to find details of ARC-funded research projects (since 2001), including electronic and paper-based proposals. As anyone I have spoken to at Open Access conferences will know, I am a strong proponent of open data, not just in the research sector, but in Government as well.

While developing a new website we have also been working hard to improve our Research Management System used by our stakeholders for grant proposals. During this period we have referred to RMS 1.0 (the former) and RMS 2.0 (the new). As RMS 1.0 has now been retired the ARC will now revert to referring to RMS 2.0 simply as RMS. You will notice that we are transitioning to this terminology across our website and external communications.

In September we had the announcement of funding outcomes for $14 million (of the $35 million) allocated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. A total of 51 new grants were awarded to researchers who are looking for a cure for type 1 diabetes. This is part of the ARC Special Research Initiative for Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes. This event took place at Parliament House with the Minister in attendance, along with diabetes advocates and a specially trained dog that amazingly could tell by subtle behavioural cues when a young child needed to have an insulin injection.

More recently the funding outcomes of the joint NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellowships Scheme were announced. Seventy-six researchers will share in $43 million to support bold and innovative new ideas to not only tackle the impacts of dementia but to find ways of preventing and curing the debilitating disease.

Looking ahead, everyone in the research sector should be aware that The Minister for Education and Training has announced the Australian Government will undertake a review of university research funding and policy as part of its plan to boost the commercial returns from research. A panel of six experts, chaired by Dr Ian Watt AO, will report to the Minister by November 2015. The terms of reference for the review are to:

  • ensure the quality and excellence of Australian university research and research training
  • allocate existing research block grant funding in a simpler and more transparent manner
  • provide incentives to universities to increase and improve engagement and collaboration with industry and other end users
  • encourage universities to engage in research commercialisation and knowledge transfer with industry and the broader community, including through funding incentives and a focus on more effective management of intellectual property, and
  • ensure that competitive grant criteria recognise the quality of the proposal and where appropriate the opportunity for commercialisation and collaboration with industry.

A great deal of work is also ongoing in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) space. The ARC is well progressed and all is on target to deliver the ERA 2015 National Report in early December.

The ERA dataset provides us with a wealth of important information on Australian universities and their research activities. It is hoped that through ERA 2015 we will be able to provide the sector with much more than just a national report. Given the wealth of longitudinal data collected via three ERAs we certainly hope to produce for the sector ongoing material that may assist with policy development and research planning, well into the future.

We have a number of feature articles about ARC-funded research in this edition with new research out of our Centres of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics and also Climate System Science. We also share a piece on the National Computing Infrastructure which is a vital tool for many ARC-funded researchers, along with research in the field of organic electronics.

Happy reading!

Aidan