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ARChway June 2018—CEO column

Welcome message from the CEO

Professor Sue Thomas

ARC CEO Sue Thomas

I extend a warm welcome to another edition of ARChway, as we are about to enter the second half of 2018.

Review of the Code for Responsible Research

On 14 June 2018, the ARC, together with co-authors the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Universities Australia (UA) jointly released a new Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 (the 2018 Code) and Guide to Managing Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Investigation Guide).

Together, these documents will help to safeguard the quality and integrity of Australian research. The 2018 Code provides a new principles-based approach to the responsible conduct of research. While the 2007 version of the Code has been very successful in building a framework for responsible research conduct in Australia, the 2018 Code will build on this to provide more contemporary and clearer guidance to researchers and research institutions.

You can read more about the revised Code in this article: Revised code for responsible conduct of research.

Engagement and Impact

Submissions have now closed for Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2018, and evaluation by our expert Research Evaluation Committees (RECs) members, and their supporting peer reviewers, will commence shortly. In May, I announced the distinguished members of all eight RECs. Their biographies are available on the ARC website.

This year’s inaugural round of the Engagement and Impact Assessment (EI) has also commenced and institutions are busy making their submissions.

I announced the EI 2018 Assessment Panel Chairs in April. You can also view biographies for panel Chairs on the ARC website. I expect to be announcing the full membership of the EI panels—comprising a mix of distinguished academic researchers and highly experienced end-users—in the coming weeks.

Together, ERA and EI will provide the Australian Government and the community with the most comprehensive and transparent analysis of Australia’s research excellence, engagement and impact ever undertaken. The results will highlight Australia’s strengths and areas for development, and support better-informed research policy.

Promoting and improving gender equality in research

Since our last edition, we have released an updated ARC Statement of Support and Expectations for Gender Equality and 2018 ARC Gender Equality Action Plan, to support the ARC’s efforts to promote and improve gender equality.

As I have said before, the ARC is committed to research workforce diversity and aims to contribute to a strong and sustainable Australian research workforce through our policies and programs. In particular, we are committed to ensuring all eligible researchers, irrespective of gender, have a fair opportunity to participate in the funding schemes of the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP). We also recognise our leadership role in Australia to improve gender diversity in academia and improve the participation rate of women in the NCGP.

You can read more about our progress so far in this article: Promoting and improving gender equality in research—a work in progress.

New Executive Director

On 7 May 2018, we welcomed Dr Robert Mun to the ARC as our new Executive Director for Engineering and Information Sciences to complement the ARC’s existing team of Executive Directors overseeing the National Competitive Grants Program. Dr Mun has come to the ARC from the Department of Defence–Defence Science and Technology Group, with a strong technical background in chemical engineering as a researcher, and building on that, has an extensive career in the Australian Public Service that will bring a wealth of skills and experience from his broad roles in government.

National Competitive Grants Program

Since our last edition of ARChway in March, we have been busy with many activities relating to the NCGP schemes, and launching major funded projects.

Under the ARC Linkage Projects scheme, we have continued to announce successful research projects. In May, announcing ten successful new research projects totalling $3.4 million that included research to develop mortarless interlocking bricks that resist earthquakes; address youth unemployment in the construction industry; and new ways to trace and prevent illegal use of copyrighted multimedia. In June, announcing a further 66 successful new collaborative research projects totalling $26.5 million. As always, I look forward to hearing about the tangible outcomes that will flow from this collaborative research as it gets underway.

In May, the Australian Government announced two new research projects to be administered by the Australian Council of Learned Academies under the ARC’s Supporting Responses to Commonwealth Science Council Priorities scheme to advance Australia’s knowledge and expertise in the emerging areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). In making the announcement, Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham and Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash, said the new projects would help put Australia at the forefront of research into these two scientific and technological developments.

Over the past few months we have also opened of a number of new ARC Centres of Excellence, as well as Training Centres and Research Hubs under the Industrial Transformation Research Program—each one representing significant collaborations occurring between universities, publicly funded research organisations, governments and industry in Australia and overseas, all to support outstanding research in areas of priority:

During April, the Australian Institute for Tropical Health and Medicine—funded under the ARC Special Research Initiatives scheme and led by James Cook University—opened a new facility in Cairns that will support essential research into tropical diseases.

In June, we invited staff from Research Offices across Australia to take part in a workshop at the ARC, to learn more about our post-award functions and processes. It was a very successful event, which you can read more about in this article: ARC Post-award workshop for research office staff

You can also read more about changes now in place for publishing all new NCGP grant opportunities on GrantConnect—the whole-of-government grants information system. As part of this new process, when each individual scheme round is published on GrantConnect the ARC must select a ‘primary’ category as the discipline area most relevant to the scheme. In the absence of a category that covers all disciplines of research supported under the NCGP, the ARC will alternate between listing STEM and HASS as the primary and secondary categories. While the ARC has to work within the scope of GrantConnect, please be assured that all fields of research remain equally regarded and important to the ARC. 

Looking ahead

As part of the 2018–19 Federal Budget, the ARC welcomed a major new ARC initiative to support Australian Antarctic Science research. The Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science—worth $56 million over 7 years—will provide Antarctic researchers in Australian universities the opportunity to seek funding to support their work in this important area.

Yesterday, I was very pleased to announce that the ARC, together with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, New Zealand, and the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, will undertake a Joint review of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC). This is an important exercise to ensure that our research classifications reflect current practice and remain responsive to change in the sector. Further information regarding the review process, including avenues for providing feedback, will be made available in the coming months.

We will continue to roll on with more launches of new ARC Centres of Excellence, and Training Hubs and Research Centres under the Industrial Transformation Research Program, during upcoming months, and of course, more NCGP announcements on the horizon, with many other proposals under the Discovery and Linkage programs currently under assessment.

I also look forward to the release of another edition of the ARC’s annual publication, Making a Difference: Outcomes of ARC supported research in the coming months. I hope you will be just as impressed by the snapshot of remarkable stories of important research discoveries and outcomes that are continuing to arise from our universities.

In the meantime, you can read about more exceptional work occurring across research institutions below in this edition of ARChway:

  • Our feature story Designing the classroom to match 21st century teaching looks at research by educational researchers based at The University of Melbourne in an ARC Linkage Project that is studying how innovations in school architecture affect student learning.
  • Another feature story, Reigniting the Noongar language through song, is a fantastic window into the work of Dr Clint Bracknell, musician and ethnomusicologist, based at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at The University of Sydney, who is using an ARC Discovery Indigenous grant to bring to life the musical traditions of the Noongar language of South Western Australia. We were honoured to have Dr Bracknell attend the ARC in June to speak to us about his important research.
  • And, read more about Australian Laureate Fellow Professor Jamie Rossjohn and his colleagues at Monash University, who have recently launched a Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day to help people with low or no vision to experience the fruits of the latest infection and immunity research, in the feature story Australian Laureate Fellow launches Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day.

Finally, I continue to be impressed by outcomes of ARC-funded research, as highlighted by us each month through Twitter and on our Research Highlights webpage. Remember to tag us (@arc_gov_au) when tweeting about your fabulous research outcomes!

I hope you enjoy this edition of ARChway.

Image: Professor Sue Thomas.
Image courtesy: Norman Plant Photography.



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