Overview

The Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme reflects the Australian Government’s commitment to excellence in research by supporting world-class researchers to conduct research in Australia. 

The objectives of the Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme are to: 

  • support ground-breaking, internationally-competitive basic and applied research
  • forge strong links among researchers, the international research community and/or industry and other research end-users
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in Australian Government priority areas
  • attract and retain outstanding researchers and research leaders of international reputation
  • provide an excellent research training environment and exemplary mentorship to nurtureearly-career researchers.

Selection process

Applications for funding commencing in 2021 opened on 11 September 2020 and closed on 4 November 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: 

  • 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 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 Unless otherwise specified, data represented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.

Assessment criteria

All applications that meet the eligibility criteria for the Australian Laureate Fellowships 2021 applications were assessed and merit ranked using the following assessment criteria:

Investigator/Capability (40%)
Describe the:

  • Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) including:
    • outstanding research outputs and achievements taking into account research opportunity;
    • evidence for and/or potential to undertake ground-breaking research;
    • leadership ability and plans to build world class research capacity and diverse teams; and
    • potential to create an enduring legacy.
  • extent to which the candidate will build collaborations across research organisations and/or industry and/or with 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);
  • extent to which the research has the potential to enhance international collaboration; and
  • extent to which the research will be cost-effective and represents value for money.

If the project involves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research describe:

  • 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.

Benefit (10%)
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.

Mentoring and capacity building (25%) 
Describe:

  • Mentoring, including the extent to which the candidate demonstrates:
    • exceptional ability to supervise and mentor postdoctoral researchers and other early-mid career researchers; and
    • they will be providing a suitable environment for postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
  • Capacity building, including:
    • the extent to which the project will build new teams and create world-class research capacity, collaboration and innovation;
    • the extent to which the candidate demonstrates exceptional leadership and the organisational ability to ensure the development of scale and focus in research;
    • evidence of the project’s and researchers’ potential to attract financial resources to enhance research capacity; and
    • the extent to which this research builds new international research collaboration or links between research and industry.

Assessment process

The ARC assessment process for Australian Laureate Fellowships 2021 involved 15 Selection Advisory Committee members on one multi-discipline panel and was managed in RMS. A total of 484 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC.

Funding levels and duration

Australian Laureate Fellowships projects are funded for five years on a full-time basis, subject to sufficient scheme funding, the provisions of the Australian Research Council Act 2001 (the ARC Act), and continued satisfactory progress of the Australian Laureate Fellowships project.

It is a requirement of the Grant Guidelines for the Discovery Program (2019 edition) for the Administering Organisation to provide a salary of Level E professorial appointment (or equivalent) to the successful candidate, with the ARC providing the salary supplement of $169,163 (2020$) per annum including 30 per cent on-costs.

In addition to the Australian Laureate Fellowship salary supplement and salary-related (on-cost) support, the ARC may provide Australian Laureate Fellows with:

  1. additional funding for up to two postdoctoral research associates for five years each and up to two postgraduate researchers for four years each; and
  2. project funding of up to $300,000 per annum (for up to five years).

Summary of outcomes

The ARC received a total of 170 applications for Australian Laureate Fellowships for funding commencing in 2021. 

Seventeen Australian Laureate Fellows are approved for funding commencing in 2021, shown in Table 1. The overall success rate for Australian Laureate Fellowships for funding commencing in 2021 is 10.0 per cent. The total indicative funding approved is $53.7 million over five financial years (Tables 2 and 4). A comparison of success rates and funding amounts is shown in Table 2.

Of the unsuccessful applications in 2021, zero were found not to meet eligibility requirements.

Table 1.  Australian Laureate Fellows approved for funding commencing in 2021

Fellowship candidate

Administering Organisation

Professor Matthew Barnett

Deakin University

Professor Axel Bruns

Queensland University of Technology

Professor Helen Byrne

The University of Sydney

Professor Kishan Dholakia

The University of Adelaide

Professor Jeffery Errington

The University of Sydney

Professor Sharon Friel

The Australian National University

Professor Kliti Grice

Curtin University

Professor Zaiping Guo

University of Wollongong

Professor Dayong Jin

University of Technology Sydney

Professor Yun Liu

The Australian National University

Professor Dena Lyras

Monash University

Professor Alexander McBratney

The University of Sydney

Professor Naomi McClure-Griffiths

The Australian National University

Professor Michael Milford

Queensland University of Technology

Professor Sundhya Pahuja

The University of Melbourne

Professor Robert Parton

The University of Queensland

Professor Andrew White

The University of Queensland

* Biographies for the 17 Australian Laureate Fellows will be available on the ARC Website. 

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

Funds allocated over project life for approved applications ($)

Return rate for approved applications (%)

2020

157

15

9.6

$532,112,154

$51,957,989

$47,329,286

91.1

2021

170

17

10.0

$585,818,173

$59,759,625

$53,706,710

89.9

Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship and Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship

Of the 41 female Australian Laureate Fellowship candidates, 35 applied for a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship or a Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship.

