Overview

The Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme reflects the Australian Government’s commitment to excellence in research by supporting world-class researchers to conduct research in Australia. 

The objectives of the Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme are to: 

  • support ground-breaking, internationally-competitive basic and applied research;
  • forge strong links among researchers, the international research community and/or industry and other research end-users;
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in Australian Government priority areas;
  • attract and retain outstanding researchers and research leaders of international reputation; and
  • provide an excellent research training environment and exemplary mentorship to nurture early-career researchers.

Selection process

Applications for funding commencing in 2020 opened on 9 October 2019 and closed on 4 December 2019. Applications were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines recommendations from the ARC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to the Minister.

These recommendations are based on advice from the ARC Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) which: 

  • assessed applications and reviewed assessments made by independent assessors
  • reviewed candidates’ comments on assessors’ reports
  • ranked each application relative to the others on the basis of the application, the assessors’ reports and candidates’ responses to those assessments
  • assessed and recommended budgets; 

and, advice from the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, the members of the ARC SAC or independent assessors
  • where required, sought advice from the ARC’s Medical Research Advisory Group
  • made recommendations to the CEO in respect of ineligible applications.

This report reflects the outcomes approved by the Minister. Unless otherwise specified, data represented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.

Assessment criteria

All applications that meet the eligibility criteria for the Australian Laureate Fellowships 2020 applications were assessed and merit ranked using the following assessment criteria:

Investigator/Capability (40%)

  • Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) including:
  • outstanding research outputs and achievements taking into account research opportunity;
  • evidence for and/or potential to undertake ground-breaking research;
  • leadership ability and plans to build world class research capacity and diverse teams; and
  • potential to create an enduring legacy.
  • extent to which the candidate will build collaborations across research organisations and/or industry and/or with other disciplines both within Australia and internationally.

Project quality and innovation (25%)

  • contribution to an important gap in knowledge or significant problem;
  • novelty/originality and innovation of the proposed research (including any new methods, technologies, theories or ideas that will be developed);
  • clarity of the hypothesis, theories and research questions;
  • cohesiveness of the project design and implementation plan (including the appropriateness of the aim, conceptual framework, method, data and/or analyses);
  • extent to which the research has the potential to enhance international collaboration; and
  • extent to which the research will be cost-effective and represents value for money.

If the project involves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research:

  • the strategies for enabling collaboration with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities where appropriate (for example, dialogue/collaboration with an Indigenous cultural mentor); and
  • any existing or developing, supportive and high quality research communities.

Benefit  (10%)

  • new or advanced knowledge resulting from outcomes of the research;
  • economic, commercial, environmental, social and/or cultural benefits for Australia and international communities; and
  • potential contribution to capacity in the Australian Government’s National Science and Research Priorities and other priorities identified by government.

Mentoring and capacity building (25%) 

  • Mentoring, including the extent to which the candidate demonstrates:
    • exceptional ability to supervise and mentor postdoctoral researchers and other early-mid career researchers; and
    • they will be providing a suitable environment for postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
  • Capacity building, including:
    • the extent to which the project will build new teams and create world-class research capacity, collaboration and innovation;
    • the extent to which the candidate demonstrates exceptional leadership and the organisational ability to ensure the development of scale and focus in research;
    • evidence of the project’s and researchers’ potential to attract financial resources to enhance research capacity; and
    • the extent to which this research builds new international research collaboration or links between research and industry.

Assessment process

The ARC assessment process for Australian Laureate Fellowships 2020 involved 16 Selection Advisory Committee members on one multi-discipline panel and was managed in RMS. A total of 486 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC.

Funding levels and duration

Australian Laureate Fellowships projects are funded for five years on a full-time basis, subject to sufficient scheme funding, the provisions of the Australian Research Council Act 2001 (the ARC Act), and continued satisfactory progress of the Australian Laureate Fellowships project.

