Overview

The Discovery Projects scheme provides funding for excellent fundamental research projects that can be undertaken by individual researchers or research teams.

The objectives of Discovery Projects are to:

  • support excellent basic and applied research by individuals and teams
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in the Strategic Research Priorities
  • expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability
  • encourage research and research training in high-quality research environments
  • enhance international collaboration in research
  • foster the international competitiveness of Australian research.

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Selection Process

Proposals for funding commencing in 2016 opened on 11 December 2014, and closed on 4 March 2015. 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.

ARC Executive Directors, assisted by 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:

  • 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, on advice from the ARC Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, independent assessors or the ARC College of Experts
  • 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 Unless otherwise specified, figures presented in this report exclude withdrawn proposals.

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Selection Criteria

Selection criteria and corresponding weightings for Discovery Projects 2016 proposals are:

  • Investigator(s)  (40%)
  • Project Quality and Innovation (25%)
  • Feasibility and Benefit (20%)
  • Research Environment (15%)

The ARC assessment and subsequent reporting process for 2015 used 80 College of Experts members across five discipline panels and was managed in the Research Management System (RMS). A total of 11 987 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC for Discovery Projects 2016.

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Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received a total of 3600 proposals for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2016, of which 16 proposals were withdrawn. This is a slight decrease from the 3689 proposals received for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2015. Of the unsuccessful proposals, 10 were found to not meet eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2016 is 17.7 per cent, with a higher percentage of allocation of requested funds compared to Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2015.

Table 1. Comparison of proposal numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Discovery Projects proposals from 2015 to 2016

Funding year

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate

Requested funds over project life (all proposals)

Requested funds over project life (approved proposals)

Funds allocated over project life

Allocation as a percentage of request

2015

3689

665

18.0%

$1,950,089,142

$389,438,184

$250,044,435

64.2%

2016

3584

635

17.7%

$1,897,473,970

$372,783,907

$244,935,035

65.7%

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Approved funding by discipline panel

Table 2. Comparison of proposal numbers, success rates and requested and allocated funds for approved Discovery Projects 2016 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

Indicative funds over project
 life for approved proposals

Return 
Rate for approved proposals

BSB

790

141

17.8%

$481,361,492

$93,385,537

$59,141,925

63.3%

EIC

857

154

18.0%

$460,008,466

$92,641,936

$59,673,406

64.4%

HCA

435

75

17.2%

$178,364,710

$34,876,110

$24,458,183

70.1%

MPCE

812

144

17.7%

$459,444,636

$89,805,210

$60,500,219

67.4%

SBE

690

121

17.5%

$318,294,666

$62,075,114

$41,161,302

66.3%

Total

3584

635

17.7

$1,897,473,970

$372,783,907

$244,935,035

65.7%

 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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Career age and gender

A total of 10 769 participants (Chief Investigators (CIs) and Partner Investigators (PIs)) were named on all proposals considered in this round. Of these, 2587 are female and 8162 are male. The success rate for female and male CIs in this round of Discovery Projects proposals is 17.4 per cent and 17.6 per cent respectively. 20 participants did not provide gender information.

Success rates of CIs by career age and gender in the current Discovery Projects round are represented in Figure 1 below. CIs who did not provide gender information (0.1 per cent) and CIs who did not specify the date of completion of their PhD or who do not hold a PhD (6.4 per cent) are not represented in the table below.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Chief Investigators (CIs) in Discovery Projects 2016 by gender and career age*

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD.

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Discovery International Awards

Discovery International Awards (DIAs), formerly known as International Collaboration Awards (ICAs), were introduced into Discovery Projects in 2010 for Chief Investigators and overseas Partner Investigators. The Awards aim to enhance opportunities for collaboration among researchers, research teams and/or research centres in Australia and overseas, and to build Australia’s international research capability.

Table 4. Number of Discovery Projects 2016 proposals approved for one or more Discovery International Awards (DIAs)

Funding year

Number of submitted Proposals requesting one or more DIAs

Number of Proposals approved for one or more DIAs

2015

755*

100*

2016

698

127

*Represents data for International Collaboration Award (ICA), now known as Discovery International Award (DIA)

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International Collaboration

Applicants foreshadowed 4524 instances of collaboration with researchers in 121 overseas locations on 2441 proposals. Of the proposals approved for funding, 476 foreshadowed 943 instances of collaboration with researchers in 69 overseas locations.

