The Australian Research Council (ARC) is introducing improvements to the implementation of the ARC Linkage Projects scheme that will build on the effectiveness of its continuous application process, including moving to three assessment rounds per year.
 
The new changes respond to the ARC’s Evaluation of the implementation of the continuous Linkage Projects process, which included an extensive consultation process with universities, researchers, industry, government agencies and other participants in collaborative research. The evaluation considered levels of partner organisation involvement before and after the introduction of the continuous process; changes to applications and outcomes; and stakeholder perceptions of the process.

Evaluation of the implementation of the continuous Linkage Projects scheme

The evaluation report, now available on the ARC website, highlights five key recommendations:

  • Application deadlines: The ARC should introduce three or four Linkage Projects application deadlines each year
  • Information on assessment process: The ARC should provide additional information on the ARC website and in RMS regarding assessment processes and announcements, including:
    • timeframes for different stages of the assessment process for each round of Linkage Projects
    • a selection report for each round
    • feedback on scoring bands for unsuccessful applications.
  • Funding commencement: The ARC should allow for more frequent releases of initial funding.
  • Guidance to Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) members: The ARC should provide guidance to Linkage Projects SAC members to ensure high quality applications that involve business partner organisations are given greater priority.
    Data and monitoring: The ARC should consider using metrics provided in the report as benchmarks to monitor future performance of the continuous process and inform improvements.

ARC response to the evaluation report

The ARC’s response to the report, also now available on the ARC website, outlines a range of improvements to the process in response to these recommendations.
 
In light of strong stakeholder feedback about the benefits of working to clear deadlines in the grants submission process, while the scheme will remain open continuously, the ARC will move to three Linkage Projects assessment rounds per year, beginning with Linkage Projects for funding applied for in 2020 (opening tomorrow, 20 December 2019). This will support more researchers and their partners to plan for, and undertake collaborative research through the scheme. 

For increased transparency, the ARC will also publish information on the ARC website about assessment processes, expected timeframes, and a selection report for each round of applications. It will also develop functionality to provide additional feedback to unsuccessful applicants via the Research Management System.
 
After the three assessment rounds have been introduced, the ARC will also consider options to implement more frequent releases of initial funding for the scheme so research can start as quickly as possible.
 
The ARC will also reinforce advice to Linkage Projects selection committees that at the funding margins, where appropriate, preference should be given to high quality applications that involve business partner organisations. This will help to address a decline in business and industry participation as a proportion of all partner organisations.
 
And to identify trends and monitor future performance of the continuous process, the ARC will develop and use a set of metrics on key Linkage Projects objectives based on those provided in the evaluation report.
 
If you have any questions please email ARC-NCGP@arc.gov.au or phone +61 2 6287 6600.