Throughout the challenges created by COVID-19 and other events, the ARC remains committed to supporting the Australian research sector.

In 2020 a range of effects are being felt across the research sector. At this time it is important that we continue to foster knowledge and innovation that will benefit the Australian community through funding the highest quality research.

The ARC’s priorities continue to include assuring all researchers that their unique circumstances, relative to research opportunity, will be considered in the ARC’s assessment processes; supporting early and mid-career researchers, who can be particularly vulnerable due to caring and parental responsibilities; ensuring that the ARC is engaged in sector research and analysis to inform our policies and processes; and pursuing meaningful policy changes, within the current research environment.

To ensure the ARC provides flexible, effective and practical ways to help researchers to continue to participate in ARC schemes during these times, we have focussed on providing a range of support systems for researchers. These include providing updated pre-award guidance, putting in place specific application extensions for the DECRA and Future Fellowships schemes, and updating our Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) categories to account for significant career interruptions. I hope you take the time to read more about this support we are providing in the article, Supporting the Australian Research Sector during COVID-19

Since the last edition of ARChway was issued in June, the Minister for Education, The Hon. Dan Tehan has announced a number of National Competitive Grants Program scheme rounds: $44.2 million to fund 14 new Australian Laureate Fellowships; 90.5 million to fund 100 ARC Future Fellowships; $25 million to fund five new ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hubs; and $24 million to fund five new ARC Industrial Transformation Research Centres. Soon we will prepare for the outcomes of further upcoming grants rounds including Linkage Projects, Discovery Projects, Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards, and our new Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture.

As always, I would like to update you as to a number of important ARC happenings on the current consultations front. 

This year, the ARC is undertaking a comprehensive review of Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) and the Engagement and Impact Assessment (EI). The purpose of the review is enable the ARC to simplify and streamline the programs, take advantage of recent developments in technology and big data, ensure the programs continue to reflect world’s best practice and respond to the ongoing needs of the university sector, government and the public for a robust evaluation of Australian university research quality, impact and engagement. I encourage you to provide your views via a survey or written submission before the closing date of 12 October 2020.

Advancing gender equality in the research workforce also remains a priority for the ARC.  We recognise this is a particularly difficult time for the sector, with broad-reaching impacts and demands on institutions and individuals. In late 2019, the ARC undertook consultation with the sector on increasing female participation in research, centred around three initiatives:

  • ensuring women submit at least fifty per cent of applications in the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award scheme by 2023
  • achieving gender parity for membership of the ARC College of Experts by 2023 and on Selection Advisory Committees by 2025, and
  • reporting publicly by institution, on the proportion of women included in applications for ARC funding. 

The ARC will continue to work with stakeholders to encourage progress in supporting women in the research sector, in the midst of many priorities.

I hope that this update provides some continued reassurance that the ARC is continuing to be flexible and is listening and responding to the needs of the sector during these challenging and unprecedented times. 

Professor Sue Thomas