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 2021 opened on 14 October 2020 and closed on 9 December 2020. Applications were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines outcomes from the ARC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to the Minister.

These outcomes 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 Unless otherwise specified, data represented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.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 2021 applications were assessed and merit ranked using the following assessment criteria:

Investigator/Capability (50%)

Describe 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%)

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 and strategic alignment (10%)

Describe the:

  • 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 2021 involved 54 College of Experts members across four discipline panels and was managed in RMS. A total of 1989 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 $160,705, $194,540 or $228,370, (2020$) 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 677 applications for Future Fellowships for funding commencing in 2021, of which 2 applications were withdrawn.

One hundred Future Fellows are approved for funding commencing in 2021, shown in Table 2. The overall success rate for Future Fellowships for funding commencing in 2021 is 14.8%.

Of the unsuccessful applications in 2021, 27 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 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 approved applications ($)

Funds allocated over project life approved applications ($)

Return rate for approved applications (%)

2020

689

100

14.5

$669,985,169

$97,817,158

$90,512,393

92.5

2021

675

100

14.8

$676,822,277

$100,291,555

$93,020,678

92.8

Table 3. Application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Future Fellowships applications 2021

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

182

27

14.8

$154,851,531

$22,588,816

$20,948,975

92.7

Level 2

243

35

14.4

$240,472,450

$34,938,325

$32,318,504

92.5

Level 3

250

38

15.2

$281,498,296

$42,764,414

$39,753,199

93.0

Total

675

100

14.8

$676,822,277

$100,291,555

$93,020,678

92.8

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 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

144

22

15.3

$140,847,938

$21,679,872

$20,039,700

92.4

EIC

154

21

13.6

$153,834,100

$21,075,389

$19,625,376

93.1

HSE

229

34

14.8

$240,706,393

$35,728,227

$33,168,395

92.8

MPCE

148

23

15.5

$141,433,846

$21,808,067

$20,187,207

92.6

Total

675

100

14.8

$676,822,277

$100,291,555

$93,020,678

92.8

*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 rates for Future Fellowships 2021 applications by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Advanced Manufacturing

101

14

13.9

$12,513,365

Cybersecurity

27

4

14.8

$3,952,143

Energy

42

5

11.9

$4,273,917

Environmental Change

99

15

15.2

$14,110,612

Food

32

7

21.9

$6,502,450

Health

90

9

10.0

$8,907,418

Resources

16

6

37.5

$5,692,718

Soil and Water

20

4

20.0

$3,310,219

Transport

11

4

36.4

$4,055,318

None Selected

237

32

13.5

$29,702,518

Total

675

100

14.8

$93,020,678

Total within Science and Research Priorities

438

68

15.5

$63,318,160

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

64.9

68.0

 

68.1

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 2021 applications by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Applications considered

Applications approved  

Success rate (%)

Funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Australian Capital Territory

32

7

21.9

$6,786,943

The Australian National University

31

7

22.6

$6,786,943

University of Canberra

1

0

0

$0

New South Wales

225

29

12.9

$27,290,686

Australian Catholic University

1

0

0

$0

Macquarie University

20

6

30.0

$5,357,710

Southern Cross University

2

0

0

$0

The University of New England

1

1

100.0

$900,000

The University of New South Wales

71

10

14.1

$9,783,083

The University of Newcastle

20

0

0

$0

The University of Sydney

69

9

13.0

$8,582,700

University of Technology Sydney

23

1

4.3

$840,905

University of Wollongong

11

1

9.1

$802,288

Western Sydney University

7

1

14.3

$1,024,000

Northern Territory

1

0

0

$0

Charles Darwin University

1

0

0

$0

Queensland

128

20

15.6

$18,514,779

Central Queensland University

1

1

100.0

$1,099,480

Griffith University

21

5

23.8

$4,926,499

James Cook University

3

0

0

$0

Queensland University of Technology

39

7

17.9

$6,556,000

The University of Queensland

57

7

12.3

$5,932,800

University of Southern Queensland

5

0

0

$0

University of the Sunshine Coast

2

0

0

$0

South Australia

40

7

17.5

$6,190,641

Flinders University

9

2

22.2

$1,667,300

The University of Adelaide

25

5

20.0

$4,523,341

University of South Australia

6

0

0

$0

Tasmania

13

2

15.4

$2,008,498

University of Tasmania

13

2

15.4

$2,008,498

Victoria

194

27

13.9

$24,603,443

Deakin University

19

2

10.5

$1,828,866

La Trobe University

15

2

13.3

$1,822,573

Monash University

49

5

10.2

$4,643,078

RMIT University

21

2

9.5

$1,745,146

Swinburne University of Technology

23

4

17.4

$4,266,308

The University of Melbourne

67

12

17.9

$10,297,472

Western Australia

42

8

19.0

$7,625,688

Curtin University

22

6

27.3

$5,712,998

Edith Cowan University

1

0

0

$0

The University of Western Australia

19

2

10.5

$1,912,690

Total

675

100

14.8

$93,020,678

Career age and gender 

Of the 675 Future Fellowship candidates in this round, 257 were female, 411 were male and 7 chose not to specify gender. The success rate for female, male and unspecified candidates in this round is 16.3 per cent, 13.9 per cent and 14.3 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. Candidates who did not provide gender information (1.0 per cent) are not represented in the figure below.

At the closing time of submission of applications, of the 675 candidates, 600 were between 5 and 15 years of the award of their PhD and 73 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.

Of the approved Future Fellows, 91 candidates were between 5 and 15 years of the award of their PhD and 9 were beyond 15 years of the award of their PhD.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Future Fellowships 2021 candidate by gender and career age*

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 2021 candidates and approved Awardees

Citizenship/residency status

Applications considered

% of Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Foreign Nationals

60

8.9

5

8.3

Resident Australians

590

87.4

89

15.1

Returning Australians

25

3.7

6

24.0

Total

675

100

100

14.8

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

International collaboration 

Among 675 of the applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 1888 instances of collaboration with researchers in 99 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, 97 foreshadowed 348 instances of collaboration with researchers in 60 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. International collaborations by location in approved Future Fellowships 2021 applications*

*The top 9 international collaboration locations are listed in Figure 2 and the remaining are grouped in the ‘Other’ category.