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ARChway March 2017—Acting CEO column

Message from the Acting CEO
Leanne Harvey

Leanne Harvey

Welcome to the first ARChway newsletter for 2017, and the year is already well underway for us here at the Australian Research Council (ARC), with the first and second announcements of the now continuous Linkage Projects scheme. This is a significant milestone, delivering on the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) measure aimed at strengthening collaboration with industry through a continuous application and assessment process. In this edition of ARChway, we feature an article about the Linkage Projects scheme, as  well as an interview with Distinguished Professor Buddhima Indraratna, a recent recipient of a Linkage Projects grant. Look out for further Linkage Projects scheme announcements throughout the year, with the next one just around the corner.

The ARC has also recently released two statements designed to support participation of researchers from under-represented groups. On 14 February, we released the ARC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Researchers: Statement of Support and Action Plan 2017, demonstrating ARC’s support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers through all of the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) schemes. The Statement and Action Plan outline the ARC’s commitment to building research capacity, including through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation, from honours and higher degree research students to researchers at all academic levels. We have consulted with stakeholders in the development of these documents and will review the Statement and Action Plan each year to ensure that we are providing the best support for Aboriginal and Torres Islander researchers.

Then this week, to coincide with International Women’s Day, we also released the ARC's Gender Equality Action Plan for 2017, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to addressing the long-standing inequalities for women in the research sector. The new plan expands on the direction established in the previous plan, with new actions designed to further ensure that all eligible researchers have the opportunity to participate in the NCGP funding schemes. I want to reiterate that the ARC is committed to improving gender equality and ensuring that we are doing everything we can to address the underrepresentation of women in research.

In addition to the release of the ARC Gender Equality Action Plan for 2017, we released new NCGP gender data that further demonstrates the importance of the plan. While the data shows success rates for women (as a proportion of proposals submitted by women) are higher under some schemes—Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, Industrial Transformation Training Centres and Australian Laureate Fellowships—and similar to that of men (less than 1 per cent difference) in the Discovery Projects and Linkage Projects schemes, the participation rate of women continued to be lower than men across all schemes, except the Discovery Indigenous scheme.

I’d also like to highlight one of our most positive gender initiatives. I am delighted we have strengthened the profile of our named Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellows—our exceptional female Australia Laureate Fellows—on the ARC website. Each one is undertaking fantastic initiatives to promote women in research—see our article for more information. This year, we will conduct a second Georgina Sweet and Kathleen Fitzpatrick Fellowships Forum, to provide an opportunity for recipients to share experiences, network and provide feedback to the ARC (this follows the successful conduct of the inaugural forum in September 2016).

We have also been busy releasing information to support the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP), including our new suite of Peer Review webpages, designed to support the ARC Assessor Community—which comprises approximately 20,000 Australian and international assessors—and transparently explain the assessment processes for the schemes of the NCGP. See our article with for more information.

As always, it has been great to see the outcomes of ARC-funded research advancing Australian research and innovation globally and benefitting the community. A recent exciting example of this was the research breakthrough by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics. Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Simon Birmingham, attended an event at The University of Adelaide on 20 January to launch a brain biopsy needle that will make brain surgery safer. We have an article about this impressive new technology in this edition of ARChway.

We also have an article about the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), supported by the ARC for many years through the Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) scheme. It provides researchers at Australian universities access to an extremely significant international marine research collaboration, drilling deep into the ocean floor to undertake fundamental research into past climate, earth crustal movements, and the resources of the sea bed.

Looking ahead, I am pleased to say that the Research Excellence Branch at the ARC has had a fantastic response to our call for universities to participate in the 2017 Engagement and Impact Assessment pilot. The team continues to forge ahead in the vast amount of work to deliver the pilot and prepare for ERA 2018 and the full companion exercise of Engagement and Impact. We will be featuring more on our Engagement and Impact Assessment pilot in ARChway editions to come!

Finally, in Executive recruitment news, processes are still underway to appoint the ARC’s new Chief Executive Officer—we expect an announcement about an appointment to occur soon—and our new Executive Director for Humanities and Creative Arts is also expected to be announced very soon. 

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