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ARChway June 2019—CEO column

Welcome message from the CEO

Professor Sue Thomas 

ARC CEO Sue Thomas

Welcome to our second edition of ARChway for 2019, which is I am pleased to say is indeed the 25th edition of this publication, commencing six years ago. I hope it continues to be a relevant, informative and interesting update on the activities of the Australian Research Council and the research sector more generally. I also hope it continues to help tell the wonderful stories of ARC-funded research happening across Australian universities.

This is my first opportunity to provide an update to you since conducting our fourth round of Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) and our much-anticipated inaugural Engagement and Impact Assessment (EI)—both national reports were released in March this year. In this edition, we explain more about these two reports and how to access them through the interactive new ARC Data Portal, and explore the wealth of information that they contain. As an outcome of EI, we have also published more than 200 insightful impact studies, in narrative form, which any member of the public can now read, and we shine a light on some examples of the impact studies submitted to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research discipline.

It is hard to believe that we are almost halfway through the year, and there are many important dates appearing on the horizon. One of these coming soon is the closing date for nominations to the ARC College of Experts 2020. We seek these nominations from senior research academics who possess extensive peer review experience, with multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary expertise particularly advantageous. The ARC is also committed to improving the diversity and gender balance of membership on ARC selection committees and strongly encourages nominations from women; Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples; and end-users across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

At the end of July, we are expecting to provide advice to the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, following our review of the 2015 National Science and Research priorities as they apply to the ARC National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP). The Terms of Reference for this review were announced by the Minister for Education in February, and submissions from the sector closed on 16 May. We have now received over 40 responses to our request for feedback and to our consultation paper, and these responses are being reviewed by the ARC Research Priorities Panel.

Another consultation well underway is the ANZSRC Review, which we have been undertaking jointly with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistics New Zealand, and the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The review will ensure the research classifications reflect current practice and remain responsive to change in the sector, which is important to support ARC data reporting and management. The ARC uses Fields of Research (FoR) codes for our research funding schemes, and our ERA and EI research evaluations, and we also record Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) for reporting purposes. Submissions to this review closed on 7 June 2019.

On 3 June, we released our new Research Integrity Policy. This policy is to promote and support research integrity and safeguard confidence in the value of publicly-funded research. The ARC has a role in ensuring research integrity, and addressing breaches of the recently revised Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code), and we wish to make this role completely transparent. The new Policy also establishes a framework to support the integrity of ARC processes such as grant selection and research evaluation. This edition of ARChway includes an article that outlines how the revised Code affects institutions, when it comes into effect on 1 July 2019.

Although there was a pause in announcements during the Australian Government’s ‘caretaker’ period in the lead-up to the Federal election, all our schemes are continuing on the timeframes mapped out on our Grants Calendar. The Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science (SRIEAS) is one of the most recent for which applications closed, on 5 June. I am very excited by this new Special Research Initiative, which is providing up to $56 million in total funding for up to seven years, to support projects that advance and build Australian research capacity in Antarctic, Sub-Antarctic and Southern Ocean research. This is the most significant new funding we have announced for Antarctic and Southern Ocean research since the Antarctic Gateway Partnership, which provided $24 million over three years from 2014, and has had a number of exciting outcomes including a new polar Autonomous Underwater Vehicle which was launched off the coast of Antarctica this year.

As I mentioned above, ERA and EI data is now available to the public through a new Data Portal. This is also being extended to allow detailed searches of our entire grants database, through a tool called Grants Search II. This upgrades our existing grants search tool which has been the primary way for the public to interrogate our grants database since 2015. Grants Search II brings a number of significant improvements, including real-time data, more intelligent search terms, and a handy extraction tool. More details are set out in an article in this edition, and I encourage you to go and explore the new format.

As part of International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June—we celebrate female Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipients in engineering with a look at how the statistics on women’s participation and success in ARC grants is improving. We also highlight a fantastic early-career researcher mentoring course for women researchers that was run by Professor Joy Damousi, as part of her ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship.

Also in this edition, we feature an article that tells the story of when three ARC Centres of Excellence—the ARC Centre of Excellence for Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology, ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers, and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes—came together for a combined Media and Communications Workshop. Communication is a vital part of the activity of any of our ARC Centres of Excellence, and we are very happy to draw attention to the effort that some of our Centres are making to share ideas and experiences so as to better present their research to a general audience.

I hope you enjoy this bumper 25th edition of ARChway, and find plenty of useful and interesting content to sink your teeth into. Happy reading!

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

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