22 August 2016

Strong value in Humanities research


News Corp newspapers and other media outlets have published articles, including ‘Cash for absolute claptrap’, critical of Australian Research Council (ARC) funding provided to research projects in the humanities.

Chief Executive Officer of the ARC, Professor Aidan Byrne, responds to these misguided claims.

“The Australian Research Council (ARC) plays an important role in the provision of Government support for research in Australia. Our mission is to deliver policy and programmes that advance Australian research and innovation globally and benefit the community,” said Professor Byrne.

“Through the National Competitive Grants Programme (NCGP), the ARC supports the highest-quality fundamental and applied researchers and research projects through national competition across all disciplines, including the humanities. Clinical and other medical research is primarily supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

“Research from all fields of knowledge, including the humanities, plays a valuable role in advancing Australian research and innovation globally and benefiting the community. A strong research capability across all research disciplines is important for Australia’s future.

“Research in the humanities and social sciences is just as important as science and technology.

“Humanities research enhances our understanding of, and provides new frameworks for the analysis of humanity, and its history, ideas, cultures, languages and social structures. It is also particularly important to developing interdisciplinary solutions to complex challenges such as climate change, resource management, health and welfare.

“The humanities also play an important role in the education of the large proportion of university students enrolled in Arts and similar degrees. Quality research in this area plays a role in ensuring that the humanities disciplines remain at the forefront of knowledge and are well equipped to provide high quality education.

“It is misleading to judge the short titles or brief descriptions of research projects and infer that they are not useful research without looking at the detail of the project, which is extensively considered by the ARC expert assessors in determining its worthiness for funding.

“All projects funded by the ARC are awarded on the basis of a competitive process and rigorous peer review.

“Each research project put forward by administering organisations (mainly Australian universities) for funding is considered on its own merit by members of the College of Experts (CoE) or Selection Advisory Committee (SAC), informed by national and international assessor input. ARC CoE and SAC members are experts of international standing drawn from the Australian research community, across all disciplines: from higher education, industry and public sector research organisations. 

“Competitive grant funding from the Australian research councils to support new research projects commencing in 2015, totalled $558 million from the ARC and $730 million from the NHRMC, across all research disciplines. Humanities research projects received only 3.3 per cent of total competitive grant funding.

“The success rates of ARC proposals in the humanities was comparable to other discipline groups.

“In ERA 2015, 99 per cent of all research grant income reported was within units rated as 3, 4 or 5—that is, above at or world standard. The Australian Government’s investment and the ARC’s peer review process underpins this identification of research excellence.

“The Australian Academy of the Humanities published the ‘Power of the Humanities’ in 2015, which showcases numerous examples of the value of humanities research, including ARC-funded researcher, Professor Anna Haebich, whose work on the Stolen Generations has helped Indigenous people make sense of their past, and in doing so has helped transform lives."


Media contact

ARC Stakeholder Relations
0412 623 056 or communications@arc.gov.au