Selection Report: Discovery Projects 2018

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 high-quality research and research training
  • enhance international collaboration in research
  • expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in the Science and Research Priorities. 

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Selection Process

Proposals for funding commencing in 2018 opened on 7 December 2016, and closed on
1 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 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 Unless otherwise specified, figures presented in this report exclude withdrawn proposals.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 2018 proposals are:

Investigator(s)             (40%)
Project Quality and Innovation       (35%)
Feasibility        (10%)
Benefit   (15%)

The ARC assessment process for 2018 used 79 College of Experts members across five discipline panels and was managed in the Research Management System (RMS). A total of 12,100 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC for Discovery Projects 2018.

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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 3152 proposals for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2018, of which 16 proposals were withdrawn. This is a decrease from the 3540 proposals received for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2017. Of the unsuccessful proposals, 11 were found to not meet eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2018 is 18.9 per cent, with a slightly higher percentage of allocation of requested funds compared to Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2017.

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

3540

630

17.8%

$1,876,147,184

$356,788,905

$234.660,652

65.8%

2018

3136

594

18.9%

$1,657,932,048

$331,144,352

$225,661,033

68.1%

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Outcomes by discipline panels 

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

743

147

19.8%

$448,922,776

$92,304,248

$62,194,954

67.4%

EIC

808

152

18.8%

$430,658,212

$88,662,078

$59,495,221

67.1%

HCA

316

59

18.7%

$131,554,066

$26,251,567

$18,168,044

69.2%

MPCE

655

124

18.9%

$357,294,536

$69,503,721

$48,125,131

69.2%

SBE

614

112

18.2%

$289,502,458

$54,422,738

$37,677,683

69.2%

Total

3136

594

18.9%

$1,657,932,048

$331,144,352

$225,661,033

68.1%

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.  Recommended funding and success rate for Discovery Projects 2018 proposals by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Proposals considered

Proposals

recommended

Success
rate (%)

Recommended funds (over project life)

Advanced manufacturing

460

73

15.9%

$28,987,016

Cybersecurity

112

23

20.5%

$8,450,380

Energy

169

31

18.3%

$12,102,209

Environmental change

376

83

22.1%

$31,225,669

Food

141

27

19.1%

$11,305,430

Health

408

62

15.2%

$25,365,347

Resources

81

8

9.9%

$3,008,925

Soil and water

91

9

9.9%

$3,438,683

Transport

70

15

21.4%

$5,331,319

Unspecified

1228

263

21.4%

$96,446,055

Total

3136

594

18.9%

$225,661,033

Total within Science and Research Priorities

1908

331

17.3%

$129,214,978

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

60.8%

55.7%

 

57.3%

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Outcomes by Administering Organisation 

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

Administering Organisation

Proposals considered

Proposals recommended

Success rate (%)

Recommended funding over project life ($)

Australian Capital Territory

234

41

17.5

$16,655,595

The Australian National University

223

38

17.0

$15,215,580

University of Canberra

11

3

27.3

$1,440,015

New South Wales

1097

205

18.7

$76,837,809

Australian Catholic University

19

5

26.3

$2,072,566

Charles Sturt University

8

2

25.0

$589,747

Macquarie University

111

14

12.6

$5,709,689

Southern Cross University

12

2

16.7

$900,072

The University of New England

18

0

0.0

$0

The University of New South Wales

335

64

19.1

$24,120,537

The University of Newcastle

100

16

16.0

$6,345,640

The University of Sydney

261

55

21.1

$21,104,097

University of Technology, Sydney

102

26

25.5

$8,973,122

University of Wollongong

88

13

14.8

$4,160,229

Western Sydney University

43

8

18.6

$2,862,110

Northern Territory

3

0

0.0

$0

Charles Darwin University

3

0

0.0

$0

 

Queensland

470

100

21.3

$37,246,321

Bond University

3

0

0.0

$0

Central Queensland University

9

0

0.0

$0

Griffith University

69

13

18.8

$5,110,103

James Cook University

16

3

18.8

$1,262,646

Queensland University of Technology

85

22

25.9

$7,867,797

The University of Queensland

266

57

21.4

$21,357,111

University of Southern Queensland

13

1

7.7

$282,491

University of the Sunshine Coast

9

4

44.4

$1,366,173

South Australia

202

35

17.3

$13,142,338

The Flinders University of South Australia

58

9

15.5

$2,936,025

The University of Adelaide

123

21

17.1

$8,324,321

University of South Australia

21

5

23.8

$1,881,992

Tasmania

78

20

25.6

$8,616,807

University of Tasmania

78

20

25.6

$8,616,807

Victoria

813

148

18.2

$56,159,920

Deakin University

57

13

22.8

$4,634,385

Federation University Australia

5

1

20.0

$362,045

La Trobe University

61

3

4.9

$971,086

Monash University

265

54

20.4

$21,749,626

RMIT University

83

14

16.9

$5,048,237

Swinburne University of Technology

46

6

13.0

$2,334,311

The University of Melbourne

283

54

19.1

$19,956,440

Victoria University

13

3

23.1

$1,103,790

Western Australia

239

45

18.8

$17,002,243

Curtin University of Technology

103

18

17.5

$6,627,299

Edith Cowan University

3

1

33.3

$349,700

Murdoch University

11

1

9.1

$392,664

The University of Notre Dame Australia

3

0

0.0

$0

The University of Western Australia

119

25

21.0

$9,632,580

Total

3136

594

18.9

$225,661,033

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Career age and gender 

A total of 6911 Chief Investigators (CIs) were named on all proposals considered in this round. Of these, 1894 were female CIs, 5011 were male CIs and six 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 of Discovery Projects is 20.3 per cent, 18.4 per cent and 33.3 per cent respectively.

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

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Chief Investigators (CIs) in Discovery Projects 2018 by gender and career age*

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD.

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International Collaboration 

Applicants foreshadowed 4546 instances of collaboration with researchers in 107 overseas locations on 2381 proposals. Of the proposals recommended for funding, 473 foreshadowed 964 instances of collaboration with researchers in 74 overseas locations. (Figure 2)

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in recommended Discovery Projects 2018 proposals

  • United States of America, 246
  • England, 129
  • Germany, 73
  • China (excludes SARs and Taiwan), 55
  • Canada, 50
  • France, 45
  • Japan, 28
  • New Zealand, 27
  • Switzerland, 27
  • Netherlands, 25
  • Scotland, 19
  • Other, 240

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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 2018 proposals recommended for one or more Discovery International Awards (DIAs)

Funding year

Number of submitted Proposals requesting one or more DIAs

Number of Proposals recommended one or more DIAs

2017

660

97

2018

591

101

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