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 the DECRA 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
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in the Science and Research Priorities.

Selection Process

Proposals for funding commencing in 2019 opened on 8 January 2018, and closed on 14 March 2018. Proposals were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS).

The ARC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) provided recommendations to the Minister based on advice from ARC Selection Advisory Committees (SACs) which:

  • assigned independent assessors to review the proposals
  • assessed proposals and reviewed assessments made by independent assessors
  • reviewed candidates’ comments on assessors’ reports
  • ranked each proposal relative to the others on the basis of the proposal, the assessors’ reports and candidates’ responses to those assessments
  • assessed and approved budgets

and advice from the 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 proposals.

This report reflects the outcomes approved by the Minister. Unless otherwise specified, data presented in this report excludes withdrawn proposals.

Selection Criteria

Selection criteria and corresponding weightings for DECRA 2019 proposals are:

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

The ARC assessment process for DECRA 2019 used 80 SAC members across five discipline panels and was managed in RMS. A total of 3,859 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC.

Funding levels and duration

DECRA recipients are funded for three consecutive years on a full-time basis. In addition to the annual salary contribution of $100,858 (2017$), including 30 per cent on-costs, the ARC may provide up to $40,000 in project costs per annum.

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received a total of 1165 DECRA proposals for funding commencing in 2019, of which three proposals were withdrawn. This represents a four per cent decrease from the 1212 DECRA proposals received for funding commencing in 2018. Of the unsuccessful proposals, ten did not meet eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for DECRA for funding commencing in 2019 is 17.2 per cent, with a slightly higher percentage of allocation of requested funds compared to funding that commenced in 2018. A comparison of success rates and funding amounts is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Comparison of proposal numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved DECRA proposals in 2018 and 2019.

Funding year

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over project life for all proposals considered

Requested funds over project life for approved proposals

Funds over project life for approved proposals

Return rate for approved proposals (%)

2018

1212

197

16.3

$481,296,036

$79,023,114

$70,940,411

89.8

2019

1162

200

17.2

$464,976,543

$80,100,931

$76,912,659

96.0

Outcomes by discipline panels

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

Table 2. Proposal numbers, success rates and requested and allocated funds for approved DECRA 2019 proposals by discipline panel.

Panel †

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over project life for all proposals considered

Requested funds over project life for approved proposals

Funds over project life for approved proposals

Return rate for approved proposals

BSB

228

35

15.4

$93,288,569

$14,287,673

$14,060,491

98.4%

EIC

290

50

17.2

$115,688,087

$20,080,335

$19,462,228

96.9%

HCA

153

26

17.0

$60,360,469

$10,283,017

$10,054,488

97.8%

MPCE

247

46

18.6

$97,656,995

$18,212,083

$17,180,461

94.3%

SBE

244

43

17.6

$97,982,423

$17,237,823

$16,154,991

93.7%

Total

1162

200

17.2

$464,976,543

$80,100,931

$76,912,659

96.0%

† 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 DECRA 2019 proposals by Science and Research Priorities.

Science and Research Priorities

Proposals considered

Proposals

approved

Success rate (%)

Approved funds over project life

Advanced manufacturing

165

34

20.6

$13,293,623

Cybersecurity

41

6

14.6

$2,252,402

Energy

72

11

15.3

$4,381,552

Environmental change

141

22

15.6

$8,393,152

Food

36

5

13.9

$1,969,717

Health

144

17

11.8

$6,482,140

Resources

38

5

13.2

$1,900,814

Soil and water

29

2

6.9

$777,202

Transport

36

7

19.4

$2,658,886

Unspecified

460

91

19.8

$34,803,171

Total

1162

200

17.2

$76,912,659

Total within Science and Research Priorities

702

109

15.5

$42,109,488

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

60.4

54.5

 

54.7

Outcomes by Administering Organisation

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

Table 4. Numbers of proposals and success rates for approved DECRA 2019 proposals by Administering Organisation.

