The Australian Research Council’s (ARC) National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) supports the highest-quality fundamental and applied research and research training through national competition. It comprises two funding programs, Discovery and Linkage. These programs are each made up of several schemes which provide a structured pathway for researchers to build the scope and scale of their work and collaborative partnerships. Funding decisions under the NCGP are reliant on peer review.

Peer review—sometimes called merit review—ensures that government funding is spent on the highest quality research that will advance knowledge and benefit the community. The Global Research Council, of which the ARC is a member, has agreed on six principles underpinning peer review—Statement of Principles for Scientific Merit Review (Global Summit on Merit Review), 2012:

  • expert assessment
  • transparency of the review process
  • impartiality (fairness), achieved through strict conflict of interest rules and processes
  • appropriateness: selection processes should be consistent with the purpose of the funding scheme
  • confidentiality: assessors must keep all material in Applications confidential, including intellectual property (IP) and data
  • integrity and ethics.

These six principles underpin the ARC’s policies and processes regarding peer review.

The ARC’s peer review processes involve: 

  • Expert review: Peer review by experts who assess research Applications and report using established criteria
  • Transparency: Assessment processes clearly described in published documentation
  • Impartiality: Robust conflict of interest processes ensure the integrity of assessments
  • Appropriateness: The selection criteria and Selection Advisory Panels (SACs) are tailored to the particular scheme under assessment
  • Confidentiality: Assessors must keep information in Applications confidential.
  • Integrity and Ethics: Peer review activities and practices must accord with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, authored by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the ARC and Universities Australia.