Overview

The Future Fellowships scheme reflects the Australian Government’s commitment to excellence in research by supporting excellent mid-career researchers to undertake high quality research in areas of national and international benefit. 

The objectives of the Future Fellowships scheme are to: 

  • support excellent basic and applied research and research training by outstanding mid-career researchers to be recruited and retained by universities in continuing academic positions;
  • 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 2020 opened on 9 October 2019 and closed on 27 November 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 (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 Unless otherwise specified, data represented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.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 Future Fellowships 2020 applications were assessed and merit ranked using the following assessment criteria:

Investigator/Capability (50%)

The quality of the candidate as per the relevant section in Table 1.

Table 1: Future Fellowship candidate
Future Fellowship Level 1 Future Fellowship Level 2 Future Fellowship Level 3

Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) including record of high quality research outputs appropriate to the discipline/s;

  • evidence of research training, mentoring and supervision;
  • evidence of leadership capability and national research standing; and
  • capability of the candidate to build collaborations across research organisations, industry and other disciplines both within Australia and internationally.

Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) including record of high quality research outputs appropriate to the discipline/s;

  • evidence of research training, mentoring and supervision;
  • evidence of leadership capabilities and national and emerging international research standing; and
  • capability of the candidate to build collaborations across research organisations, industry and other disciplines both within Australia and internationally.
Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) including record of outstanding research outputs appropriate to the discipline/s;
  • evidence of experience in initiating and managing large research projects;
  • evidence of international research standing;
  • evidence of excellence in research training, mentoring and supervision; and
  • capability of the candidate to build collaborations across research organisations, industry and other disciplines both within Australia and internationally.

Project quality and innovation (25%)

  • 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%)

  • 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 and strategic alignment (10%)

  • cost effectiveness of the research and its value for money;
  • extent to which the Future Fellowship candidate aligns with and/or complements the core or developing research strengths and staffing profile of Your organisation;
  • availability of the necessary facilities to conduct the research;
  • resources You will provide to support the Future Fellowship candidate during her/his Future Fellowship; and 
  • capacity within Your organisation to transition the candidate at the end of the Future Fellowship to a continuing position.

If the project involves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research:

  • 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 Future Fellowships 2020 involved 53 College of Experts members across four discipline panels and was managed in RMS. A total of 2225 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC.

Funding levels and duration

Future Fellowships are funded for four consecutive years on a full-time basis. The annual salary contribution may be awarded at one of three salary levels, either $157,863, $191,101 or $224,332, (2019$) including 30 per cent on-costs. In addition, the ARC may provide up to $60,000 in project costs per annum.

Summary of outcomes

The ARC received a total of 690 applications for Future Fellowships for funding commencing in 2020, of which one application was withdrawn. 

One hundred Future Fellows are approved for funding commencing in 2020, shown in Table 2. The overall success rate for Future Fellowships for funding commencing in 2020 is 14.5%.

Of the unsuccessful applications in 2020, 21 were found not to meet eligibility requirements.

A comparison of success rates and funding amounts is shown in Table 2 and the overall success rate by salary level is shown in Table 3.

Table 2. Comparison of application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Future Fellowships 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 approved applications ($)

Funds allocated over  project life approved applications ($)

Return rate for approved applications  (%)

2019

589

100

17.0

$548,783,578

$94,272,909

$87,843,444

93.2

2020

689

100

14.5

$669,985,169

$97,817,158

$90,512,393

92.5

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

Salary Level

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over project life for all applications considered ($)

Requested funds over project life approved applications ($)

Funds allocated over  project life approved applications ($)

Return rate for approved applications  (%)

Level 1

213

31

14.6

$178,337,281

$26,418,627

$24,516,836

92.8

Level 2

246

35

14.2

$237,310,706

$34,161,707

$31,248,419

91.5

Level 3

230

34

14.8

$254,337,182

$37,236,824

$34,747,138

93.3

Total

689

100

14.5

$669,985,169

$97,817,158

$90,512,393

92.5

Outcomes by discipline 

A summary of outcomes by discipline panel is shown in Table 4.

Table 4. Number of applications, success rates and requested and allocated funds for approved Future Fellowships 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

167

24

14.4

$158,489,569

$22,901,910

$21,233,467

92.7

EIC

153

22

14.4

$150,417,677

$21,976,961

$20,005,846

91.0

HSE

221

32

14.5

$224,690,772

$32,484,751

$30,290,986

93.2

MPCE

148

22

14.9

$136,387,151

$20,453,536

$18,982,094

92.8

Total

689

100

14.5

$669,985,169

$97,817,158

$90,512,393

92.5

*BSB - Biological Sciences and Biotechnology; EIC – Engineering, Information and Computing Sciences; HSE – Humanities and Creative Arts, Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences; MPCE – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Outcomes by Science and Research Priorities

A summary of outcomes by Science and Research Priorities is shown in Table 5. 

