Overview

The Discovery Indigenous scheme provides funding to support research programs led by an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researcher and builds the research capacity of higher degree research and early career researchers. 

The objectives of Discovery Indigenous are to:

  • support excellent basic and applied research and research training by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers as individuals and as teams;
  • develop the research expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers;
  • support and retain established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers in Australian higher education institutions; and
  • expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability.

Selection Process

Applications for funding commencing in 2020 opened on 10 December 2018, and closed on 27 March 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 which: 

  • assigned independent assessors to review the applications
  • assessed applications and reviewed assessments made by independent assessors
  • reviewed applicants comments on assessors’ reports
  • ranked each application relative to the others on the basis of the application, the assessors’ reports and applicants 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 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 to eligibility of applications.

This report reflects the funding recommendations to the Minister. Unless otherwise specified, data presented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.

Assessment Criteria

Assessment criteria and corresponding weightings for Discovery Indigenous 2020 applications are: 

Investigator(s)/DAATSIAs (35%) 
Project Quality and Innovation  (40%)
Feasibility (10%)
Benefit and Collaboration  (15%)

The ARC assessment process for Discovery Indigenous 2020 used 11 ARC Selection Advisory Committee members and was managed in the RMS. A total of 95 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC.

Funding levels and duration

Funding of up to $500,000 per annum for up to five years may be awarded for each Discovery Indigenous application. In addition to a minimum of $30,000 in project costs per annum for each application, Chief Investigators who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers may be awarded the annual salary contribution called Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DAATSIA) providing the annual total does not exceed $500,000. The DAATSIA may be awarded at one of five salary levels, either $102,372 or $120,438 or $156,570 or $180,660 or $216,790, (2018$) including 30 per cent on-costs.

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received a total of 29 applications for Discovery Indigenous for funding commencing in 2020, of which no applications were withdrawn. This represents a 6.5 per cent decrease from the 31 Discovery Indigenous applications received for funding commencing in 2019. All applications met eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for Discovery Indigenous for funding commencing in 2020 is 24.1 per cent, with a lower percentage of 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 Indigenous 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

31

12

38.7

$29,159,847

$9,305,055

$6,749,419

72.5

2020

29

7

24.1

$31,760,462

$7,506,005

$4,688,884

62.5

Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DAATSIA)

Of the 29 applications considered in this round, 12 included a funding request for a DAATSIA at one of five salary levels. The overall success rate for Discovery Indigenous applications requesting a DAATSIA in 2020 is 33.3 per cent and is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Success rates for Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DAATSIA) for approved Discovery Indigenous applications 2020

DAATSIA Salary Level

Applications with DAATSIA considered

Applications with DAATSIA approved

Success rate (%)

Salary Level 1

2

0

0

Salary Level 2

5

3

60

Salary Level 3

3

0

0

Salary Level 4

1

0

0

Salary Level 5

1

1

100

Total

12

4

33.3

Outcomes by discipline 

A summary of outcomes by discipline panel is shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Application numbers, success rates and requested and allocated funds for approved Discovery Indigenous 2020 applications 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

2

1

50

$3,122,938

$863,419

$577,000

66.8

EIC

1

0

0

$2,130,151

$0

$0

0

HCA

11

4

36.4

$12,053,708

$4,381,030

$2,924,186

66.7

MPCE

0

0

0

$0

$0

$0

0

SBE

15

2

13.3

$14,453,665

$2,261,556

$1,187,698

52.5

Total

29

7

24.1

$31,760,462

$7,506,005

$4,688,884

62.5

† 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 4.

Table 4. Approved funding and success rate for Discovery Indigenous 2020 applications by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Applications considered

Applications

approved

Success
rate (%)

Funds over project life ($)

Environmental change

3

2

66.7

$1,571,000

Food

2

0

0

$0

Health

17

5

29.4

$3,117,884

Soil and water

1

0

0

$0

Unspecified

6

0

0

$0

Total

29

7

24.1

$4,688,884

Total within Science and Research Priorities

23

7

30.4

$4,688,884

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

79.3%

100%

 

100%

Outcomes by Administering Organisation

A summary of outcomes by Administering Organisation is shown in Table 5.

Table 5. Numbers of applications and success rates for approved Discovery Indigenous 2020 applications by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Australian Capital Territory

2

0

0

$0

The Australian National University

2

0

0

$0

New South Wales

10

3

30

$1,606,484

Australian Catholic University

2

0

0

$0

Griffith University

1

0

0

$0

Macquarie University

1

1

100

$540,786

Southern Cross University

1

1

100

$577,000

The University of New South Wales

2

0

0

$0

The University of Newcastle

1

1

100

$488,698

The University of Sydney

2

0

0

$0

University of Technology Sydney

1

0

0

$0

Queensland

5

1

20

$699,000

Central Queensland University

1

1

100

$699,000

The University of Queensland

2

0

0

$0

University of the Sunshine Coast

1

0

0

$0

South Australia

5

0

0

$0

Flinders University

1

0

0

$0

The University of Adelaide

3

0

0

$0

University of South Australia

1

0

0

$0

Victoria

5

1

20

$493,030

Deakin University

1

0

0

$0

Swinburne University of Technology

1

0

0

$0

The University of Melbourne

3

1

33.3

$493,030

Western Australia

2

2

100

$1,890,370

Curtin University

1

1

100

$994,000

Edith Cowan University

1

1

100

$896,370

Total

29

7

24.1

$4,688,884

Career age and gender

Of the 111 Chief Investigators (CIs), including 12 Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award Candidates (DAATSIA) considered in this round, 63 were female CIs and 48 were male CIs. The success rate for female and male CIs in this round of Discovery Indigenous 2020 is 30.2 per cent and 31.3 per cent respectively. 

Success rates of CIs by career age and gender in the current Discovery Indigenous 2020 round are presented in Figure 1. CIs who did not specify the date of completion of their PhD or who do not hold a PhD (9.0 per cent) are not represented in the figure below.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Chief Investigators (CIs) in Discovery Indigenous 2020 by gender and career age*

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD.

Table 6. Success rates by gender for Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DAATSIA) Candidates, for approved Discovery Indigenous applications 2020

Gender of DAATSIA Candidates

No of DAATSIA considered

No of DAATSIA approved

Success rate (%)

Female

7

1

14.3

Male

5

3

60

Total

12

4

33.3

International Collaboration

Among 29 of the applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 19 instances of collaboration with researchers in seven overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, five foreshadowed five instances of collaboration with researchers in four overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Discovery Indigenous 2020 applications*

*The international collaboration locations are listed in Figure 2.