Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 
Selection Report for Funding Commencing in 2017

Overview

The Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme provides funding 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 DECRA scheme are to:

  • support excellent basic and applied research by early career researchers;
  • advance promising early career researchers and promote enhanced opportunities for diverse career pathways;
  • enable research and research training in high quality and supportive environments;
  • expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability; and
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in the Science and Research Priorities.

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Selection Process

Proposals for funding commencing in 2017 opened on 3 February 2016, and closed on 22 March 2016. Proposals were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines approved recommendations from the selection process for that round.

Funding recommendations have been prepared for submission to the Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The recommendations are 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 Applicants’ 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
  • where required, sought clarification from Administering Organisations with respect to issues raised
  •  made recommendations to the Acting CEO in respect of ineligible proposals.

This report reflects the approved recommendations by 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 Unless otherwise specified, figures presented in this report exclude withdrawn proposals.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 2017 proposals are:

Project Quality and Innovation     40%
DECRA Candidate   35%
Project Research Environment  15%
Feasibility and Benefit    10%

The ARC assessment process for DECRA 2017 used 79 College of Experts members across five discipline panels and was managed in the Research Management System (RMS). A total of 3889 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC for DECRA 2017.

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Funding levels and duration

DECRA are funded for three consecutive years on a full-time basis. In addition to the annual salary contribution of $97,708 (2015$), including 30 per cent on-costs, the ARC may provide up to $40,000 in project costs per annum.

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Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received a total of 1203 DECRA proposals for funding commencing in 2017, of which six proposals were withdrawn. This is a slight decrease from the 1220 proposals received for DECRA for funding commencing in 2016. Of the unsuccessful proposals, 12 were found to not meet eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for DECRA for funding commencing in 2017 is 16.7 per cent, with a slightly lower percentage of allocation of requested funds compared to DECRA for funding commencing in 2016.

Table 1. Comparison of proposal numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved DECRA proposals from 2016 to 2017

Funding year

Proposals considered

Proposals  approved

Success rate

Requested funds over project life (all proposals)

Requested funds over project life (approved proposals)

Approved funds over project life (approved proposals)

Approved funds as % of requested funds

2016

1220

200

16.4%

$465,496,683

$77,377,579

$70,736,647

91.4%

2017

1197

200

16.7%

$468,165,487

$79,199,718

$71,700,673

90.5%

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Outcomes by discipline panels

Table 2. Comparison of proposal numbers, success rates and requested and allocated funds for approved DECRA 2017 proposals by discipline panel

Panel †

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate

Requested funds over project life for all proposals considered

Requested funds over project life for approved proposals

Approved funds over project
 life (approved proposals)

Approved funds as % of requested funds

BSB

266

45

16.9%

$105,977,223

$18,219,213

$16,675,279

91.5%

EIC

284

47

16.5%

$110,875,140

$18,485,347

$16,893,875

91.4%

HCA

167

28

16.8%

$64,096,469

$11,207,183

$9,888,602

88.2%

MPCE

234

39

16.7%

$91,080,208

$15,213,041

$13,773,552

90.5%

SBE

246

41

16.7%

$96,136,447

$16,074,934

$14,469,365

90.0%

Total

1197

200

16.7%

$468,165,487

$79,199,718

$71,700,673

90.5%

 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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Outcomes by Science and Research Priorities

Table 3. Approved funding and success rate for DECRA 2017 proposals by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Proposals considered

Proposals
approved

Success 
rate (%)

Approved funds (over project life)

Advanced manufacturing

157

30

19.1%

$10,840,561

Cybersecurity

39

8

20.5%

$2,825,754

Energy

74

14

18.9%

$5,023,832

Environmental change

168

25

14.9%

$9,038,261

Food

42

8

19.0%

$2,932,095

Health

199

30

15.1%

$10,701,659

Resources

35

3

8.6%

$1,105,508

Soil and water

41

1

2.4%

$372,000

Transport

30

5

16.7%

$1,810,000

Unspecified

412

76

18.4%

$27,051,003

Total

1197

200

16.7%

$71,700,673

Total within Science and Research Priorities

785

124

15.8%

$44,649,670

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

65.6%

62.0%

 

62.3%

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Outcomes by Administering Organisation

Table 4.  Numbers of proposals and success rates for approved DECRA 2017 proposals by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Australian Capital Territory