Table 5. Approved funding and success rate for Future Fellowships 2020 applications by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success

rate (%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Advanced manufacturing

94

19

20

$16,443,799

Cybersecurity

32

4

12.5

$3,830,968

Energy

42

6

14.3

$5,491,080

Environmental change

95

16

16.8

$14,156,883

Food

33

3

9.1

$2,730,790

Health

92

11

12

$10,335,798

Resources

13

2

15.4

$2,071,764

Soil and water

26

3

11.5

$2,715,385

Transport

14

0

0

$0

Unspecified

248

36

14.5

$32,735,926

Total

689

100

14.5

$90,512,393

Total within Science and Research Priorities

441

64

14.5

$57,776,467

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

64

64

 

63.8

Outcomes by Administering Organisation

A summary of outcomes by Administering Organisation is shown in Table 6.

Table 6. Number of applications and success rates for approved Future Fellowships 2020 applications by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Australian Capital Territory

40

6

15

$5,582,718

The Australian National University

37

6

16.2

$5,582,718

University of Canberra

3

0

0

0

New South Wales

222

25

11.3

23,323,646

Australian Catholic University

1

0

0

$0

Charles Sturt University

2

0

0

$0

Macquarie University

23

2

8.7

$1,704,045

Southern Cross University

6

1

16.7

$1,048,328

The University of New England

3

1

33.3

$998,395

The University of New South Wales

61

10

16.4

$9,520,333

The University of Newcastle

21

0

0

$0

The University of Sydney

56

7

12.5

$6,605,944

University of Technology Sydney

17

3

17.6

$2,512,553

University of Wollongong

28

1

3.6

$934,048

Western Sydney University

4

0

0

$0

Northern Territory

2

0

0

$0

Charles Darwin University

2

0

0

$0

Queensland

112

18

16.1

$16,833,911

Central Queensland University

1

0

0

$0

Griffith University

18

4

22.2

$3,824,013

James Cook University

3

0

0

$0

Queensland University of Technology

18

1

5.6

$900,000

The University of Queensland

64

11

17.2

$10,128,304

University of Southern Queensland

2

0

0

$0

University of the Sunshine Coast

6

2

33.3

$1,981,594

South Australia

45

6

13.3

$5,009,324

Flinders University

6

0

0

$0

The University of Adelaide

34

4

11.8

$3,437,783

University of South Australia

5

2

40

$1,571,541

Tasmania

13

4

30.8

$3,410,969

University of Tasmania

13

4

30.8

$3,410,969

Victoria

220

35

15.9

$30,968,146

Deakin University

20

1

5

$791,428

La Trobe University

18

2

11.1

$1,918,469

Monash University

80

16

20

$13,906,443

RMIT University

20

3

15

$2,876,644

Swinburne University of Technology

15

1

6.7

$738,000

The University of Melbourne

67

12

17.9

$10,737,162

Western Australia

35

6

17.1

$5,383,679

Curtin University

11

2

18.2

$1,768,176

Murdoch University

1

0

0

$0

The University of Western Australia

23

4

17.4

$3,615,503

Total

689

100

14.5

$90,512,393

Career age and gender

Of the approved Future Fellowships, 92 candidates were within five to 15 years of the award of their PhD and eight candidates were beyond 15 years of the award of their PhD.

Of the 689 Future Fellowship candidates in this round, 247 were female, 437 were male, one candidate was indeterminate/intersex and four candidates did not specify their gender. The success rate for female, male, indeterminate/intersex and unspecified candidates is 15.8 per cent, 13.5 per cent, 100.0 per cent and 25.0 per cent respectively. 

Success rates of Future Fellowship candidates by career age and gender in the current Future Fellowship round are presented in Figure 1. 

At the closing time of submission of applications, of the 689 candidates, 626 were between 5 and 15 years of the award of their PhD and 57 were beyond 15 years of the award of their PhD. To be eligible to apply for Future Fellowships, the latter group of researchers had their significant career interruptions certified by their Administering Organisation.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Future Fellowships 2020 candidates by gender and career age*

*Career age is calculated as years since PhD.

Attracting and retaining outstanding researchers

Applications were open to Eligible Organisations to nominate candidates who are outstanding mid-career researchers of international repute, resident either within Australia or overseas (Table 7).

Table 7. Citizenship/residency status of Future Fellowships 2020 candidates and approved Awardees

Citizenship/residency status

Applications considered

% of Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Foreign Nationals

61

8.9

6

9.8

Resident Australians

602

87.4

89

14.8

Returning Australians

26

3.8

5

19.2

Total

689

100

100

14.5

Note: All totals and percentages are shown using rounded figures, and as such may not sum.

International Collaboration

Among 689 of the applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 2015 instances of collaboration with researchers in 93 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, 98 foreshadowed 312 instances of collaboration with researchers in 56 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Future Fellowships 2020 applications*

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