Overview

The Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme provides focused research support for early career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions.

The objectives of the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award scheme are to:

  • support excellent basic and applied research by early career researchers;
  • support national and international research collaboration;
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in Australian Government priority areas;
  • advance promising early career researchers and promote enhanced opportunities for diverse career pathways; and
  • enable research and research training in high quality and supportive environments

Selection process 

Applications for funding commencing in 2022 opened on 16 September 2020 and closed on 25 November 2020. Applications were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines outcomes from the ARC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to the Minister.

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

  • assigned independent assessors to review the applications
  • 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 College of Experts 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 Unless otherwise specified, data represented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.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 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2022 applications were assessed and merit ranked using the following assessment criteria:

Investigator/Capability (50%)

Describe the:

  • Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) including record of high quality research outputs appropriate to the discipline/s.
  • capability of candidate to build collaborations both within Australia and internationally.

Project quality and innovation (25%)

Describe the:

  • 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); and
  • extent to which the research has the potential to enhance international collaboration.

Benefit (15%)

Describe the potential benefits including the:

  • 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.

Feasibility (10%)

Describe the:

  • cost-effectiveness of the research and its value for money;
  • feasibility of the research (including contribution of the project’s design, participants and resources to the timely completion of the project);
  • supportive environment for the DECRA candidate and their project, and for HDR students where appropriate; and
  • availability of the necessary facilities to complete the project.

If the project involves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research describe:

  • 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.

Assessment process 

The ARC assessment process for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2022 involved 64 College of Experts members across five discipline panels and was managed in RMS. A total of 3104 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC.

Funding levels and duration 

Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards are funded for three consecutive years on a full-time basis. The annual salary contribution that may be awarded is fixed at $106,194 (2020$), including 30 per cent on-costs. In addition, the ARC may provide up to $50,000 in project costs per annum.

Summary of outcomes 

The ARC received a total of 997 applications for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award for funding commencing in 2022, of which one application was withdrawn.

One hundred and ninety-six Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards are approved for funding commencing in 2022, shown in Table 1. The overall success rate for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award for funding commencing in 2022 is 19.7%. A comparison of success rates and funding amounts is shown in Table 1.

Of the unsuccessful applications in 2022, 25 were found not to meet eligibility requirements.

Table 1. Comparison of application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Discovery Early Career Researcher Award applications from 2021 to 2022

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 (%)

2021

1173

200

17.1

$506,629,691

$87,483,735

$84,041,533

96.0

2022

996

196

19.7

$439,916,659

$87,547,551

$83,014,284

94.8

*May include indicative funding amounts

Outcomes by discipline 

A summary of outcomes by discipline panel is shown in Table 2. 

Table 2.    Application numbers, success rates and requested and allocated funds for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2022 by discipline

Discipline *

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

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

Requested funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Funds over project
 life for approved applications ($)

Return
Rate for approved applications (%)

BSB

195

38

19.5

$88,364,436

$17,500,092

$16,587,378

94.8

EIC

271

52

19.2

$120,847,185

$23,260,469

$21,964,034

94.4

HCA

152

33

21.7

$65,036,852

$14,519,674

$13,576,959

93.5

MPCE

193

36

18.7

$83,856,843

$15,943,107

$15,224,291

95.5

SBE

185

37

20.0

$81,811,343

$16,324,209

$15,661,622

95.9

Total

996

196

19.7

$439,916,659

$87,547,551

$83,014,284

94.8

*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 Economic Sciences

Outcomes by Science and Research Priorities 

A summary of outcomes by Science and Research Priorities is shown in Table 3.

Table 3.    Approved funding and success rate for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2022 applications by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Applications considered

Applications

approved

Success
rate (%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Advanced manufacturing

145

35

24.1

$14,964,962

Cybersecurity

35

7

20.0

$2,844,626

Energy

90

13

14.4

$5,621,985

Environmental change

127

25

19.7

$10,576,247

Food

36

3

8.3

$1,311,939

Health

145

34

23.4

$14,629,486

Resources

33

6

18.2

$2,571,296

Soil and water

26

6

23.1

$2,616,037

Transport

26

8

30.8

$3,315,777

Unspecified

333

59

17.7

$24,561,929

Total

996

196

19.7

$83,014,284

Total within Science and Research Priorities

663

137

20.7

$58,452,355

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

66.6

69.9

 

70.4

Outcomes by Administering Organisation 

A summary of outcomes by Administering Organisation is shown in Table 4.