82

26

31.7%

$9,409,949

The Australian National University

77

26

33.8%

$9,409,949

University of Canberra

5

0

0.0%

$0

New South Wales

393

67

17.0%

$23,929,575

Australian Catholic University

6

2

33.3%

$704,506

Charles Sturt University

6

1

16.7%

$372,000

Macquarie University

51

7

13.7%

$2,562,000

Southern Cross University

4

0

0.0%

$0

The University of New England

9

3

33.3%

$1,056,029

The University of New South Wales

115

21

18.3%

$7,511,404

The University of Newcastle

30

6

20.0%

$2,181,000

The University of Sydney

83

13

15.7%

$4,652,298

University of Technology, Sydney

31

5

16.1%

$1,762,208

University of Wollongong

37

8

21.6%

$2,759,130

Western Sydney University

21

1

4.8%

$369,000

Northern Territory

2

0

0.0%

$0

Charles Darwin University

2

0

0.0%

$0

Queensland

188

30

16.0%

$10,809,346

Central Queensland University

3

0

0.0%

$0

Griffith University

26

5

19.2%

$1,728,624

James Cook University

9

1

11.1%

$372,000

Queensland University of Technology

30

4

13.3%

$1,409,000

The University of Queensland

112

19

17.0%

$6,954,598

University of Southern Queensland

5

1

20.0%

$345,124

University of the Sunshine Coast

3

0

0.0%

$0

South Australia

87

10

11.5%

$3,562,271

The Flinders University of South Australia

17

1

5.9%

$359,586

The University of Adelaide

50

5

10.0%

$1,761,708

University of South Australia

20

4

20.0%

$1,440,977

Tasmania

15

2

13.3%

$742,159

University of Tasmania

15

2

13.3%

$742,159

Victoria

331

55

16.6%

$19,685,969

Deakin University

29

3

10.3%

$1,093,124

Federation University Australia

1

0

0.0%

$0

La Trobe University

16

1

6.3%

$343,000

Monash University

92

21

22.8%

$7,495,303

RMIT University

42

5

11.9%

$1,761,593

Swinburne University of Technology

15

2

13.3%

$720,000

The University of Melbourne

134

23

17.2%

$8,272,949

Victoria University

2

0

0.0%

$0

Western Australia

99

10

10.1%

$3,561,404

Curtin University of Technology

33

2

6.1%

$720,000

Edith Cowan University

2

1

50.0%

$372,000

Murdoch University

9

1

11.1%

$304,080

The University of Notre Dame Australia

2

0

0.0%

$0

The University of Western Australia

53

6

11.3%

$2,165,324

Total

1197

200

16.7%

$71,700,673

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Career age and gender

A total of 1197 DECRA candidates were named on all proposals considered in this round. Of these, 435 were female and 759 were male. Three candidates did not provide gender information. The success rate for female and male in this round of DECRA proposals is 17.7 per cent and 16.2 per cent respectively.

At the closing time of submission of proposals, of the 1197 candidates, 1024 were within five years of the award of their PhD and 173 candidates were beyond five years of the award of their PhD. To be eligible to apply for DECRA, the latter group of researchers evidenced their significant career interruptions on the ARC Eligibility Exemption Request that was consequently scrutinised by the ARC Eligibility Committee and approved by the ARC CEO.

Of the approved DECRA, 175 candidates are within five years of the award of their PhD and 25 candidates are beyond five years of the award of their PhD.

Success rates of DECRA candidates by career age and gender in the current DECRA round are represented in Figure 1 below. DECRA candidates who did not provide gender information are not represented in the figure below.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of DECRA 2017 Candidates by gender and career age*

Alt-text for Figure 1: Chart showing participation and success rate of DECRA 2017 candidates by gender and career age—where age is calculated as years since PhD. The chart only shows up to 6 plus years since PhD and female per cent figure is represented in dark pink whilst the male per cent figure is represented in blue.

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD.

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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 2017 Candidates and approved Awardees

Citizenship/residency status

Proposals considered

% of Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Foreign Nationals

353

29.5%

60

17.0%

Resident Australians

752

62.8%

124

16.5%

Returning Australians

65

5.4%

13

20.0%

Unspecified

27

2.3%

3

11.1%

Total

1197

100%

200

16.7%

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International Collaboration

Applicants foreshadowed 1674 instances of collaboration with researchers in 108 overseas locations on 800 proposals. Of the proposals approved for funding, 137 foreshadowed 323 instances of collaboration with researchers in 64 overseas locations.

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved DECRA 2017 proposals

 Alt-text for Figure 2: Chart showing instances of international collaborations with specific countries in approved Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2017 proposals.  Other, 99 United States of America, 77 England, 43 Germany, 23 China (excludes SARs and Taiwan), 20 Canada, 16 Japan, 12 France, 10 Spain, 9 Netherlands, 8 New Zealand, 6

 

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