Administering Organisation

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved proposals

Australian Capital Territory

103

22

21.4

$8,471,330

The Australian National University

98

22

22.4

$8,471,330

University of Canberra

5

0

0

$0

New South Wales

347

62

17.9

$23,823,357

Australian Catholic University

6

1

16.7

$379,000

Macquarie University

43

12

27.9

$4,591,206

Southern Cross University

5

0

0

$0

The University of New England

9

1

11.1

$370,000

The University of New South Wales

93

19

20.4

$7,330,098

The University of Newcastle

33

2

6.1

$750,338

The University of Sydney

87

15

17.2

$5,718,846

University of Technology Sydney

30

6

20.0

$2,427,258

University of Wollongong

32

5

15.6

$1,836,174

Western Sydney University

9

1

11.1

$420,437

Northern Territory

3

0

0

$0

Charles Darwin University

3

0

0

$0

Queensland

206

35

17.0

$13,490,598

Bond University

1

0

0

$0

Central Queensland University

2

0

0

$0

Griffith University

20

3

15.0

$1,184,667

James Cook University

10

1

10.0

$370,000

Queensland University of Technology

22

4

18.2

$1,517,016

The University of Queensland

145

25

17.2

$9,632,341

University of Southern Queensland

2

1

50.0

$407,000

University of the Sunshine Coast

4

1

25.0

$379,574

South Australia

75

5

6.7

$1,990,863

Flinders University

10

1

10.0

$387,863

The University of Adelaide

43

4

9.3

$1,603,000

University of South Australia

22

0

0

$0

Tasmania

29

2

6.9

$770,478

University of Tasmania

29

2

6.9

$770,478

Victoria

329

62

18.8

$23,868,966

Deakin University

30

8

26.7

$3,015,321

Federation University Australia

3

0

0

$0

La Trobe University

22

4

18.2

$1,549,688

Monash University

107

22

20.6

$8,510,994

RMIT University

23

5

21.7

$1,968,372

Swinburne University of Technology

23

1

4.3

$408,000

The University of Melbourne

118

22

18.6

$8,416,591

Victoria University

3

0

0

$0

Western Australia

70

12

17.1

$4,497,067

Curtin University

21

3

14.3

$1,148,632

Edith Cowan University

7

0

0

$0

Murdoch University

3

1

33.3

$372,014

The University of Notre Dame Australia

1

0

0

$0

The University of Western Australia.

38

8

21.1

$2,976,421

Total

1162

200

17.2

$76,912,659

Career age and gender

Of the 1162 DECRA candidates in this round, 469 were female, 691 were male and two were unspecified. The success rate for female, male and unspecified DECRA candidates in this round were 19.2 per cent, 15.9 per cent and 0 per cent, respectively.

At the closing time of submission of proposals, of the 1162 candidates, 1001 were within five years of the award of their PhD and 161 candidates were beyond five years of the award of their PhD. To be eligible to apply for DECRA, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) from their Administering Organisation certified the latter group of researchers experienced significant career interruptions.

Of the approved DECRA recipients, 170 candidates were within five years of the award of their PhD and 30 candidates were beyond five years of the award of their PhD.

Success rates of DECRA candidates by career age and gender in the current DECRA round are presented in Figure 1. DECRA candidates who did not provide gender information are not represented in the figure.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of DECRA 2019 candidates by gender and career age*

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

Attracting and retaining outstanding researchers

Proposals 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 DECRA 2019 Candidates and approved recipients.

Citizenship/residency status

Number of proposals considered

Percentage of proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Foreign Nationals

374

32.2

63

16.8

Resident Australians

745

64.1

131

17.6

Returning Australians

43

3.7

6

14.0

Total

1162

 

200

 

International Collaboration

Among 941 of the 1162 proposals considered, applicants foreshadowed 2124 instances of collaboration with researchers in 97 overseas locations. Of the proposals approved for funding, 175 foreshadowed 471 instances of collaboration with researchers in 58 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2.  International collaborations by location in approved DECRA 2019 proposals*

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

  • United States of America, 105
  • England, 61
  • China (excludes SARs and Taiwan), 37
  • Germany, 32
  • France, 23
  • Canada, 21
  • New Zealand, 19
  • Belgium, 12
  • Singapore, 12
  • Spain, 10
  • Sweden, 10
  • Others, 129