Overview

The Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science (SRIEAS) scheme aims to enhance and develop Australia’s research excellence in Antarctic Science through highly innovative and collaborative research. 
The Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science scheme supports excellent research in one or more of the Australian Government’s Antarctic science priority research themes:

  • Climate Processes and Change
  • Terrestrial and Nearshore Ecosystems: Environmental Change and Conservation
  • Southern Ocean Ecosystems: Environmental Change and Conservation
  • Frontier Science.

The objectives of the Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science scheme are to:

  • support excellent research in identified Australian Antarctic science priority research themes
  • contribute to a coordinated and collaborative approach to Antarctic, Subantarctic and Southern Ocean research that builds on Australia’s existing capability in this area
  • build Australian research capacity in this area by supporting researchers of the highest international standing as well as high quality postdoctoral researchers and research students
  • advance Australia’s capabilities and knowledge in Antarctic research.

Selection process

Applications for SRIEAS for funding commencing in 2020 opened on 20 March 2019, and closed on 5 June 2019. 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 recommendations are based on advice from the ARC Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) which: 

  • assessed applications and reviewed assessments made by independent assessors
  • reviewed applicants’ comments on assessors’ reports
  • interviewed applicants requesting funding for $1 million or more per year
  • ranked each application relative to the others on the basis of the application, the assessors’ reports, applicants’ responses to those assessments and interview performance for applicants requesting funding for $1 million or more per year
  • assessed and recommended budgets
  • recommended application feedback

and, advice from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) which considered:

  • alignment with the Australian Antarctic Science Strategic Plan 2011-12 to 2020-21 and underpinning documents and
  • feasibility of the AAD in providing any logistics support required to undertake the project.

and, advice from the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, the ARC College of Experts or independent assessors and
  • where required, sought advice with respect to issues raised

This report reflects the outcomes approved by the Minister.

Assessment criteria

Assessment criteria and corresponding weights for Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science applications are:

  • Research program - Quality and Innovation (40%)
  • Investigators (30%)
  • Institutional Support and Governance (20%)
  • Benefit (10%)

The ARC assessment process for Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science 2020 involved six ARC Selection Advisory Committee members and was managed in RMS. A total of 52 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC. 

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received a total of 20 applications for Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science for funding in 2020. Of the 20 applications submitted, five applications requested $1 million or more per year of ARC funding and were interviewed. 
As shown in Table 1, of the 20 applications submitted, two were approved for funding by the Minister. The overall success rate was 10 per cent. 

Table 1. Application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for successful applications from Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science for funding in 2020

Funding year

Applications considered

Applications   approved for funding

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over project life (all applications)

Requested funds over project life

(approved applications)

Funds allocated over project life

Allocations as a percentage of request (%)

2020

20

2

10.0

$188,451,807

$99,321,187

$56,000,000

56.4

Table 2 lists summary information about approved applications.

Table 2. Details of approved applications for the Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science for funding in 2020

Title

Administering Organisation

Director

Approved funds over project life

Securing Antarctica's Environmental Future

Monash University

Prof Steven Chown

$36,000,000

The Australian Centre for Excellence in Antarctic Science

University of Tasmania

Prof Matt King

$20,000,000

Outcomes by discipline

A summary of approved outcomes by discipline panel is shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Number of applications and success rates for Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science 2020 by discipline

Discipline*

Applications considered

Approved applications

Applications success rate (%)

BSB

7

1

14.3

EIC

4

0

0.0

HCA

0

0

0.0

MPCE

9

1

11.1

SBE

0

0

0.0

Total

20

2

10.0

*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 Economics Sciences  

Outcomes by Science and Research Priorities

As shown in Table 4, 19 applications for Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science for funding in 2020 selected a Science and Research Priority. 

Table 4. Approved funding for Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science 2020 applications by Science and Research Priority

Science and Research Priority

Applications considered

Approved applications

Success Rate (%)

Approved funds (over project life)

Energy

1

0

0.0

$0

Environmental change

16

2

12.5

$56,000,000

Soil and water

1

0

0.0

$0

Transport

1

0

0.0

$0

Unspecified

1

0

0.0

$0

Total

20

2

10.0

$56,000,000

Total within Science and Research Priorities

19

2

10.5

$56,000,000

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

95.0

100.0

 

100.0

Outcomes by Administering Organisation  

Fourteen Administering Organisations across six Australian States submitted applications for Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science for funding in 2020. 

Participating organisation contributions by organisation type

In addition to ARC funding, significant contributions are made by participating organisations.

There are 38 Partner Organisations involved with the approved applications. As shown in Table 6, the combined support of all participating organisations (including Administering Organisations, Other Eligible Organisations, Partner Organisations and Other Organisations), not including ARC funding, for this round totals $85.9 million over seven years. This represents over $1.53 from participating organisations for every dollar funded by the ARC.

Table 6. Participating organisation contributions by organisation type for approved applications for the Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science applications for funding in 2020 

Organisation type

Organisation contributions (cash & in-kind) over project life (approved applications)

Administering Organisation

$33,146,825

Other Eligible Organisation

$34,932,021

Partner Organisation

$14,872,076

Other Organisation

$2,938,940

Total

$85,889,862

Australian Antarctic Research Priority Areas

As shown in Table 7, applications for Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science for funding in 2020 were submitted in all Australian Antarctic Research Priority Areas.

Table 7. Identified Australian Antarctic Research Priorities in Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science applications approved for funding commencing in 2020

Australian Antarctic Research Priority Areas

Instances of priority areas indicated in considered applications

Instances of priority areas indicated in approved applications

Climate Processes and Change

10

2

Terrestrial and Nearshore Ecosystems: Environmental Change and Conservation

5

1

Southern Ocean Ecosystems: Environmental Change and Conservation

9

2

Frontier Science

4

2

Total

28

7


Note: Applicants could identify more than one Australian Antarctic Research Priority Area in an application.

Gender

As shown in Table 8, a total of 289 participants were named on applications considered in this round. Of these, 200 are male and 89 are female. The success rates for male and female participants in this round are 49.5 per cent and 52.8 per cent respectively.

Table 8. Success rate by gender for Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science for funding in 2020

Participant Gender

Participants in applications considered

Participants in approved applications

Success rate (%)

Female

89

47

52.8

Male

200

99

49.5

Total

289

146

50.5

International collaboration

Among 20 applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 55 instances of collaboration with researchers in 24 overseas locations. 
As shown in Figure 1, the approved applications foreshadowed 17 instances of collaboration with researchers in 15 overseas locations.

Figure 1.  International collaborations by location in Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science approved applications for funding commencing in 2020