Overview

The Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture aims to advance understanding of Australian and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society, history, culture, literature, art, music, politics and geography and increase research capacity in these fields. 

The objectives of the Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture are to:

  • support excellent research into Australian society, history and culture; and
  • build Australian research capacity in this area by supporting researchers of the highest international standing as well as foster high-quality postdoctoral researchers. 

Selection Process

Applications for funding commencing in 2020 opened on 28 February 2020 and closed on 6 May 2020. Applications were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines outcomes from the selection process for that round.

These outcomes are based on advice from the ARC Selection Advisory Committees (SAC) which:

  • assessed applications and reviewed assessments made by independent assessors;
  • reviewed applicants’ comments on assessors’ reports;
  • ranked each application relative to the others on the basis of the application, the assessors’ reports and applicants’ responses to those assessments; 
  • assessed and recommended budgets;

and advice from the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, the members of the SAC 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 Unless otherwise specified, data presented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.

Assessment Criteria

Assessment criteria and corresponding weightings for the Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture applications are:
a. Project Quality and Innovation (40%)

  • the extent to which the proposed research addresses the objectives of this grant opportunity;
  • contribution to addressing an important gap in knowledge of Australian and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society, history and culture;
  • novelty/originality and innovation of the proposed research (including any new methods, technologies, theories or ideas that will be developed); 
  • •  hypotheses, theories and/or research questions; and
  • cohesiveness of the project design and implementation plan (including the appropriateness of the aim, conceptual framework, method, data and/or analyses). 

b. Investigator(s)/Capability (35%)

  • demonstrated Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) of the proposed team
  • time and capacity of the team 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. 

c. Benefit (10%)

  • new or advanced knowledge resulting from outcomes of the research; and 
  • social or cultural benefits for Australia. 

d. Feasibility (15%)

  • cost-effectiveness of the research and its value for money; 
  • 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. 

Assessment Process

The ARC assessment and reporting process for the Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture for funding commencing in 2020 involved a panel of 18 SAC members and was managed in RMS. A total of 1765 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC. 

Funding Levels and Duration 

Funding of between $20,000 and $100,000 per annum for up to three years may be awarded for each Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture application. 

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received 693 Australian Society, History and Culture applications, of which one application was withdrawn. A total of 692 applications were considered for funding.

The overall success rates and funding amounts are shown in Table 1. As shown in Table 1, 49 applications are approved for funding. The overall success rate is 7.1 per cent. 

Of the unsuccessful applications, eight were found not to meet eligibility requirements.

Table 1. Application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Australian Society, History and Culture applications 

Funding year

Applications considered

Applications

approved

Success rate

(%)

Requested funds over project life

- all applications

Requested funds over project life -

approved applications

Funds allocated over project life* - approved applications

Return rate for approved applications (%)

2020

692

49

7.1

$161,418,120

$13,024,313

$11,759,398

90.3

*May include indicative funding amounts

Outcomes by Administering Organisation  

Institutions across six States and two Territories submitted Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture applications, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Numbers of applications, success rates and ARC approved funding for approved Australian Society, History and Culture applications

Administering Organisation Applications considered Applications approved Success rate (%) ARC approved funding over project life
(approved applications) 
Australian Capital Territory 76 6 7.9 $1,528,608
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies 1 0 0 $0
The Australian National University 67 5 7.5 $1,326,452
University of Canberra 8 1 12.5 $202,156
New South Wales 230 11 4.8 $2,314,299
Australian Catholic University 6 0 0 $0
Charles Sturt University 1 0 0 $0
Macquarie University 25 2 8 $343,838
Southern Cross University 4 0 0 $0
The University of New England 12 0 0 $0
The University of New South Wales 47 1 2.1 $247,923
The University of Newcastle 35 0 0 $0
The University of Sydney 54 6 11.1 $1,309,117
University of Technology Sydney 11 0 0 $0
University of Wollongong 15 1 6.7 $230,277
Western Sydney University 20 1 5 $183,144
Northern Territory 6 1 16.7 $178,000
Charles Darwin University 6 1 16.7 $178,000
Queensland 100 8 8 $1,879,775
Central Queensland University 1 0 0 $0
Griffith University 32 4 12.5 $1,047,796
James Cook University 6 1 16.7 $258,000
Queensland University of Technology 16 1 6.3 $227,131
The University of Queensland 23 1 4.3 $230,583
University of Southern Queensland 9 1 11.1 $116,265
University of the Sunshine Coast 13 0 0 $0
South Australia 59 7 11.9 $1,681,322
Flinders University 27 4 14.8 $975,535
The University of Adelaide 24 2 8.3 $458,729
University of South Australia 8 1 12.5 $247,058
Tasmania 10 1 10 $289,479
University of Tasmania 10 1 10 $289,479
Victoria 164 14 8.5 $3,646,211
Deakin University 19 1 5.3 $271,235
Federation University Australia 2 0 0 $0
La Trobe University 16 3 18.8 $810,398
Monash University 40 4 10 $1,085,083
RMIT University 17 0 0 $0
Swinburne University of Technology 10 0 0 $0
The University of Melbourne 57 4 7 $941,000
Victoria University 3 2 66.7 $538,495
Western Australia 47 1 2.1 $241,704
Curtin University 17 0 0 $0
Edith Cowan University 4 0 0 $0
Murdoch University 4 0 0 $0
The University of Notre Dame Australia 1 0 0 $0
The University of Western Australia 21 1 4.8 $241,704
Total 692 49 7.1 $11,759,398

Career Age and Gender

A total of 2157 participants were named as a Chief Investigator or Partner Investigator on considered applications.

Of the 1849 Chief Investigators (CIs) in this round, 1059 were female and 772 were male, one applicant was indeterminate/intersex and 17 participants chose not to specify their gender. The success rate for female and male CIs is 9.8 per cent and 7.3 per cent respectively, and for both indeterminate/intersex and unspecified CIs is zero per cent. Success rates by gender and career age are presented in Figure 1 below. CIs who did not specify the date of completion of their PhD or who do not hold a PhD are not represented in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of CIs in Australian Society, History and Culture applications by gender and career age*

* Career age is calculated as years since PhD. The earliest PhD award date was used where there was more than one PhD

International Collaboration 

Among the 692 applications considered, 254 foreshadowed 526 instances of collaboration with researchers in 68 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, 15 foreshadowed 30 instances of collaboration with researchers in 14 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Instances of international collaboration by location on approved Australian Society, History and Culture applications