It is a requirement of the Grant Guidelines for the Discovery Program (2019 edition) for the Administering Organisation to provide a salary of Level E professorial appointment (or equivalent) to the successful candidate, with the ARC providing the salary supplement of $166,172 (2019$) per annum including 30 per cent on-costs.

In addition to the Australian Laureate Fellowship salary supplement and salary-related (on-cost) support, the ARC may provide Australian Laureate Fellows with:

  1. additional funding for up to two postdoctoral research associates for five years each and up to two postgraduate researchers for four years each; and
  2. project funding of up to $300,000 per annum (for up to five years).

Summary of outcomes

The ARC received a total of 157 applications for Australian Laureate Fellowships for funding commencing in 2020. 

Fifteen Australian Laureate Fellows are approved for funding commencing in 2020, shown in Table 1. The overall success rate for Australian Laureate Fellowships for funding commencing in 2020 is 9.6%. The total indicative funding approved is 47.3 million over five financial years (Tables 2 and 4).

Of the unsuccessful applications in 2020, two were found not to meet eligibility requirements. 

A comparison of success rates and funding amounts is shown in Table 2.

Table 1.  Australian Laureate Fellows approved for funding commencing in 2020

Fellowship candidate

Administering Organisation

Professor Alison Bashford

The University of New South Wales

Professor Ross Buckley

The University of New South Wales

Professor Dennis Del Favero

The University of New South Wales

Professor Maureen Dollard

University of South Australia

Professor Elaine Holmes

Murdoch University

Professor David James

The University of Sydney

Professor Loeske Kruuk

The Australian National University

Professor Catherine Lovelock

The University of Queensland

Professor Andrew Millar

The University of Western Australia

Professor Jochen Mueller

The University of Queensland

Professor Martina Stenzel

The University of New South Wales

Professor Kari Vilonen

The University of Melbourne

Professor Toby Walsh

The University of New South Wales

Professor Huanting Wang

Monash University

Professor Robert Williamson*

The Australian National University

*Declined by the Administering Organisation prior to announcement.
Please note: Biographies for the 14 Australian Laureate Fellows will be available on the ARC Website.

Table 2. Comparison of application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Australian Laureate Fellowships applications from 2019 to 2020

Funding year

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over project life for all applications considered ($)

Requested funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Funds allocated over project life for approved applications ($)

Return rate for approved applications (%)

2019

149

17

11.4

$495,924,229

$57,311,466

$53,753,052

93.8

2020

157

15

9.6

$532,112,154

$51,957,989

$47,329,286

91.1

Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship and Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship

Of the 35 female Australian Laureate Fellowship candidates, 30 applied for a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship or a Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship.

The recipients of the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship (awarded to a highly ranked candidate from the Humanities, Arts and Social Science disciplines) and the Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship (awarded to a highly ranked candidate from the Science and Technology disciplines) are provided with additional funding to undertake an ambassadorial role to promote women in research and to mentor early career researchers, particularly women, to encourage them to enter and establish careers in research in Australia. 

The assessment for these prestigious Fellowships takes place in two stages. Applicants who have indicated interest in either a Georgina Sweet or Kathleen Fitzpatrick Fellowship must first be successful as an Australian Laureate Fellow. Only when the SAC has recommended them as Australian Laureate Fellows will an applicant be assessed for a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship or a Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship.

The 2020 recipients of the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship and Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. 2020 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship and Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship

Fellowship Type

Approved candidate

Administering Organisation

Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship

Professor Maureen Dollard

University of South Australia

Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship

Professor Catherine Lovelock

The University of Queensland

Table 4. Indicative funds for approved Australian Laureate Fellowships 2020 applications 

Budget item

2020–2021

2021–2022

2022–2023

2023–2024

2024-2025

TOTAL

Laureate Salary supplement including on-costs

$2,492,580

$2,492,580

$2,492,580

$2,492,580

$2,492,580

$12,462,900

ARC Postdoctoral Researchers

$3,060,780

$3,060,780

$3,060,780

$3,060,780

$3,060,780

15,303,900

ARC Postgraduate Researchers

$469,353

$828,270

$828,270

$828,270

$358,917

$3,313,080

Project Funding

$3,280,613

$3,380,682

$3,396,172

$3,258,534

$2,933,405

$16,249,406

TOTAL

$9,303,326

$9,762,312

$9,777,802

$9,640,164

$8,845,682

$47,329,286

Outcomes by discipline

A summary of outcomes by discipline panel is shown in Table 5. 