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Discovery Projects 2016 proposals

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Strategic Research Priorities

Table 5. Approved funding and success rate for Discovery Projects 2016 proposals by Strategic Research Priority

Strategic Research Priority

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success 
rate (%)

Approved funds (over project life)

Lifting productivity and economic growth

1107

207

18.7%

$81,776,215

Living in a changing environment

653

113

17.3%

$40,980,458

Managing our food and water assets

163

23

14.1%

$9,912,249

Promoting population health and wellbeing

633

100

15.8%

$41,093,818

Securing Australia's place in a changing world

392

60

15.3%

$19,694,115

Unspecified

636

132

20.8%

$51,478,180

Total

3584

635

17.7%

$244,935,035

Total within Strategic Research Priorities

2948

503

17.1%

$193,456,855

Percentage within Strategic Research Priorities (%)

82.3%

79.2%

 

79.0%

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Selection Outcomes by Administering Organisation

Table 6. Numbers of proposals and success rates for approved Discovery Projects 2016 proposals by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Approved funding over project life ($)

Australian Capital Territory

264

63

23.9%

$24,697,767

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

1

0

0%

$0

The Australian National University

238

60

25.2%

$23,655,031

University of Canberra

25

3

12%

$1,042,736

New South Wales

1161

195

16.8%

$73,581,803

Australian Catholic University

19

3

15.8%

$1,014,628

Charles Sturt University

10

1

10%

$145,000

Macquarie University

117

19

16.2%

$7,196,167

Southern Cross University

12

1

8.3%

$305,300

The University of New England

19

2

10.5%

$657,200

The University of New South Wales

355

67

18.9%

$25,095,225

The University of Newcastle

99

15

15.2%

$6,386,910

The University of Sydney

260

58

22.3%

$22,439,562

University of Technology, Sydney

95

11

11.6%

$3,575,020

University of Western Sydney

68

12

17.6%

$4,020,091

University of Wollongong

107

6

5.6%

$2,746,700

Northern Territory

3

1

33.3%

$397,900

Charles Darwin University

3

1

33.3%

$397,900

Queensland

607

110

18.1%

$41,006,527

Bond University

2

0

0%

$0

Central Queensland University

8

2

25%

$587,600

Griffith University

79

14

17.7%

$4,740,911

James Cook University

25

2

8%

$756,500

Queensland University of Technology

143

12

8.4%

$4,427,696

The University of Queensland

331

78

23.6%

$30,005,820

University of Southern Queensland

11

1

9.1%

$340,000

University of the Sunshine Coast

8

1

12.5%

$148,000

South Australia

232

43

18.5%

$16,475,938

The Flinders University of South Australia

49

7

14.3%

$3,471,142

The University of Adelaide

132

27

20.5%

$9,859,740

University of South Australia

51

9

17.6%

$3,145,056

Tasmania

77

8

10.4%

$2,941,431

University of Tasmania

77

8

10.4%

$2,941,431

Victoria

933

165

17.7%

$65,437,635

Deakin University

58

9

15.5%

$3,467,915

Federation University Australia

3

1

33.3%

$199,215

La Trobe University

53

5

9.4%

$1,803,194

Monash University

303

58

19.1%

$22,855,919

RMIT University

94

6

6.4%

$1,974,000

Swinburne University of Technology

57

7

12.3%

$2,588,541

The University of Melbourne

351

79

22.5%

$32,548,851

Victoria University

14

0

0%

$0

Western Australia

307

50

16.3%

$20,396,034

Curtin University of Technology

126

17

13.5%

$6,449,657

Edith Cowan University

8

0

0%

$0

Murdoch University

27

1

3.7%

$137,455

The University of Notre Dame Australia

1

1

100%

$439,000

The University of Western Australia

145

31

21.4%

$13,369,922

Total

3584

635

17.7%

$244,935,035

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