Equitable assessment of interdisciplinary research

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Last month, the ARC released a Statement of Support for Interdisciplinary Research, outlining processes the ARC has in place to ensure equitable assessment and evaluation of interdisciplinary research under the National Competitive Grants Program and Excellence in Research for Australia. The statement also includes actions that the ARC will implement in 2016–17 to further support interdisciplinary research.

The statement serves to recognise the increasing importance that interdisciplinary research approaches play in understanding and addressing complex, problem-based challenges. In articulating the ARC’s commitment, the statement provides a broad definition of interdisciplinary research as 'a distinct mode of research or a combination of researchers, knowledge and/or approaches from disparate disciplines'. The statement was written in consultation with the research sector and led by former ARC Executive Director, Professor Dennis Del Favero, who contributed his significant knowledge and expertise in the area of interdisciplinary research.

Initiatives highlighted in the statement of support include: the introduction of an option for researchers to identify their proposal as interdisciplinary at submission; and a drive to recruit College of Experts members with interdisciplinary expertise to facilitate assessment of interdisciplinary research proposals.

A snapshot of interdisciplinary research data gathered from selection rounds for: Discovery Early Career Researcher Award for funding commencing in 2017; Discovery Indigenous for funding commencing in 2017; Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2017; and Future Fellowships for funding commencing in 2016 has been published on the ARC website as part of the ARC’s commitment. The data shows that almost 60 per cent of submitted proposals to the ARC indicate that they are interdisciplinary in some way. Success rates of interdisciplinary research were also found to be comparable to the overall success rate across all schemes analysed.

The data on interdisciplinary research will be used to assist with the appropriate assessment of proposals and to inform future ARC policy.