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ARChway December 2020—Message from the CEO


Welcome to the final edition of ARChway for 2020 as this eventful year draws to a close. This year has been unprecedented in so many ways, with unexpected challenges affecting the entire research community from the bushfires to the ongoing pandemic.  The Australian Research Council continues to adapt its processes to the changing situation, responding to the needs of researchers and research administrators throughout the year.  The sector has shown real resilience, and many ARC-supported researchers have been working at the forefront of Australia’s response to solving and understanding the challenges of 2020 as they unfolded.   

Our funding schemes have continued to open and close with some adjustments as needed, and our selection meetings continued successfully throughout 2020 in a new way — online. Assessment processes have continued for all submitted applications, and it has been exciting to see the hundreds of new grants that are beginning to get underway following our recent announcements. I would like to thank the research community for your dedication, patience and support during 2020 as we worked together to ensure these processes proceeded.

2020 overall has seen the announcement of 1250 grants under the NCGP, with $732,275,882 announced to date, supporting 3001 unique Chief Investigators. 

You can see all this data on our new ARC data visualisation web page, and read more about this new feature in the article below.

The ARC is currently consulting research offices about draft 2021-22 National Competitive Grant Program scheme timelines, ahead of publishing to the ARC Grants Calendar soon. 

As of mid-December, the ARC has received 7386 applications for grants funding this year, up from approximately 5660 last year. The assessment of these involved over 20 thousand detailed assessments made by our extended community of over 7000 assessors, and we greatly appreciate this critical contribution to peer review processes to ensure the delivery of funding outcomes during this time. Although our continuous Linkage Projects scheme has used video links in assessment for some time, this was the first time we shifted the entire schedule of Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) meetings to video conference, and it worked well, with SAC members responding supportively to this change of meeting format.

This year has also marked the introduction of a new service provided by the ARC known as Research Grants Services (RGS), using our established research grants management processes and systems to support the delivery and management of research grants programs funded by other government entities. Grants services have now commenced for three agencies, with the goal of providing efficient, high quality and consistent grants administration processes across government. Please also see article: Research Grants Services Update.

Engagement with the sector has also been continuous throughout the year, although it looked very different with seminars and selection committees going virtual. Although we didn’t have the opportunity to travel, we still managed to hold digital induction forums for the directors of major ARC-funded investments and our newly-awarded ARC Australian Laureate Fellows, and in the past fortnight we have held a webinar update with Research Office staff in lieu of our annual Research Administrators’ Seminar.

This year, the ARC has also been focussed on an extensive review of the Excellence in Research for Australia and Engagement and Impact assessments (the ERA/EI Review). The public consultation on this review closed in mid-October and we received more than 100 submissions covering all aspects of the ERA and EI programs. I would like thank all who made submissions – your time and effort in providing feedback to us is greatly appreciated and will help to ensure these national assessments continue to reflect world’s best practice in research evaluation and respond to the needs of the university sector, government and the wider community. The review is expected to conclude in the first half of next year, and I am pleased to advise that submissions for the review are now available on the ERA EI Review page.

A significant review of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) FoR codes completed in June 2020 has now resulted in the adoption of the updated 2020 ANZSRC codes into RMS for researchers’ individual profiles. The use of the codes for grants applications and peer review activities will begin next year. Please also see article: Implementation of 2020 ANZSRC codes – Stage One now complete

This edition features the work of some wonderful researchers, including a Discovery Project led by ARC Future Fellow, Associate Professor Liam Brady, with colleagues Professor Amanda Kearney and Associate Professor John Bradley, who are working with the Yanyuwa people from the south-western Gulf of Carpentaria to unpack the deep meaning of images in caves and rock shelters that can be obscured by the label ‘rock art’. We also publish an article about the research of Dr Megan Power, whose topic of study has been ARC Centres of Excellence, and the organic networks they create, within their own institutions, as well as bridging barriers nationally and internationally. 

It has certainly been a big year for all – I sincerely hope you all have a restful break over the holiday period, and on behalf of all of us at the ARC, we look forward to continuing to support your work in 2021.


Professor Sue Thomas

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