Overview

The Discovery Indigenous scheme provides grant 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;
  • support national and international research collaboration;
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in Australian Government priority areas; and
  • support and retain established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers in Australian higher education institutions. 

Selection process

Applications for funding commencing in 2021 opened on 27 November 2019 and closed on 18 March 2020. 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: 

  • 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 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 funding recommendations to 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 Unless otherwise specified, data represented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.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 Indigenous 2021 applications were assessed and merit ranked using the following assessment criteria:

Investigator(s)/Capability (35%)

Describe:

  • Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE); 
  • time and capacity to undertake the research;
  • evidence of experience in research training, mentoring and supervision (where appropriate); and
  • the capability of the investigator or team to build collaborations both within Australia and internationally.

Project quality and innovation (40%) 

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);
  • extent to which the research has the potential to enhance international collaboration; and
  • enhancement of project quality by DAATSIA.

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;
  • quality of the environment for the DAATSIA candidate and their project, and for HDR students where appropriate;
  • availability of the necessary facilities to complete the project; and
  • how the design of the project and the expertise of the participants is sufficient to ensure that it can be completed within the proposed budget and timeframe.

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 Indigenous 2021 involved 10 College of Experts members as part of one multidisciplinary panel and was managed in RMS. A total of 149 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC.

Funding levels and duration

Funding of between $30,000 and $500,000 per annum for up to five years may be awarded for each Discovery Indigenous application, including, annual salary contributions for Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DAATSIA) recipients of $104,316 to $220,907 (including 30 per cent on-costs). 

Summary of outcomes

The ARC received a total of 24 applications for Discovery Indigenous for funding commencing in 2021, of which no applications were withdrawn. All applications met eligibility requirements.

Nine of the Discovery Indigenous for funding commencing in 2021 applications are approved for funding, as shown Table 1. The overall success rate for Discovery Indigenous for funding commencing in 2021 is 37.5 per cent. 

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 2020 to 2021

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 (%)

2020

29

7

24.1

$31,760,462

$7,506,005

$4,688,884

62.5

2021

24

9

37.5

$24,793,664

$10,408,491

$7,121,756

68.4

Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DAATSIA)

Of the 24 applications considered this round, there was funding requested for ten DAATSIAs at one of five salary levels. The overall success rate for Discovery Indigenous DAATSIA requests in 2021 is 30 per cent and is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Success rates for Discovery Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DIAATSIA) for approved Discovery Indigenous applications 2021

DAATSIA Salary Level

Number of DAATSIAs considered

Number of DAATSIAs  approved

Success rate (%)

Salary Level 1

3

0

0

Salary Level 2

1

0

0

Salary Level 3

3

1

33.3

Salary Level 4

0

0

0

Salary Level 5

3

2

66.7

Total

10

3

30

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 2021 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

1

1

100

$2,322,229

$2,322,229

$1,565,000

67.4

EIC

4

1

25

$5,392,142

$2,487,482

$1,776,000

71.4

HCA

7

2

28.6

$4,968,878

$1,708,629

$1,235,027

72.3

MPCE

1

1

100

$454,044

$454,044

$454,044

100

SBE

11

4

36.4

$11,656,371

$3,436,107

$2,091,685

60.9

Total

24

9

37.5

$24,793,664

$10,408,491

$7,121,756

68.4

* 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 4. 

Table 4. Approved funding and success rate for Discovery Indigenous 2021 applications by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success
rate (%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Advanced manufacturing

0

0

0

0

Cybersecurity

0

0

0

0

Energy

0

0

0

0

Environmental change

1

1

100

$454,044

Food

1

1

100

$1,565,000

Health

11

4

36.4

$2,246,712

Resources

0

0

0

0

Soil and water

1

0

0

0

Transport

0

0

0

0

Unspecified

10

3

30

$2,856,000

Total

24

9

37.5

$7,121,756

Total within Science and Research Priorities

14

6

42.9

$4,265,756

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

58.3

66.7

 

  59.9

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 2021 applications by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved applications ($)

New South Wales

7

2

28.6

$757,685

Australian Catholic University

1

0

0

0

Macquarie University

1

0

0

0

The University of New South Wales

2

2

100

$757,685

The University of Newcastle

1

0

0

0

University of Technology Sydney

2

0

0

0

Northern Territory

1

0

0

0

Charles Darwin University

1

0

0

0

Queensland

7

4

57.1

$4,911,000

Griffith University

2

1

50

$820,000

James Cook University

1

0

0

0

Queensland University of Technology

1

0

0

0

The University of Queensland

3

3

100

$4,091,000

South Australia

2

0

0

0

Flinders University

1

0

0

0

The University of Adelaide

1

0

0

0

Tasmania

1

1

100

$415,027

University of Tasmania

1

1

100

$415,027

Victoria

3

1

33.3

$454,044

La Trobe University

1

0

0

0

Monash University

1

0

0

0

The University of Melbourne

1

1

100

$454,044

Western Australia

3

1

33.3

$584,000

Murdoch University

1

1

100

$584,000

The University of Western Australia

2

0

0

0

Total

24

9

37.5

$7,121,756

Career age and gender

Of the 91 Chief Investigators (CIs), including ten DAATSIA candidates, considered in this round, 54 were female, 36 were male and one chose not to specify their gender. The success rate for female, male and unspecified CIs in this round is 59.3 per cent, 39.6 per cent and 100 per cent respectively.

Success rates of CIs by career age and gender in Discovery Indigenous 2021 round are presented in Figure 1. CIs who did not provide gender information (1.1 per cent) and CIs who did not specify the date of completion of their PhD or who do not hold a PhD (5.5 per cent) are not represented in the figure below. 

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Chief Investigators (CIs) in Discovery Indigenous 2021 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 2021

Gender of DAATSIA candidate

No of DAATSIAs considered

No of DAATSIAs approved

Success rate (%)

Female

9

3

33.3

Male

1

0

0

Unspecified

0

0

0

Total

10

3

30

International collaboration

In the 24 applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 36 instances of collaboration with researchers in 14 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, six foreshadowed 15 instances of collaboration with researchers in seven overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Discovery Indigenous 2021 applications*

* The international collaboration locations are listed in Figure 2.