Discovery Projects
Selection Report for Funding Commencing in 2017

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;
  • encourage research and research training in high-quality research environments;
  • enhance international collaboration in research;
  • 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 9 December 2015, and closed on 3 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 Unless otherwise specified, figures presented in this report exclude withdrawn proposals.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 Discovery Projects 2017 proposals are:

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

The ARC assessment process for 2017 used 80 College of Experts members across five discipline panels and was managed in the Research Management System (RMS). A total of 11,616 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC for Discovery Projects 2017.

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Funding levels and duration

Funding of between $30,000 and $500,000 per annum for up to five years may be awarded for each Discovery Projects proposal.

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Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received a total of 3552 proposals for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2017, of which 12 proposals were withdrawn. This is a slight decrease from the 3584 proposals received for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2016. Of the unsuccessful proposals, 10 were found to not meet eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2017 is 17.8 per cent, with a slightly higher percentage of allocation of requested funds compared to Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2016.

Table 1. Comparison of proposal numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Discovery Projects 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

3584

635

17.7%

$1,897,473,970

$372,783,907

$244,935,035

65.7%

2017

3540

630

17.8%

$1,876,147,184

$356,788,905

$234,660,652

65.8%

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Outcomes by discipline panels

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

796

142

17.8%

$476,411,623

$88,702,929

$60,619,021

68.3%

EIC

859

150

17.5%

$459,357,355

$89,862,509

$57,235,324

63.7%

HCA

427

77

18.0%

$181,357,004

$34,239,873

$22,006,634

64.3%

MPCE

800

145

18.1%

$441,420,953

$87,696,978

$55,363,249

63.1%

SBE

658

116

17.6%

$317,600,249

$56,286,616

$39,436,424

70.1%

Total

3540

630

17.8%

$1,876,147,184

$356,788,905

$234,660,652

65.8%

 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

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Outcomes by Science and Research Priorities

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

Science and Research Priorities

Proposals considered

Proposals
approved

Success 
rate (%)

Approved funds (over project life)

Advanced manufacturing

506

113

22.3%

$45,109,499

Cybersecurity

126

14

11.1%

$5,011,000

Energy

178

33

18.5%

$12,075,000

Environmental change

450

75

16.7%

$30,379,256

Food

148

13

8.8%

$5,374,400

Health

479

71

14.8%

$24,969,721

Resources

123

17

13.8%

$5,864,760

Soil and water

110

20

18.2%

$8,638,488

Transport

88

13

14.8%

$4,986,000

Unspecified

1332

261

19.6%

$92,252,528

Total

3540

630

17.8%

$234,660,652

Total within Science and Research Priorities

2208

369

16.7%

$142,408,124

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

62.4%

58.6%

 

60.7%

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Outcomes by Administering Organisation

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

Administering Organisation

Proposals considered

Proposals 
approved

Success rate 
(%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Australian Capital Territory

227

48

21.1%

$20,434,500

The Australian National University

215

46

21.4%

$18,887,000

University of Canberra

12

2

16.7%

$1,547,500

New South Wales

1194

220

18.4%

$77,634,771

Australian Catholic University

24

5

20.8%

$1,892,500

Charles Sturt University

11

0

0.0%

$0

Macquarie University

114

20

17.5%

$6,582,598

Southern Cross University

7

2

28.6%

$608,110

The University of New England

15

2

13.3%

$840,068

The University of New South Wales

397

88

22.2%

$32,091,545

The University of Newcastle

104

8

7.7%

$2,632,000

The University of Sydney

280

54

19.3%

$18,481,061

University of Technology, Sydney

91

15

16.5%

$5,324,987

University of Wollongong

89

16

18.0%

$5,341,402

Western Sydney University

62

10

16.1%

$3,840,500

Northern Territory

5

0

0.0%

$0

Charles Darwin University

5

0

0.0%

$0

Queensland

579

90

15.5%

$33,875,012

Bond University

2

0

0.0%

$0

Central Queensland University

8

0

0.0%

$0

Griffith University

81

16

19.8%

$5,616,738

James Cook University

22

3

13.6%

$1,093,774

Queensland University of Technology

131

16

12.2%

$5,382,000

The University of Queensland

319

55

17.2%

$21,782,500

University of Southern Queensland

4

0

0.0%

$0

University of the Sunshine Coast

12

0

0.0%

$0

South Australia

200

36

18.0%

$14,166,000

The Flinders University of South Australia

45

7

15.6%

$2,805,000

The University of Adelaide

130

23

17.7%

$9,117,000

University of South Australia

25

6

24.0%

$2,244,000

Tasmania

83

11

13.3%

$4,787,451

University of Tasmania

83

11

13.3%

$4,787,451

Victoria

959

183

19.1%

$67,207,050

Deakin University

78

12

15.4%

$4,202,000

Federation University Australia

5

0

0.0%

$0

La Trobe University

64

12

18.8%

$3,836,881

Monash University

299

62

20.7%

$24,006,553

RMIT University

115

14

12.2%

$4,685,260

Swinburne University of Technology

47

10

21.3%

$3,535,000

The University of Melbourne

333

72

21.6%

$26,702,356

Victoria University

18

1

5.6%

$239,000

Western Australia

293

42

14.3%

$16,555,868

Curtin University of Technology

127

12

9.4%

$4,642,722

Edith Cowan University

5

0

0.0%

$0

Murdoch University

17

2

11.8%

$652,572

The University of Notre Dame Australia

4

0

0.0%

$0

The University of Western Australia

140

28

20.0%

$11,260,574

Total

3540

630

17.8%

$234,660,652

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Career age and gender

A total of 7863 Chief Investigators (CIs) were named on all proposals considered in this round. Of these, 2165 were female CIs and 5687 were male CIs. Eleven CIs did not provide gender information. The success rate for female and male CIs in this round of Discovery Projects is 17.6 per cent and 17.7 per cent respectively (Figure 1).

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 (2.8 per cent) are not represented in the figure below.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Chief Investigators (CIs) in Discovery Projects 2017 by gender and career age*

Alt-text for Figure 1: Chart showing participation and success rate of Chief Investigators (CIs) in Discovery Projects 2017 by gender and career age—where age is calculated as years since PhD. The chart only shows up to 25 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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International Collaboration

Applicants foreshadowed 4807 instances of collaboration with researchers in 146 overseas locations on 2538 proposals. Of the proposals approved for funding, 488 foreshadowed 965 instances of collaboration with researchers in 58 overseas locations.

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Discovery Projects 2017 proposals

Alt-text for Figure 2: Chart showing instances of international collaborations with specific countries in approved Discovery Projects 2017 proposals.  United States of America, 209 England, 140 Germany, 73 China (excludes SARs and Taiwan), 61 Canada, 58 France, 51 Japan, 37 Italy, 26 New Zealand, 26 Netherlands, 25 Singapore, 23 Other, 236 

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Discovery International Awards

Discovery International Awards (DIAs) 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 5. Number of Discovery Projects 2017 proposals approved for one or more Discovery International Awards (DIAs)

Funding year

Number of submitted Proposals requesting one or more DIAs

Number of approved Proposals requesting one or more DIAs

2016

698

127

2017

660

97