Selection Report: Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

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
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in the Science and Research Priorities. 

[top]

Selection Process

Proposals for funding commencing in 2018 opened on 16 January 2017, and closed on
22 March 2017. Proposals were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines recommendations from the selection process for that round.

Funding recommendations have been prepared for submission to the 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 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 Unless otherwise specified, figures presented in this report exclude withdrawn proposals.

[top]

Selection Criteria 

Selection criteria and corresponding weightings for DECRA 2018 proposals are:

Project Quality and Innovation             (40%)
DECRA Candidate      (35%)
Feasibility        (10%)
Benefit   (15%)

The ARC assessment process for DECRA 2018 used 80 College of Experts members across five discipline panels and was managed in the Research Management System (RMS). A total of 5,231 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC for DECRA 2018.

[top]

Funding levels and duration 

DECRA are funded for three consecutive years on a full-time basis. In addition to the annual salary contribution of $99,369 (2016$), including 30 per cent on-costs, the ARC may provide up to $139,369 in project costs per annum.

[top]

Summary of Outcomes 

The ARC received a total of 1217 DECRA proposals for funding commencing in 2018, of which five proposals were withdrawn. This is a slight increase from the 1197 proposals received for DECRA for funding commencing in 2017. Of the unsuccessful proposals, six were found to not meet eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for DECRA for funding commencing in 2018 is 16.3 per cent, with a slightly lower percentage of allocation of requested funds compared to DECRA for funding commencing in 2017.

Table 1. Comparison of proposal numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for recommended DECRA proposals from 2017 to 2018

Funding year

Proposals considered

Proposals recommended

Success rate

Requested funds over project life (all proposals)

Requested funds over project life (recommended proposals)

Funds allocated over project life

Allocation as a percentage of request

2017

1197

200

16.7%

$468,165,487

$79,199,718

$71,700,673

90.5%

2018

1212

197

16.3%

$481,296,036

$79,023,114

$70,940,411

89.8%

[top]

Outcomes by discipline panels 

Table 2.  Comparison of proposal numbers, success rates and requested and allocated funds for recommended DECRA 2018 proposals by discipline panel

Panel †

Proposals considered

Proposals  recommended

Success rate

Requested funds over project life for all proposals considered

Requested funds over project life for recommended proposals

Indicative funds over project
 life for recommended proposals

Return
Rate for  recommended proposals

BSB

262

44

16.8

$105,966,043

$17,908,574

$15,953,719

89.1%

EIC

312

52

16.7

$124,061,316

$20,888,224

$18,636,392

89.2%

HCA

146

20

13.7

$56,253,203

$7,873,926

$7,352,073

93.4%

MPCE

231

38

16.5

$90,821,270

$15,008,997

$13,458,306

89.7%

SBE

261

43

16.5

$104,194,204

$17,343,393

$15,539,921

89.6%

Total

1212

197

16.3

$481,296,036

$79,023,114

$70,940,411

89.8%

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

[top]

Outcomes by Science and Research Priorities 

Table 3. Recommended funding and success rate for DECRA 2018 proposals by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Proposals considered

Proposals

recommended

Success
rate (%)

Recommended funds (over project life)

Advanced manufacturing

158

24

15.2%

$8,627,788

Cybersecurity

29

6

20.7%

$2,163,676

Energy

87

18

20.7%

$6,468,037

Environmental change

169

24

14.2%

$8,789,767

Food

41

3

7.3%

$1,095,174

Health

178

26

14.6%

$9,390,067

Resources

34

3

8.8%

$1,121,504

Soil and water

37

6

16.2%

$2,208,470

Transport

35

5

14.3%

$1,793,132

Unspecified

444

82

18.5%

$29,282,796

Total

1212

197

16.3%

$70,940,411

Total within Science and Research Priorities

768

115

15.0%

$41,657,615

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

63.4%

58.4%

 

58.7%

[top]

Outcomes by Administering Organisation 

Table 4.  Numbers of proposals and success rates for recommended DECRA 2018 proposals by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Proposals Considered

Proposals Recommended

Success rate (%)

Recommended funding over project life ($)

