Overview

The Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme is one element of the Discovery Programme. It aims to provide more focused support for researchers and create more opportunities for early-career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions. It supports research in areas of critical national importance by enabling outstanding Australian and international early-career researchers to conduct their research in Australia.

The objectives of the DECRA scheme are to:

  • support and advance promising early career researchers
  • promote enhanced opportunities for diverse career pathways
  • focus research effort in the Strategic Research Priority areas to improve research capacity and policy outcomes
  • enable research and research training in high quality and supportive environments.

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Selection Process

The closing date for proposals was 25 March 2015. Proposals were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS).

ARC Executive Directors, assisted by relevant ARC staff, prepared funding recommendations for submission to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The recommendations were based on advice from the ARC College of Experts which:

  • assigned independent assessors to review the proposals
  • assessed proposals and reviewed assessments made by independent assessors
  • reviewed applicants’ comments on assessors’ reports
  • ranked each proposal relative to the others on the basis of the proposal, the assessors’ reports and the applicant’s responses to those assessments
  • assessed and recommended budgets

and, advice from the ARC Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, the ARC College of Experts or independent assessors
  • sought advice from institutions with respect to issues raised
  • made recommendations to the CEO in respect of ineligible proposals.

This report reflects the recommendations of the ARC CEO to the Minister. Unless otherwise specified, figures presented in this report exclude withdrawn proposals.

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Selection Criteria

Selection criteria and corresponding weightings for DECRA proposals are:

  • Project Quality and Innovation (40%)
  • DECRA Candidate (35%)
  • Research Environment (15%)
  • Feasibility and Benefit (10%).

The ARC assessment and subsequent reporting process for DECRA 2016 was managed in the Research Management System (RMS), and used a total of 79 ARC College of Experts members on five discipline panels. In addition, a total of 4170 independent assessor reports were submitted to the ARC for DECRA 2016.

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Summary of Outcomes

DECRA projects are funded for three consecutive years on a full-time basis. In addition to the annual salary contribution of $94 512 (2014$), including 28 per cent on-costs, the ARC may provide up to $40 000 in project costs per annum.

The ARC received a total of 1234 DECRA proposals for funding commencing in 2016, of which 14 were subsequently withdrawn by the Administering Organisations. This is a decrease from the 1404 proposals received for DECRA for funding commencing in 2015. Of the unsuccessful proposals, all met the eligibility requirements.

Table 1. Comparison of DECRA proposal numbers, success rates, requested and approved funding for successful proposals from 2012 to 2016

Funding Year

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate

Total requested funds (over project life)

Requested funds (over project life) of approved proposals

Funds allocated (over project life)

Allocation as a percentage of request

2012

2159

277

12.8%

$809,625,000

$103,875,000

$103,875,000

100.0%

2013

1281

200

15.6%

$459,934,037

$72,406,078

$72,321,876

99.9%

2014

1468

200

13.6%

$554,880,909

$75,869,611

$75,789,232

99.9%

2015

1394

200

14.3%

$534,829,398

$77,458,306

$70,567,494

91.1%

2016

1220

200

16.4%

$465,496,683

$77,377,579

$70,736,647

91.4%

Table 2. Indicative funds for DECRA proposals approved for funding commencing in 2016

 

2015–16

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

Total

Indicative Funding

$11,904,628.00

$23,725,409.00

$23,463,695.50

$11,642,914.50

$70,736,647.00

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ARC Discipline Groups

Table 3. Numbers and success rates for DECRA proposals approved for funding commencing in 2016, by Discipline Group

Panel*

Proposals considered

% of proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate

Allocated funds (over project life)

BSB

252

20.7%

42

16.7%

$15,300,571

EIC

274

22.5%

45

16.4%

$15,357,033

HCA

177

14.5%

29

16.4%

$10,074,940

MPCE

283

23.2%

46

16.3%

$16,260,723

SBE

234

19.2%

38

16.2%

$13,743,380

Total

1220

100.0%

200

16.4%

$70,736,647

*(BSB – Biological Sciences and Biotechnology; EIC – Engineering, Information and Computing Sciences; MPCE – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences; SBE – Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences; HCA – Humanities and Creative Arts)

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Strategic Research Priorities

Table 4. Numbers and success rates for DECRA proposals approved for funding commencing in 2016, by Strategic Research Priority

Strategic Research Priority

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate

Allocated funds (over project life)

Lifting productivity and economic growth

356

58

16.3%

$20,270,179

Living in a changing environment

278

40

14.4%

$14,376,943

Managing our food and water assets

58

9

15.5%

$3,270,242

Promoting population health and wellbeing

219

32

14.6%

$11,338,022

Securing Australia’s place in a changing world

152

23

15.1%

$7,975,189

None selected

157

38

24.2%

$13,506,072

Total proposals

1220

200

16.4%

$70,736,647

Total priority proposals

1063

162

15.2%

$57,230,575

% within priority area

87.1%

81.0%

 

80.9%

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Attracting and retaining outstanding researchers

Proposals were open to Eligible Organisations to nominate candidates who are promising early career researchers, resident either within Australia or overseas.