Table 5. Number of applications and success rates for Australian Laureate Fellowships 2020 by discipline

Discipline*

Applications considered

Approved applications

Applications success rate (%)

BSB

30

5

16.7

EIC

42

3

7.1

HCA

27

3

11.1

MPCE

43

3

7

SBE

15

1

6.7

Total

157

15

9.6

*BSB = Biological Sciences and Biotechnology; EIC = Engineering, Information and Computing Sciences; HCA = Humanities and Creative Arts; MPCE = Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences; SBE = Social, Behavioural and Economics Sciences.

Outcomes by Science and Research Priorities

A summary of outcomes by Science and Research Priorities is shown in Table 6.

Table 6. Approved funding and success rates for Australian Laureate Fellowships 2020 applications by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Applications considered

Applications  approved

Success rate (%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Advanced Manufacturing

33

3

9.1

$9,851,555

Cybersecurity

8

1

12.5

$2,634,900

Energy

10

0

0

$0

Environmental Change

23

2

8.7

$6,183,656

Food

10

1

10.0

$3,311,491

Health

18

4

22.2

$12,982,090

Resources

8

0

0

$0

Soil and Water

3

1

33.3

$3,358,494

Transport

4

0

0

$0

None Selected

40

3

7.5

$9,007,100

Total

157

15

9.6

$47,329,286

Total within Science and Research Priorities

117

12

10.3

$38,322,186

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

74.5

80.0

 

81.0

Outcomes by Administering Organisation

The Administering Organisations of the 15 applications approved for funding are: 

  • Monash University (1)
  • Murdoch University (1)
  • The Australian National University (2)
  • The University of Melbourne (1)
  • The University of New South Wales (5)
  • The University of Queensland (2)
  • The University of Sydney (1)
  • The University of Western Australia (1)
  • University of South Australia (1)

Career age and gender

Of the approved Australian Laureate Fellowships, all 15 successful candidates were beyond 20 years of the award of their PhD.

Of the 157 Australian Laureate Fellowship candidates in this round, 35 were female and 122 were male. The success rate for female and male candidates is 17.1 per cent and 7.4 per cent respectively. 

Success rates of Australian Laureate Fellowship candidates by career age and gender in the current Australian Laureate Fellowship round are presented in Figure 1. 

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Australian Laureate Fellowships 2020 candidate by gender and career age*

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD. The earliest PhD award date was used where there was more than one PhD. Data was included where a PhD was not listed in the candidate’s profile but was mentioned elsewhere in the application.

Attracting and retaining outstanding researchers

Applications were open to Eligible Organisations to nominate candidates who are world-class researchers of international repute, resident either within Australia or overseas (Table 7).

Table 7. Citizenship/residency status of Australian Laureate Fellowships 2020 candidates and approved Awardees

Citizenship/residency status

Applications considered

% of Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Foreign Nationals

13

8.3

1

7.7

Resident Australians

138

87.9

13

9.4

Returning Australians

6

3.8

1

16.7

Total

157

100

15

9.6

 

Note: All totals and percentages are shown using rounded figures, and as such may not sum.

International collaboration

Among 157 of the applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 744 instances of collaboration with researchers in 73 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, 15 foreshadowed 72 instances of collaboration with researchers in 30 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Australian Laureate Fellowships 2020 applications*

*The top 13 international collaboration locations are listed in Figure 2 and the remaining are grouped in the ‘Other’ category.