The recipients of the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship (awarded to a highly ranked candidate from the Humanities, Arts and Social Science disciplines) and the Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship (awarded to a highly ranked candidate from the Science and Technology disciplines) are provided with additional funding to undertake an ambassadorial role to promote women in research and to mentor early career researchers, particularly women, to encourage them to enter and establish careers in research in Australia. 

The assessment for these prestigious Fellowships takes place in two stages. Applicants who have indicated interest in either a Georgina Sweet or Kathleen Fitzpatrick Fellowship must first be successful as an Australian Laureate Fellow. Only when the SAC has recommended them as Australian Laureate Fellows will an applicant be assessed for a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship or a Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship.

The 2021 recipients of the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship or a Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. 2021 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship and Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship

Fellowship Type

Approved candidate

Administering Organisation

Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship

Professor Sundhya Pahuja

The University of Melbourne

Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship

Professor Yun Liu

The Australian National University

Table 4. Indicative funds for approved Australian Laureate Fellowships 2021 applications

Budget item

2021–2022

2022–2023

2023–2024

2024-2025

2025-2026

TOTAL

Laureate Salary supplement including on-costs

$2,875,771

$2,875,771

$2,875,771

$2,875,771

$2,875,771

$14,378,855

ARC Postdoctoral Researchers

$3,531,308

$3,531,308

$3,531,308

$3,531,308

$3,531,308

$17,656,540

ARC Postgraduate Researchers

$618,332

$955,604

$955,604

$955,604

$337,272

$3,822,416

Project Funding

$3,761,155

$3,600,735

$3,561,670

$3,444,445

$3,480,894

$17,848,899

TOTAL

$10,786,566

$10,963,418

$10,924,353

$10,807,128

$10,225,245

$53,706,710

Outcomes by discipline

A summary of outcomes by discipline panel is shown in Table 5. 

Table 5. Application numbers, success rates and requested and allocated funds for Australian Laureate Fellowships 2021 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

29

4

13.8

$103,705,548

$14,451,916

$12,815,357

88.7

EIC

45

5

11.1

$157,586,996

$17,162,470

$14,857,041

86.6

HCA

26

2

7.7

$89,768,040

$6,980,742

$6,710,437

96.1

MPCE

41

5

12.2

$137,664,294

$17,471,959

$15,858,875

90.8

SBE

29

1

3.4

$97,093,295

$3,692,538

$3,465,000

93.8

Total

170

17

10.0

$585,818,173

$59,759,625

$53,706,710

89.9

*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

A summary of outcomes by Science and Research Priorities is shown in Table 6.

Table 6. Approved funding and success rates for Australian Laureate 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

29

4

13.8

$12,123,263

Cybersecurity

9

1

11.1

$3,518,080

Energy

6

1

16.7

$3,263,000

Environmental Change

33

1

3.0

$2,968,718

Food

7

1

14.3

$3,331,707

Health

25

4

16.0

$13,134,116

Resources

6

0

0.0

$0

Soil and Water

3

1

33.3

$3,277,650

Transport

6

1

16.7

$2,716,041

None Selected

46

3

6.5

$9,374,135

Total

170

17

10.0

$53,706,710

Total within Science and Research Priorities

124

14

11.3

$44,332,575

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

72.9

82.4

 

82.5

 

Outcomes by Administering Organisation

The Administering Organisations of the 17 applications approved for funding are: 

  • Curtin University (1)
  • Deakin University (1)
  • Monash University (1)
  • Queensland University of Technology (2)
  • The Australian National University (3)
  • The University of Adelaide (1) 
  • The University of Melbourne (1)
  • The University of Queensland (2)
  • The University of Sydney (3)
  • University of Technology Sydney (1)
  • University of Wollongong (1)

Career age and gender

Of the 170 Australian Laureate Fellowship candidates in this round, 41 were female, 128 were male and one chose not to specify gender. The success rate for female, male and unspecified candidates in this round is 19.5 per cent, 7.0 per cent and 0.0 per cent respectively. 

Success rates of Australian Laureate Fellowship candidates by career age and gender in the current Australian Laureate Fellowship round are presented in Figure 1. Candidates who did not provide gender information (0.6 per cent) and candidates who did not specify the date of completion of their PhD or who do not hold a PhD (0.6 per cent) are not represented in the figure below. 

Figure 1. Participation and success rate of Australian Laureate Fellowships 2021 candidate 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. 

Attracting and retaining outstanding researchers

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

Table 7. Citizenship/residency status of Australian Laureate Fellowships 2021 candidates and approved Awardees

Citizenship/residency status

Applications considered

% of Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Foreign Nationals

14

8.2

3

21.4

Resident Australians

150

88.2

14

9.3

Returning Australians

6

3.5

0

0.0

Total

170

100

17

10.0

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

International collaboration

Among 170 of the applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 815 instances of collaboration with researchers in 74 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, 17 foreshadowed 94 instances of collaboration with researchers in 32 overseas locations (Figure 2).

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

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