Table 5. Citizenship/residency status of DECRA Candidates and approved awardees for funding commencing in 2016

Citizenship/residency status

Proposals considered

% of proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate

Foreign Nationals

399

32.7%

62

15.5%

Resident Australians

752

61.6%

128

17.0%

Returning Australians

57

4.7%

9

15.8%

Unspecified

12

1%

1

8.3%

Total

1220

100.00%

200

16.4%

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Time since PhD

At the closing time of submission of proposals, 1082 of all DECRA Candidates were within 5 years of the award of their PhD and 138 were within 5 to 9 years of the award of their PhD. Of the approved DECRA, 168 are within 5 years of the award of their PhD and 32 are within 5 to 9 years of the award of their PhD.

Table 6. Years since the award of PhD (at time of submission) for DECRA for funding commencing in 2016

Years since award of PhD

No. of considered proposals

% of considered proposals

No. of approved proposals

% of approved proposals

0–1

112

9.2%

20

10.0%

1–2

149

12.2%

29

14.5%

2–3

176

14.4%

26

13.0%

3–4

267

21.9%

31

15.5%

4–5

378

31%

62

31.0%

5–6

96

7.9%

23

11.5%

6–7

20

1.6%

4

2.0%

7–8

13

1.1%

4

2.0%

8–9

9

0.7%

1

0.5%

Total

1220

 

200

 

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Gender of Candidates

Table 7. Numbers and success rates by gender for DECRA for funding commencing in 2016

Panel*

Number of female candidates

Number of approved female candidates

Female success rate

Number of male candidates

Number of approved male candidates

Male success rate

BSB

93

16

17.2%

158

26

16.5%

EIC

34

7

20.6%

240

38

15.8%

HCA

92

18

19.6%

84

11

13.1%

MPCE

75

12

16.0%

205

34

16.6%

SBE

108

18

16.7%

126

20

15.9%

Total

402

71

17.7%

813

129

15.9%

*(BSB – Biological Sciences and Biotechnology; EIC – Engineering, Information and Computing Sciences; MPCE – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences; SBE – Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences; HCA – Humanities and Creative Arts)

Please note that five proposal participants’ gender was either indeterminate/intersex or they did not provide gender information and are not included in the above table.

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Administering Organisation

Table 8. Number of approved DECRA proposals and success rates for funding commencing in 2016, by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate %

Allocated funding

Australian Capital Territory

93

21

22.6

$7,568,237

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

2

0

0.0

$0

The Australian National University

88

21

23.9

$7,568,237

University of Canberra

3

0

0.0

$0

New South Wales

376

62

16.5

$21,640,529

Australian Catholic University

8

0

0.0

$0

Charles Sturt University

2

0

0.0

$0

Macquarie University

37

5

13.5

$1,802,463

Southern Cross University

9

1

11.1

$393,434

The University of New England

6

1

16.7

$372,000

The University of New South Wales

124

19

15.3

$6,567,157

The University of Newcastle

27

4

14.8

$1,346,623

The University of Sydney

78

16

20.5

$5,531,410

University of Technology, Sydney

21

4

19.0

$1,396,500

University of Western Sydney

22

3

13.6

1,099,470

University of Wollongong

42

9

21.4

$3,131,472

Northern Territory

4

0

0.0

$0

Charles Darwin University

4

0

0.0

$0

Queensland

221

40

18.1

$14,332,970

Central Queensland University

6

2

33.3

$733,536

Griffith University

19

1

5.3

$334,000

James Cook University

9

1

11.1

$366,000

Queensland University of Technology

49

8

16.3

$2,827,345

The University of Queensland

131

27

20.6

$9,698,553

University of the Sunshine Coast

7

1

14.3

$373,536

South Australia

78

15

19.2

$5,504,012

The Flinders University of South Australia

13

1

7.7

$353,706

The University of Adelaide

55

14

25.5

$5,150,306

University of South Australia

10

0

0.0

$0

Tasmania

14

0

0.0

$0

University of Tasmania

14

0

0.0

$0

Victoria

337

49

14.5

$17,071,513

Deakin University

29

5

17.2

$1,824,269

La Trobe University

26

3

11.5

$1,031,118

Monash University

84

15

17.9

$5,287,349

RMIT University

43

7

16.3

$2,323,018

Swinburne University of Technology

15

1

6.7

$373,500

The University of Melbourne

133

17

12.8

$5,860,041

Victoria University

7

1

14.3

$372,218

Western Australia

97

13

13.4

$4,619,386

Curtin University of Technology

43

6

14.0

$2,093,839

Edith Cowan University

5

0

0.0

$0

Murdoch University

2

1

50.0

$372,000

The University of Western Australia

47

6

12.8

$2,153,547

Total

1220

200

16.4%

$70,736,647

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