Overview

The Discovery Projects scheme reflects the Australian Government’s commitment to excellence in research by supporting grant funding to support research projects that may be undertaken by individual researchers or research teams.

The objectives of the Discovery Projects scheme are to: 

  • support excellent basic and applied research and research training by individuals and teams;
  • support national and international research collaboration; and
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in Australian Government priority areas.

Selection process

Applications for funding commencing in 2022 opened on 11 November 2020 and closed on 24 February 2021. Applications were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines recommendations from the selection process for that round. 

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 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 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 outcomes approved by 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 Unless otherwise specified, data represented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.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 Projects 2022 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); and
  • extent to which the research has the potential to enhance international collaboration.

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;
  • suitability of the environment for the research team and their project, and for HDR students where appropriate;
  • availability of the necessary facilities to complete the project; and
  • extent to which the project’s design, participants and requested budget create confidence in the timely and successful completion of the project.

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 Projects 2022 involved 80 College of Experts members across five discipline panels and was managed in RMS. A total of 9,402 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 Project application.

Summary of outcomes

The ARC received a total of 3096 applications for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2022, of which one application was withdrawn. 

The overall success rate for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2022 is 19.0 per cent, with 587 Discovery Projects approved for funding. A comparison of success rates and funding amounts is shown in Table 1.

Of the unsuccessful applications in 2022, 51 were found not to meet eligibility requirements and 6 were recommended to, but not funded by the Minister.

Table 1. Comparison of application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Discovery Projects applications from 2021 to 2022*

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 (%)

2021

3019

603

20.0

$1,760,327,397

$371,657,208

$260,034,079

70.0

2022

3095

587

19.0

$1,818,835,491

$362,221,320

$258,691,272

71.4

*May include indicative funding amounts

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 Projects 2022 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

795

149

18.7

$557,360,733

$105,607,626

$77,223,571

73.1

EIC

788

149

18.9

$447,266,635

$91,619,693

$65,043,051

71.0

HCA

289

54

18.7

$137,025,052

$31,114,038

$21,939,205

70.5

MPCE

647

126

19.5

$382,803,334

$78,096,085

$54,628,894

70.0

SBE

576

109

18.9

$294,379,737

$55,783,878

$39,856,551

71.4

Total

3095

587

19.0

$1,818,835,491

$362,221,320

$258,691,272

71.4

*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 Discovery Projects 2022 applications by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Applications considered

Applications

approved

Success
rate (%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Advanced manufacturing

496

88

17.7

$39,608,676

Cybersecurity

131

25

19.1

$10,197,926

Energy

162

32

19.8

$14,009,988

Environmental change

373

86

23.1

$38,025,019

Food

139

18

12.9

$8,849,441

Health

331

37

11.2

$17,049,878

Resources

68

16

23.5

$7,034,723

Soil and water

96

25

26.0

$11,081,279

Transport

87

20

23.0

$9,001,551

Unspecified

1212

240

19.8

$103,832,791

Total

3095

587

19.0

$258,691,272

Total within Science and Research Priorities

1883

347

18.4

$154,858,481

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

60.8

59.1

 

59.9

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 Projects 2022 applications by Administering Organisation

 

Administering Organisation

Applications Considered

Applications Approved

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Australian Capital Territory

165

31

18.8

$15,301,972

The Australian National University

154

29

18.8

$13,759,447

University of Canberra

11

2

18.2

$1,542,525

New South Wales

1003

207

20.6

$89,126,086

Australian Catholic University

14

2

14.3

$936,715

Charles Sturt University

6

0

0.0

$0

Macquarie University

103

17

16.5

$7,410,232

Southern Cross University

11

3

27.3

$1,261,118

The University of New England

11

2

18.2

$784,124

The University of New South Wales

297

65

21.9

$27,474,475

The University of Newcastle

88

13

14.8

$5,166,330

The University of Sydney

270

67

24.8

$30,052,390

University of Technology Sydney

96

18

18.8

$7,407,671

University of Wollongong

65

8

12.3

$3,381,735

Western Sydney University

42

12

28.6

$5,251,296

Northern Territory

10

2

20

$687,381

Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education

1

0

0.0

$0

Charles Darwin University

9

2

22.2

$687,381

Queensland

530

103

19.4

$44,313,411

Bond University

3

0

0.0

$0

Central Queensland University

4

0

0.0

$0

Griffith University

86

17

19.8

$6,963,716

James Cook University

18

2

11.1

$761,000

Queensland University of Technology

103

19

18.4

$7,977,670

The University of Queensland

294

61

20.7

$27,229,842

University of Southern Queensland

15

4

26.7

$1,381,183

University of the Sunshine Coast

7

0

0.0

$0

South Australia

241

39

16.2

$18,758,328

Flinders University

67

10

14.9

$5,491,549

The University of Adelaide

135

22

16.3

$10,189,703

Torrens University Australia

1

0

0.0

$0

University of South Australia

38

7

18.4

$3,077,076

Tasmania

47

14

29.8

$5,536,642

University of Tasmania

47

14

29.8

$5,536,642

Victoria

934

163

17.5

$72,135,170

Deakin University

68

12

17.6

$4,997,495

Federation University Australia

5

0

0

$0

La Trobe University

59

9

15.3

$3,488,504

Monash University

341

65

19.1

$29,736,366

RMIT University

86

17

19.8

$6,472,032

Swinburne University of Technology

52

9

17.3

$4,479,000

The University of Melbourne

316

50

15.8

$22,496,773

Victoria University

7

1

14.3

$465,000

Western Australia

165

28

17

$12,832,282

Curtin University

55

9

16.4

$3,470,825

Edith Cowan University

7

1

14.3

$447,500

Murdoch University

7

1

14.3

$495,000

The University of Notre Dame Australia

1

0

0

$0

The University of Western Australia.

95

17

17.9

$8,418,957

Total

3095

587

19.0

$258,691,272

Career age and gender

Of the 7392 Chief Investigators (CIs) named in applications in this round, 2297 were female, 5054 were male, two were indeterminate/intersex and 39 chose not to specify their gender. The success rate for female, male, indeterminate/intersex and unspecified CIs is 18.8 per cent, 19.6 per cent, 100 and 20.5 per cent respectively. 

Success rates of CIs by career age and gender in the current Discovery Projects round are presented in Figure 1. CIs who did not provide gender information (0.5 per cent) and CIs who did not specify the date of completion of their PhD or who do not hold a PhD (0.6 per cent) are not represented in the figure below.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Chief Investigators in Discovery Projects 2022 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. 

International collaboration

Among 2,247 of the applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 4473 instances of collaboration with researchers in 107 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, 461 foreshadowed 978 instances of collaboration with researchers in 68 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Discovery Projects 2022 applications*

*The top 10 international collaboration locations are listed in Figure 2 and the remaining locations are grouped in the ‘Other’ category.