Table 4. Numbers of applications and success rates for approved Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2022 applications by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Australian Capital Territory

76

14

18.4

$6,057,335

The Australian National University

70

14

20.0

$6,057,335

University of Canberra

6

0

0.0

$0

New South Wales

311

73

23.5

$30,547,508

Australian Catholic University

11

2

18.2

$765,227

Charles Sturt University

2

1

50.0

$410,523

Macquarie University

40

9

22.5

$3,761,114

Southern Cross University

3

0

0.0

$0

The University of New England

10

2

20.0

$799,368

The University of New South Wales

79

17

21.5

$7,238,735

The University of Newcastle

18

5

27.8

$2,031,108

The University of Sydney

88

22

25.0

$9,163,921

University of Technology Sydney

28

9

32.1

$3,791,740

University of Wollongong

18

3

16.7

$1,281,816

Western Sydney University

14

3

21.4

$1,303,956

Northern Territory

1

1

100.0

$455,766

Charles Darwin University

1

1

100.0

$455,766

Queensland

176

32

18.2

$13,760,655

Central Queensland University

2

0

0.0

$0

Griffith University

27

6

22.2

$2,652,739

James Cook University

2

0

0.0

$0

Queensland University of Technology

39

4

10.3

$1,697,823

The University of Queensland

100

21

21.0

$8,956,511

University of Southern Queensland

3

1

33.3

$453,582

University of the Sunshine Coast

3

0

0.0

$0

South Australia

59

10

16.9

$4,268,178

Flinders University

10

3

30.0

$1,344,637

The University of Adelaide

36

5

13.9

$2,050,541

University of South Australia

13

2

15.4

$873,000

Tasmania

15

3

20.0

$1,324,711

University of Tasmania

15

3

20.0

$1,324,711

Victoria

300

59

19.7

$25,002,816

Deakin University

40

9

22.5

$3,724,275

Federation University Australia

1

0

0.0

$0

La Trobe University

12

2

16.7

$880,948

Monash University

81

15

18.5

$6,252,740

RMIT University

33

6

18.2

$2,473,264

Swinburne University of Technology

16

2

12.5

$888,958

The University of Melbourne

116

25

21.6

$10,782,631

Victoria University

1

0

0.0

$0

Western Australia

58

4

6.9

$1,597,315

Curtin University

13

0

0.0

$0

Edith Cowan University

5

1

20.0

$413,482

Murdoch University

4

1

25.0

$386,708

The University of Notre Dame Australia

2

0

0.0

$0

The University of Western Australia

34

2

5.9

$797,125

Total

996

196

19.7

$83,014,284

Career age and gender

Of the 996 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award candidates in this round, 413 were female, 574 were male and nine chose not to specify their gender. The success rate for female, male and unspecified candidates is 19.4 per cent, 19.5 per cent and 44.4 per cent respectively.

Success rates of Discovery Early Career Researcher Award candidates by career age and gender in the current Discovery Early Career Researcher Award round are presented in Figure 1. Discovery Early Career Researcher Award candidates who did not provide gender information (0.90%) are not represented in the figure below.

At the closing time of submission of applications, of the 996 candidates, 842 were within five years of the award of their PhD and 154 candidates were beyond five years of the award of their PhD. To be eligible to apply for a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, the latter group of researchers had their significant career interruptions certified by their Administering Organisation.

Of the approved Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards, 161 candidates were within five years of the award of their PhD and 35 candidates were beyond five years of the award of their PhD.

Figure 1.  Participation and success rate of candidates in Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2022 by gender and career age*^

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD based on the relevant qualification as selected in the application.

^ Calculated career age does not take career interruptions into consideration.

Attracting and retaining outstanding researchers 

Applications were open to Eligible Organisations to nominate candidates who are promising early career researchers, resident either within Australia or overseas. (Table 5).

Table 5. Citizenship/residency status of Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2022 candidates and approved Awardees

Citizenship/residency status

Applications considered

% of Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Foreign Nationals

252

25.3

50

19.8

Resident Australians

675

67.8

130

19.3

Returning Australians

69

6.9

16

23.2

Total

996

100

196

19.7

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

International Collaboration 

Among 996 of the applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 2045 instances of collaboration with researchers in 91 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, 180 foreshadowed 447 instances of collaboration with researchers in 52 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2022 applications*

*The top 11 international collaboration locations are listed in Figure 2 and the remaining are grouped in the ‘Other’ category