Overview

The Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme provides funding for early career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions. It supports research in areas of critical national importance by enabling outstanding Australian and international early career researchers to conduct their research in Australia.

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

  • support excellent basic and applied research by early career researchers
  • advance promising early career researchers and promote enhanced opportunities for diverse career pathways
  • enable research and research training in high quality and supportive environments
  • expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability; and
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in the Australian Government’s Science and Research Priorities.

Selection Process

Applications for funding commencing in 2020 opened on 15 October 2018, and closed on 13 March 2019. Applications were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines the outcomes from the selection process for that round.

Funding recommendations have been prepared for submission to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The outcomes are based on advice from the ARC Selection Advisory Committee 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 ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, 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 Unless otherwise specified, figures presented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.

Assessment Criteria

Assessment criteria and corresponding weightings for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2020 applications are:

DECRA Candidate    (40%)
Project Quality and Innovation (35%)
Feasibility  (10%)
Benefit and Collaboration   (15%)

The ARC assessment process for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2020 used 82 ARC Selection Advisory Committee members across five discipline panels and was managed in RMS. A total of 4313 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 $102,372 (2018$), including 30 per cent on-costs. In addition, the ARC may provide up to $40,000 in project costs per annum.

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received a total of 1251 applications for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award for funding commencing in 2020, of which three applications were withdrawn. This represents an increase from the 1165 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award applications received for funding commencing in 2019. Of the unsuccessful applications, 19 did not meet eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award for funding commencing in 2020 is 16.0 per cent, with a higher allocation of requested funds compared to funding that commenced in 2019. A comparison of success rates and funding amounts is shown in Table 1.

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

1162

200

17.2

$464,976,543

$80,100,931

$76,912,659

96.0

2020

1248

200

16.0

$507,777,318

$81,972,769

$81,838,415

99.8

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 approved Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2020 applications by disciplin​​​​​​e

 

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

235

39

16.6

$97,708,025

$16,263,705

$16,202,828

99.6

EIC

322

49

15.2

$131,742,686

$20,229,882

$20,229,882

100.0

HCA

181

29

16.0

$72,485,299

$11,732,812

$11,732,812

100.0

MPCE

252

41

16.3

$100,978,426

$16,581,802

$16,572,365

99.9

SBE

258

42

16.3

$104,862,882

$17,164,568

$17,100,528

99.6

Total

1248

200

16.0

$507,777,318

$81,972,769

$81,838,415

99.8

† BSB – Biological Sciences and Biotechnology; EIC – Engineering, Information and Computing Sciences, MPCE – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences; SBE – Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences; HCA – Humanities and Creative Arts

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 2020 applications by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Applications considered

Applications

approved

Success
rate (%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Advanced manufacturing

172

28

16.3

$11,568,736

Cybersecurity

46

8

17.4

$3,261,910

Energy

84

14

16.7

$5,810,616

Environmental change

147

28

19.0

$11,527,009

Food

42

6

14.3

$2,495,684

Health

163

27

16.6

$11,113,867

Resources

33

3

9.1

$1,257,134

Soil and water

32

4

12.5

$1,646,744

Transport

34

5

14.7

$2,079,025

Unspecified

495

77

15.6

$31,077,690

Total

1248

200

16.0

$81,838,415

Total within Science and Research Priorities

753

123

16.3

$50,760,725

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

60.3

61.5

 

62.0

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 2020 applications by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Applications Considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Australian Capital Territory

105

18

17.1

$7,353,123

The Australian National University

97

15

15.5

$6,109,099

University of Canberra

8

3

37.5

$1,244,024

New South Wales

391

65

16.6

$26,284,129

Australian Catholic University

7

2

28.6

$793,029

Charles Sturt University

3

0

0.0

$0

Macquarie University

40

6

15.0

$2,327,531

Southern Cross University

5

0

0.0

$0

The University of New England

9

4

44.4

$1,554,513

The University of New South Wales

101

15

14.9

$5,979,217

The University of Newcastle

19

3

15.8

$1,222,313

The University of Sydney

114

19

16.7

$7,841,845

University of Technology Sydney

42

9

21.4

$3,711,324

University of Wollongong

40

6

15.0

$2,438,941

Western Sydney University

11

1

9.1

$415,416

Northern Territory

3

0

0.0

$0

Charles Darwin University

3

0

0.0

$0

Queensland

220

37

16.8

$15,213,954

Bond University

2

0

0.0

$0

Central Queensland University

2

0

0.0

$0

Griffith University

30

5

16.7

$2,119,175

James Cook University

10

1

10.0

$416,000

Queensland University of Technology

35

8

22.9

$3,334,132

The University of Queensland

129

19

14.7

$7,705,485

University of Southern Queensland

7

3

42.9

$1,219,122

University of the Sunshine Coast

5

1

20.0

$420,040

South Australia

62

8

12.9

$3,283,083

Flinders University

13

2

15.4

$810,412

The University of Adelaide

38

5

13.2

$2,054,273

University of South Australia

11

1

9.1

$418,398

Tasmania

25

6

24.0

$2,483,499

University of Tasmania

25

6

24.0

$2,483,499

Victoria

371

61

16.4

$25,173,816

Deakin University

22

1

4.5

$421,979

Federation University Australia

3

0

0.0

$0

La Trobe University

15

5

33.3

$2,072,118

Monash University

138

22

15.9

$8,909,882

RMIT University

28

8

28.6

$3,334,292

Swinburne University of Technology

25

3

12.0

$1,253,276

The University of Melbourne

139

22

15.8

$9,182,269

Victoria University

1

0

0.0

$0

Western Australia

71

5

7.0

$2,046,811

Curtin University

9

0

0.0

$0

Edith Cowan University

3

0

0.0

$0

Murdoch University

1

0

0.0

$0

The University of Notre Dame Australia

1

0

0.0

$0

The University of Western Australia.

57

5

8.8

$2,046,811

Total

1248

200

16.0

$81,838,415

Career age and gender

Of the 1248 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award candidates in this round, 500 were female, 746 were male and two were unspecified. The success rate for female, male and unspecified Discovery Early Career Researcher Award candidates in this round is 16.4 per cent, 15.8 per cent and 0.0 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 (0.16%) are not represented in the figure below.

At the closing time of submission of applications, of the 1248 candidates, 1035 were within five years of the award of their PhD and 213 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, 160 candidates were within five years of the award of their PhD and 40 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 2020 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.

A summary of outcomes by citizenship/residency status is shown in Table 5.

Table 5. Citizenship/residency status of Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2020 candidates and approved Awardees

Citizenship/residency status

Applications considered

Applications considered (%)

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Foreign Nationals

367

29.4

60

16.3

Resident Australians

795

63.7

121

15.2

Returning Australians

86

6.9

19

22.1

Total

1248

100

200

16.0

International Collaboration

Among 1248 of the applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 2329 instances of collaboration with researchers in 103 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, 171 foreshadowed 406 instances of collaboration with researchers in 56 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2020 applications*

*The top 12 international collaboration locations are listed in Figure 2 and the remaining locations are grouped in the ‘Other’ category