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ARChway—Acting CEO column December 2016

Message from the Acting CEO
Leanne Harvey

As 2016 is fast drawing to a close, this edition of ARChway is a good opportunity to reflect on the activities of the year, highlight recent developments and look to the exciting year ahead…

Leanne Harvey
This year has seen the start of a changing of the guard at the Australian Research Council (ARC), with the departure of Professor Aidan Byrne, after four years at the helm. While we have successfully continued on with our activities these last few months—testament to the sound position in which Professor Byrne left the ARC—we now look forward to the expertise and new perspectives a new ARC CEO will bring in 2017 (the recruitment process continues, with an announcement expected in the New Year).

We have also recently welcomed two new Executive Directors to the ARC—Professor Stephen Buckman (Physical Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics and Information Sciences) and Associate Professor Therese Jefferson (Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences)—as we farewelled and thanked outgoing Executive Directors—Professor Clive Baldock, Scientia Professor Dennis Del Favero and Professor Marian Simms. Dr Fiona Cameron continues as our Executive Director for Biological Sciences and Biotechnology and a recruitment process is currently underway to appoint a new Executive Director for Humanities and Creative Arts.

To highlight the most recent developments at the ARC…

On 21 November 2016, Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training announced further details about the Engagement and Impact Assessment, which aims to incentivise universities to focus on improving their engagement and the translation of research into wider economic, social and other benefits. More details are included in the ‘Engagement and Impact Assessment’ article, however, I do want to emphasise that the new assessment is a companion exercise to Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) and the ARC remains committed to supporting both the highest-quality fundamental and applied research. The new assessment will complement ARC’s existing policies and programs, which together support research across the full spectrum from fundamental to applied research.

The ARC’s Major Grants Announcement for 2016 also occurred in November. In a highly competitive field of proposals, 989 research projects were awarded funding across five schemes of the ARC’s National Competitive Grant Program (NCGP). I congratulate all the recipients and wish you every success as you embark on these important new research projects. More details about the announcement and some of the new projects are included in this edition of ARChway.

In preparation for next year’s NCGP assessment processes, we have welcomed our newest College of Experts members to the ARC for a day-long College induction meeting. This was an important opportunity to meet our new members and outline their role and responsibilities in relation to NCGP peer review processes.

We hosted Day Two of the annual ARC/NHMRC Research Administrators’ Seminar. With around 250 attendees, the seminar was a great opportunity to share information directly with the sector and receive your feedback. Copies of my presentation, as well as those given by other ARC staff, have been published on the ‘Presentations’ page of the ARC website.

We have released the ARC Statement of Support for Interdisciplinary Research and an Interdisciplinary Data Report. At the ARC we have long recognised that we have an important responsibility to fund the highest quality research, irrespective of the disciplinary grounding of the research. As highlighted in this edition's article, this new statement further signals the ARC’s commitment to supporting interdisciplinary research.

We held the inaugural Gender Equality in Research Laureate Forum. An important part of the forum was the bringing together of the ARC Georgina Sweet and Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellows to network and share their experiences and activities to promote and support women in research with each other and the ARC. See our ARChway article that highlights some of the valuable new programs our Laureate Fellows are developing.

And last week saw the first draft of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007) released for public consultation. The ARC is a co-author of the Code and is working closely with the NHMRC and Universities Australia (UA) on the review. I encourage ARC-funded researchers to contribute their input to the guidance through the consultation process. Read more about this in our ARChway article.

Of course there have also been many more achievements across the ARC, during another very busy year…

To highlight just a few:

Looking ahead to 2017, the ARC will continue to grow Australia’s knowledge and innovation by administering research funding schemes, administering research evaluation frameworks and providing advice on research matters.

In particular, I look forward to seeing the many new exciting research discoveries and outcomes (made possible through the NCGP), working with participating institutions as we embark on the Engagement and Impact Assessment Pilot (a process that I am sure we will all learn enormously from) and prepare for ERA 2018, and our continued engagement with stakeholders to enhance ARC’s policies and programs.

As 2016 concludes, I thank you all—research institution leaders, research administrators, the myriad of ARC assessors (including outgoing ARC College of Expert members), the members of ARC’s steering committees and working groups and, of course, our fantastic researchers (together with their partner organisations)—for a very productive 2016. You have all contributed enormously to advancing Australian research. 

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

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