Overview

The Discovery Indigenous scheme provides funding to support research programs led by an Indigenous Australian 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 Indigenous researchers as individuals and as teams
  • develop the research expertise of Indigenous researchers
  • support and retain established Indigenous researchers in Australian higher education institutions
  • expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability.

Selection Process

Proposals for funding commencing in 2019 opened on 21 November 2017, and closed on 28 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 the ARC Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) which:

  • assigned independent assessors to review the proposals
  • assessed proposals and reviewed assessments made by independent assessors
  • reviewed applicants comments on assessors’ reports
  • ranked each proposal relative to the others on the basis of the proposal, the assessors’ reports and Applicants’ 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 Unless otherwise specified, data presented in this report excludes withdrawn proposals.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 Discovery Indigenous 2019 proposals are:

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

The ARC assessment process for 2019 used nine SAC members, and was managed in the RMS. A total of 99 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 proposal. In addition to a minimum of $30,000 in project costs per annum for each proposal, Chief Investigators who are Indigenous Australians 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 $100,858 or $118,658 or $154,254 or $177,988 or $213,584, (2017$) including 30 per cent on-costs.

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received a total of 31 Discovery Indigenous proposals for funding commencing in 2019, seven proposals less than Discovery Indigenous for funding commencing in 2018. Of the unsuccessful proposals for funding in 2019, one did not meet eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for Discovery Indigenous for funding commencing in 2019 is 38.7 per cent, with a higher percentage of allocation of requested funds compared to Discovery Indigenous for funding commencing 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 Discovery Indigenous 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

38

13

34.2

$29,013,827

$10,202,501

$7,210,045

70.7

2019

31

12

38.7

$29,159,847

$9,305,055

$6,749,419

72.5

Of the 31 proposals considered in this round, 11 included a funding request for DAATSIA at one of five salary levels. The overall success rate for Discovery Indigenous proposals requesting DAATSIA in 2019 is 36.4 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 proposals 2019.

DAATSIA Salary Level

Proposals with DAATSIA considered

Proposals with DAATSIA approved

Success rate (%)

Salary Level 1

0

0

0

Salary Level 2

2

1

50.0

Salary Level 3

2

1

50.0

Salary Level 4

6

2

33.3

Salary Level 5

1

0

0

Total

11

4

36.4

Outcomes by discipline

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

Table 3. Proposal numbers, success rates and requested and allocated funds for approved Discovery Indigenous 2019 proposals by discipline.

Discipline †

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over project life for all proposals considered

Requested funds over project life for approved proposals

Indicative Funds over project life for approved proposals

Return
Rate for approved proposals (%)

BSB

2

1

50

$1,695,612

$851,825

$534,254

62.7

EIC

2

0

0

$2,883,882

$0

$0

0

HCA

6

2

33.3

$5,181,982

$1,472,123

$922,600

62.7

MPCE

1

1

100

$496,166

$496,166

$496,166

100.0

SBE

20

8

40

$18,902,205

$6,484,942

$4,796,399

74.0

Total

31

12

38.7

$29,159,847

$9,305,056

$6,749,419

72.5

† 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 2019 proposals by Science and Research Priorities.

Science and Research Priorities

Proposals considered

Proposals

approved

Success
rate (%)

Funds over project life

Environmental change

4

2

50

$922,065

Food

1

0

0

$0

Health

16

7

43.8

$4,224,989

Soil and water

2

1

50

$496,166

Unspecified

8

2

25

$1,106,199

Total

31

12

38.7

$6,749,419

Total within Science and Research Priorities

23

10

37.5

$5,643,220

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

74.2%

83.3%

 

83.6%

Outcomes by Administering Organisation

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

Table 5. Numbers of proposals and success rates for approved Discovery Indigenous 2019 proposals by Administering Organisation.

Administering Organisation

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved proposals

Australian Capital Territory

3

1

33.3

$583,199

The Australian National University

2

0

0

$0

University of Canberra

1

1

100

$583,199

New South Wales

18

9

50

$4,985,409

Australian Catholic University

3

0

0

$0

Griffith University

1

0

0

$0

Macquarie University

2

0

0

$0

Southern Cross University

1

0

0

$0

The University of New South Wales

2

1

50

$399,600

The University of New England

1

1

100

$523,000

The University of Newcastle

2

1

50

$496,166

The University of Sydney

3

3

100

$2,063,628

University of Technology, Sydney

2

2

100

$1,005,015

University of Wollongong

1

1

100

$498,000

Northern Territory

2

1

50

$793,000

Charles Darwin University

2

1

50

$793,000

Queensland

3

1

33.3

$387,111

James Cook University

1

1

100

$387,811

Queensland University of Technology

1

0

0

$0

The University of Queensland

1

0

0

$0

Tasmania

2

0

0

$0

University of Tasmania

2

0

0

$0

Victoria

3

0

0

$0

Deakin University

1

0

0

$0

The University of Melbourne

2

0

0

$0

Total

31

12

38.7

$6,749,419

Career age and gender

Of the 89 Chief Investigators (CIs), including 11 Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award Candidates (DAATSIA), considered in this round, 57 were female and 32 were male. The success rate for female and male CIs in this round were 53.7 per cent and 33.3 per cent respectively. Of 11 CIs who applied for DAATSIA, the success rate for female DAATSIA Candidates and male DAATSIA Candidates was 50.0 per cent and 28.6 per cent respectively (Table 6).

Table 6. Success rates by gender for Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DAATSIA) Candidates, for approved Discovery Indigenous proposals 2019.

Gender of DAATSIA Candidates

No of DAATSIA considered

No of DAATSIA approved

Success rate (%)

Female

4

2

50.0

Male

7

2

28.6

Total

11

4

36.4

Success rates of CIs by career age and gender in the current Discovery Indigenous 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 (5.62 per cent) are not represented in the figure.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Chief Investigators (CIs) in Discovery Indigenous 2019 by gender and career age*

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD.

International Collaboration

Among eight of the 31 proposals considered, applicants foreshadowed 13 instances of collaboration with researchers in five overseas locations. Of the 12 proposals approved for funding, three proposals foreshadowed four instances of collaboration with researchers in United States of America, England, New Zealand and Germany.