Australian Capital Territory

116

20

17.2

$7,276,723

The Australian National University

109

20

18.3

$7,276,723

University of Canberra

7

0

0.0

$0

New South Wales

377

57

15.1

$20,423,369

Australian Catholic University

11

2

18.2

$752,979

Charles Sturt University

3

1

33.3

$367,996

Macquarie University

39

6

15.4

$2,092,061

Southern Cross University

3

1

33.3

$392,650

The University of New England

6

1

16.7

$381,601

The University of New South Wales

108

12

11.1

$4,332,293

The University of Newcastle

30

1

3.3

$365,058

The University of Sydney

88

13

14.8

$4,582,901

University of Technology Sydney

37

11

29.7

$3,902,144

University of Wollongong

42

8

19.0

$2,888,628

Western Sydney University

10

1

10.0

$365,058

Northern Territory

3

0

0.0

$0

Charles Darwin University

3

0

0.0

$0

Queensland

187

35

18.7

$12,524,578

Central Queensland University

1

0

0.0

$0

Griffith University

22

5

22.7

$1,747,933

James Cook University

10

2

20.0

$730,116

Queensland University of Technology

32

8

25.0

$2,934,900

The University of Queensland

116

19

16.4

$6,749,633

University of Southern Queensland

1

0

0.0

$0

University of the Sunshine Coast

5

1

20.0

$361,996

South Australia

79

10

12.7

$3,694,401

The Flinders University of South Australia

13

2

15.4

$778,468

The University of Adelaide

42

7

16.7

$2,547,487

University of South Australia

24

1

4.2

$368,446

Tasmania

22

3

13.6

$1,116,616

University of Tasmania

22

3

13.6

$1,116,616

Victoria

328

56

17.1

$20,098,223

Deakin University

26

4

15.4

$1,450,594

La Trobe University

21

2

9.5

$704,837

Monash University

117

22

18.8

$7,928,995

RMIT University

30

2

6.7

$735,892

Swinburne University of Technology

17

4

23.5

$1,404,338

The University of Melbourne

110

22

20.0

$7,873,567

Victoria University

7

0

0.0

$0

Western Australia

100

16

16.0

$5,806,501

Curtin University

38

7

18.4

$2,512,873

Edith Cowan University

6

1

16.7

$384,996

Murdoch University

7

0

0.0

$0

The University of Western Australia

49

8

16.3

$2,908,632

Total

1212

197

16.3

$70,940,411

[top]

Career age and gender 

A total of 1212 DECRA candidates were named on all proposals considered in this round. Of these, 436 were female and 773 were male and three have chosen not to specify their gender. The success rate for female, male and candidates who have chosen not to specify their gender in this round are 20.0 per cent, 14.0 per cent and 66.7  per cent respectively.

At the closing time of submission of proposals, of the 1212 candidates, 1033 were within five years of the award of their PhD and 179 candidates were beyond five years of the award of their PhD. To be eligible to apply for DECRA, the latter group of researchers were certified by their Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) regarding their significant career interruptions.

Of the approved DECRA, 164 candidates are within five years of the award of their PhD and 33 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 2018* Candidates by gender and career age*

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD.

[top]

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 2018 Candidates and recommended Awardees

Citizenship/residency status

Proposals considered

% of Proposals considered

Proposals recommended

Success rate (%)

Foreign Nationals

370

30.5%

60

16.2%

Resident Australians

789

65.1%

129

16.3%

Returning Australians

53

4.4%

8

15.1%

Total

1212

100%

197

100%

[top]

International Collaboration 

Applicants foreshadowed 1793 instances of collaboration with researchers in 95 overseas locations on 857 proposals. Of the proposals recommended for funding, 150 foreshadowed 307 instances of collaboration with researchers in 43 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in recommended DECRA 2018 proposals

  • United States of America, 76
  • England, 40
  • Germany, 26
  • China (excludes SARs and Taiwan), 22
  • Canada, 18
  • France, 12
  • Netherlands, 10
  • New Zealand, 10
  • Switzerland, 10
  • Singapore, 8
  • Others, 75

 

[top]