Overview

The Discovery Projects scheme provides funding for excellent fundamental research projects that can be undertaken by individual researchers or research teams.

The objectives of Discovery Projects are to:

  • support excellent basic and applied research by individuals and teams
  • encourage high-quality research and research training
  • enhance international collaboration in research
  • 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 13 November 2017, and closed on 21 February 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 Committees (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 Unless otherwise specified, data presented in this report exclude withdrawn proposals.

Selection Criteria

Selection criteria and corresponding weightings for 2019 Discovery Project proposals are:

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

The ARC assessment process for 2019 used 80 SAC members across five discipline panels and was managed in RMS. A total of 9,384 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 proposal.

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received 2,924 proposals for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2019, of which three proposals were withdrawn. This represents a 7 per cent decrease from the 3,136 Discovery Projects proposals received for funding commencing in 2018. Of the unsuccessful proposals, 58 did not meet eligibility requirements.

The overall success rate for Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2019 is 22.4 per cent, with a 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 Discovery Project proposals from 2018 to 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 allocated over project life for approved proposals

Return rate for approved proposals (%)

2018

3,136

594

18.9

$1,657,932,048

$331,144,352

$225,661,033

68.1

2019

2,921

653

22.4

$1,621,899,946

$370,665,250

$262,180,367

70.7

Outcomes by discipline panel

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 Discovery Projects 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

738

159

21.5

$471,093,339

$100,565,916

$73,338,915

72.9

EIC

725

159

21.9

$400,394,231

$94,117,458

$64,775,263

68.8

HCA

303

75

24.8

$136,380,209

$34,210,172

$23,305,852

68.1

MPCE

624

145

23.2

$349,208,359

$85,945,204

$60,209,074

70.1

SBE

531

115

21.7

$264,823,808

$55,826,500

$40,551,263

72.6

Total

2921

653

22.4

$1,621,899,946

$370,665,250

$262,180,367

70.7

† 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 2019 proposals by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Proposals considered

Proposals

approved

Success rate (%)

Approved funds over project life

Advanced manufacturing

427

93

21.8

$39,028,078

Cybersecurity

100

24

24.0

$10,105,999

Energy

142

26

18.3

$11,055,709

Environmental change

361

84

23.3

$35,845,966

Food

125

25

20.0

$11,181,712

Health

328

63

19.2

$25,471,056

Resources

91

21

23.1

$7,965,411

Soil and water

77

20

26.0

$7,858,576

Transport

66

15

22.7


$5,962,410

Unspecified

1204

282

23.4

$107,705,450

Total

2,921

653

22.4

$262,180,367

Total within Science and Research Priorities

1,717

371

21.6

$154,474,917

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

58.8

56.8

 

58.9

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 Discovery Projects 2019 proposals by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved proposals

Australian Capital Territory

207

59

28.5

$24,018,720

The Australian National University

199

56

28.1

$23,066,855

The University of Canberra

8

3

37.5

$951,865

New South Wales

997

229

23.0

$91,477,417

Australian Catholic University

17

2

11.8

$807,214

Charles Sturt University

8

0

0.0

$0

Macquarie University

117

25

21.4

$9,051,915

Southern Cross University

10

0

0.0

$0

The University of New England

16

3

18.8

$1,065,731

The University of New South Wales

317

88

27.8

$34,864,756

The University of Newcastle

84

17

20.2

$7,084,471

The University of Sydney

250

62

24.8

$26,777,612

University of Technology Sydney

85

12

14.1

$4,353,367

University of Wollongong

58

10

17.2

$4,105,030

Western Sydney University

35

10

28.6

$3,367,321

Northern Territory

10

1

10.0

$322,500

Charles Darwin University

10

1

10.0

$322,500

Queensland

447

101

22.6

$41,561,056

Bond University

6

0

0.0

$0

Central Queensland University

10

1

10.0

$626,825

Griffith University

61

12

19.7

$4,006,600

James Cook University

9

3

33.3

$1,355,000

Queensland University of Technology

85

15

17.6

$6,637,981

The University of Queensland

258

67

26.0

$27,616,903

University of Southern Queensland

8

3

37.5

$1,317,747

University of the Sunshine Coast

10

0

0.0

$0

South Australia

203

51

25.1

$19,981,880

Flinders University

52

15

28.8

$6,196,991

The University of Adelaide

120

29

24.2

$10,845,889

The University of South Australia

31

7

22.6

$2,939,000

Tasmania

58

13

22.4

$5,336,757

University of Tasmania

58

13

22.4

$5,336,757

Victoria

771

160

20.8

$63,910,203

Deakin University

48

15

31.3

$5,406,833

Federation University Australia

5

1

20.0

$330,000

La Trobe University

49

6

12.2

$2,340,700

Monash University

274

65

23.7

$26,309,266

RMIT

61

9

14.8

$3,300,000

Swinburne University

54

6

11.1

$2,458,401

The University of Melbourne

272

57

21.0

$23,462,503

Victoria University

8

1

12.5

$302,500

Western Australia

228

39

17.1

$15,571,834

Curtin University

95

13

13.7

$4,936,580

Edith Cowan University

12

1

8.3

$375,000

Murdoch University

6

0

0.0

$0

The University of Notre Dame

2

0

0.0

$0

The University of Western Australia

113

25

22.1

$10,260,254

Total

2,921

653

22.4

$262,180,367

Career age and gender

Of the 6,585 Chief Investigators (CIs) in this round, 1,885 were female CIs, 4,686 were male CIs and 14 were unspecified. The success rate for female, male and unspecified CIs in this round of Discovery Projects is 23.6 per cent, 22.0 per cent and 28.6 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 (0.2 per cent) and CIs who did not specify the date of completion of their PhD or who do not hold a PhD (1.4 per cent) are not represented in the figure below.

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

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD.

International Collaboration

Among 2,921 of the proposals considered, applicants foreshadowed 4,501 instances of collaboration with researchers in 116 overseas locations. Of the proposals approved for funding, 555 foreshadowed 1,137 instances of collaboration with researchers in 69 overseas locations (Figure 2).

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

*The Top 12 international collaboration locations are listed in Figure 2 and the remaining locations are grouped in the ‘other category.

  • United States of America, 280
  • England, 157
  • Germany, 104
  • China (excludes SARs and Taiwan), 79
  • Canada, 56
  • France, 56
  • Japan, 38
  • Italy, 26
  • Netherlands, 25
  • Denmark, 20
  • Scotland, 20
  • Singapore, 20
  • Others, 256

Discovery International Awards

Discovery International Awards (DIAs) aim to enhance opportunities for collaboration among researchers, research teams and/or research centres in Australia and overseas, and to build Australia’s international research capability. A summary of the outcomes for DIA requests is shown in Table 5.

Table 5.  Number of Discovery Projects 2019 proposals approved for one or more Discovery International Awards (DIAs)

Funding year

Number of submitted Proposals requesting one or more DIAs

Number of Proposals approved with one or more DIAs

2018

591

101

2019

609

115