Message from the Chief Executive Officer

The mission of the Australian Research Council (ARC) is to deliver policy and programs that advance Australian research and innovation globally and benefit the community. 

The ARC’s assessors are a community of individuals who have knowledge, experience and expertise in specific disciplines. Detailed Assessors read, comment and score proposals in their area of expertise, which are then considered by the ARC College of Experts or Selection Advisory Committees.

The contribution of ARC assessors in ensuring that the ARC funds the highest quality proposals as well as providing applicants with useful feedback for future proposals is extremely valuable. Involvement in the ARC’s peer review processes is not only of great assistance to the ARC, it also makes an important and worthwhile contribution to the research community as a whole.

The ARC is very grateful to all those researchers who provide detailed assessments to evaluate research proposals submitted to the ARC for funding as well as to members of its selection committees. Without these assessors, the ARC’s robust peer review process would not be possible.

Leanne Harvey
Acting Chief Executive Officer

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Purpose

This statement aims to support the ARC’s peer review process by acknowledging the significant contribution of assessors to the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) peer review process and outlining the ARC’s commitment to and expectations of assessors.

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Context

The ARC’s delivery of the NCGP is underpinned by a competitive peer review process involving national and international assessors.

There are two levels of service as an ARC assessor.

Detailed assessors are discipline-specific and interdisciplinary experts in their knowledge fields, drawn from the Australian and international research community. They complete in-depth assessments of proposals by providing scores and comments against the scheme-specific selection criteria. These assessments are considered by general assessors in determining which proposals to recommend for funding.

General assessors are members of the ARC’s peer review committees (for example, the ARC College of Experts or scheme-specific Selection Advisory Committees) who are both specialist and generalist experts in their knowledge fields. General Assessors (i) assign detailed assessors to proposals; (ii) consider the proposal, the scores and comments provided by detailed assessors and the applicant’s rejoinder; (iii) assign their own scores against the relevant scheme-specific selection criteria; and (iv) attend a selection meeting to discuss and determine funding recommendations. They also have a special advisory role with responsibility for providing strategic advice on emerging disciplines and interdisciplinary developments.

Both detailed and general assessors devote considerable time and effort to their responsibilities in reviewing proposals for ARC funding. Each year approximately 7000 experts act as detailed assessors and provide detailed written analysis of the merit of proposals allocated to them for assessment. In addition, more than 150 researchers from universities, government and industry participate as members of the ARC’s peer review committees (general assessors).

The process of informing all decisions regarding the awarding of grants through the conduct of a thorough assessment of proposals by experts in the field is fundamental to ARC’s values, risk management, stewardship and accountability. It is consistent with the activities of research funding councils around the world, as articulated in Global Research Council’s peer review principles (see Note 1 for further information).

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Principles

Assessors provide an invaluable service to the ARC and to the Australian research community. With the help of their contribution, the ARC funds the highest quality research and researchers through the NCGP, helping to build Australia’s research capacity and generating outcomes of benefit to Australia.

In supporting the assessors that participate in its peer review processes, the ARC is committed to:

Confidentiality

  • maintaining the anonymity of assessors to researchers being assessed

Communication

  • establishing channels of effective and efficient communications with assessors
  • providing training or guidance (as appropriate) on issues arising from the assessment process
  • providing feedback to assessors on the outcomes of the assessment process in which they participated

Recognition

  • acknowledging and providing recognition of assessors’ contributions to the ARC’s peer review processes
  • transitioning to a system of recognising the contribution of assessors by annually reporting the number, and rate of return, of individual assessments made by assessors to their respective institutions to support their academic development and progress within the institution.

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Expectations of assessors

The ARC asks assessors to:

  • provide timely advice to the ARC regarding their ability to assess the proposals assigned to them, noting that reasons for rejection include lack of expertise in the discipline area or conflict of interest
  • provide high quality assessments including both scores and/or comments against each of the criteria
  • be thorough, fair and objective in their assessment of proposals
  • observe the confidentiality requirements of the process
  • respect the proprietary nature of the intellectual property in the proposals
  • notify the ARC in a timely manner if any research integrity issues are identified.

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Becoming an assessor

Detailed assessors

The excellence of the ARC’s peer review process is directly related to its ability to involve experts to participate as detailed assessors. Being a detailed assessor has a number of potential benefits including:

  • knowledge of the ARC’s peer review processes
  • familiarity with proposal content expectations
  • familiarity with the range of research in their field of expertise
  • an opportunity to contribute to the development of the research community.

The ARC encourages all researchers to register as detailed assessors. Nominees need to have sufficient knowledge and experience in their discipline area to make a fair and informed assessment of proposals for funding. To be considered for the role of an assessor for the ARC, researchers should send an email to ARCAssessorUpdate@arc.gov.au with a brief CV, a list of five recent publications or a web link to this information.

Under the terms of the Funding Agreements signed with ARC, Administering Organisations must ensure that, if requested by the ARC, recipients of ARC funding agree to assess up to 20 new proposals per awarded project for ARC funding per annum for each year of funding. If the ARC determines that a recipient has failed to meet the obligation to assess proposals assigned by the ARC for assessment, the ARC may notify the Administering Organisation in writing of that failure.

General assessors

ARC College of Experts members are experts of international standing drawn from the Australian research and innovation community: from higher education, industry and government research organisations. The ARC seeks nominations from suitably qualified and experienced individuals in all disciplines, with strong emphasis placed on multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary expertise. ARC College of Experts nominations are sought by the ARC annually and appointments are approved by the ARC CEO for a one to three-year period.

The ARC encourages nominations from women, people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and end users across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

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Further information

Further information about the ARC’s peer review process on the following pages:

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Contact and document details

Policy and Strategy Branch
Australian Research Council 
Phone: 02 6287 6600
ARC-Policy and strategy@arc.gov.au
Level 2, 11 Lancaster Place, Canberra Airport ACT 2609 
GPO Box 2702, Canberra ACT 2601

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Notes

The Global Research Council is a virtual organisation comprised of the heads of science and engineering funding agencies from around the world dedicated to promoting the sharing of data and best practices for high-quality collaboration among funding agencies worldwide.

The Global Research Council’s Principles for Scientific Merit Review are:

  • Expert Assessment: Collectively, reviewers should have the appropriate knowledge and expertise to assess the proposal both at the level of the broad context of the research field(s) to which it contributes and with respect to the specific objectives and methodology. Reviewers should be selected according to clear criteria.
  • Transparency: Decisions must be based on clearly described rules, procedures and evaluation criteria that are published a priori. Applicants should receive appropriate feedback on the evaluation of their proposal.
  • Impartiality: Proposals must be assessed fairly and on their merit.  Conflicts of interest must be declared and managed according to defined, published processes.
  • Appropriateness: The review process should be consistent with the nature of the call, with the research area addressed, and in proportion to the investment and complexity of the work.
  • Confidentiality: All proposals, including related data, intellectual property and other documents, must be treated in confidence by reviewers and organisations involved in the review process.
  • Integrity and Ethical Considerations: Ethics and integrity are paramount to the review process.

[Source: Global Research Council Statement of Principles for Scientific Merit Review (May 2012)]

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