The Australian Research Council 

The Australian Research Council (ARC) is a Commonwealth entity within the Australian Government.  The ARC’s purpose is to grow knowledge and innovation for the benefit of the Australian community through funding the highest quality research, assessing the quality, engagement and impact of research and providing advice on research matters.

The ARC funds research and researchers under the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP). The NCGP consists of two elements—Discovery and Linkage. Within these elements are a range of schemes structured to support researchers to build the scope and scale of their work and collaborative partnerships. The majority of funding decisions under the NCGP are made on the basis of peer review. 

The ARC evaluates the quality of research undertaken in higher education institutions through the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) program. ERA is an established evaluation framework that identifies research excellence in Australian higher education institutions by comparing Australia’s research effort against international benchmarks. ERA assesses quality using a combination of indicators and expert review by research evaluation committees. 

The ARC is also responsible for developing and implementing an Engagement and Impact (EI) assessment, announced by the Australian Government in December 2015 as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), which will assess the engagement of researchers with end-users, and show how universities are translating their research into economic, social, environmental and other impacts.

ARC support

In line with the principles outlined in the ARC Research Workforce Statement, the ARC supports researchers from diverse backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities and seeks to ensure that all eligible researchers have the opportunity to participate in its funding schemes. The ARC recognises the importance of, and actively supports, participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers in the research workforce and the further development of a cohort of honours and higher degree by research students.

The ARC supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, research students and research through Administering Organisations under the NCGP Discovery and Linkage programs – which comprise a range of schemes to support researchers at different stages of their careers, build Australia’s research capability, expand and enhance research networks and collaborations, and develop hubs and centres of research excellence. The Discovery program includes the Discovery Indigenous scheme, which can fund awards, projects and stipends for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research students. 

Encouraging broad participation, including through targeted funding schemes is a priority for the ARC to ensure that outstanding research and researchers contribute to achieving Australia’s research and innovation goals. The award of NCGP funding is predicated on excellence determined through a rigorous peer review process involving assessors with expertise in the nominated field of research.

The ARC also draws on the diversity and experience of the ARC Advisory Council, the ARC College of Experts, selection advisory committee members, research assessment committees and research leaders and institutions including the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), for advice on mechanisms and strategies to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research.

Initiatives in place

In support of its commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research, the ARC has the following initiatives in place:

National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP)

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research can be funded under all NCGP schemes.

Targeted funding - NCGP

  • The Discovery Indigenous scheme exclusively funds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research students. Funding is provided through Administering Organisations, for: 
    • a Discovery Indigenous project in any discipline, undertaken by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander researcher (Chief Investigator) independently or in collaboration with other researchers including non-Indigenous researchers
    • Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards (DAATSIAs), which are awarded in conjunction with a Discovery Indigenous project, at one of five salary levels (commensurate with academic levels A – E)
    • higher degree by research students, and uniquely under the NCGP, honours students.

Eligibility

  • Under the Discovery Indigenous scheme projects must be led by an Indigenous Australian. An Indigenous Australian is a person of Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, who identifies as an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person and is accepted as an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person by the community in which they live or have lived.
  • All Australian universities, the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and AIATSIS are Eligible Organisations for NCGP funding schemes (except Linkage Learned Academies Special Projects and certain Special Research Initiatives where, depending on the initiative, specific eligible organisations may be identified).

Conditions of award

  • The Discovery Indigenous scheme allows DAATSIAs to be undertaken part-time, subject to the employment conditions of the Administering Organisation for a period of up to eight years.  Fellowship and award recipients, including DAATSIAs, can access maternity leave, partner/parental leave and recreation leave.

Assessment

  • Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) is a selection criterion used in all NCGP schemes to recognise research excellence in the context of the diversity of career and life experiences. It considers working arrangements, career histories and personal circumstances for all eligible researchers and provides an acknowledgement of research performance given the opportunities available.
  • The ARC facilitates the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander membership of ARC committees and actively encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander membership.

Engagement

  • The ARC highlights the outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research and of research undertaken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers under all NCGP schemes.
  • Researchers are required to build strategies for enabling collaboration with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and follow a process of meaningful engagement and reciprocity with individuals and/or communities, as applicable, in accordance with the: 
    • Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (2012) 
    • Australia Council for the Arts Indigenous Cultural Protocols for Producing Indigenous Music; Writing; Visual Arts; Media Arts; and Performing Arts (2007)
    • Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities:  Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders (2018) 
    • Keeping research on track II (2018) 
    • National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) – updated 2018. 
  • Under the Linkage Program, the ARC requires Eligible Organisations, to partner with other organisations (including industry, Government, and non- profit) which provides an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to participate on research projects, centres and hubs.
  • The ARC works closely with stakeholders including AIATSIS and Universities Australia on policies and best practice to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research.

Monitoring and Reporting

  • Researchers are able to identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person in the personal details section of an application in the Research Management System (RMS). This information is confidential and only reported in a consolidated form. It is an important input to policy development.
  • The ARC monitors the funding outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research in each selection round.

Excellence in Research for Australia and Engagement and Impact

  • A key component of the Engagement and Impact (EI) assessment is the use of qualitative studies to capture the impacts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research, as well as university support for translating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research into wider impacts.
  • Consultation with representatives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research community has, and will continue to be, an important and integral part of the implementation processes for EI.

Actions 2018-2019

In 2018-2019, the ARC will:

  • Publish the ARC’s response to the findings and recommendations of the 2017 Evaluation of ARC support for Indigenous researchers and research.
  • Develop a communications strategy to further promote available funding options under the NCGP including the Discovery Indigenous scheme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers with the aim of achieving population parity participation rates.
  • Highlight the availability of support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early career researchers and higher degree by research students under all NCGP schemes, including the Australian Laureate Fellowships and Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards schemes and exclusively under the Discovery Indigenous scheme, including for honours students.
  • Review the operation of ROPE to ensure that criteria to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers are effective and well understood.
  • Review the weighting of Discovery Indigenous scheme selection criteria to ensure that the importance of mentoring is appropriately addressed.
  • Consider whether the assessment processes are adequate for proposals submitted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research. 
  • Work to increase the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers in ARC assessment processes.  Investigate developing a mentoring program to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers to participate as ARC assessors.

The ARC will also continue to:

  • Provide information on its website about the ARC’s initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers.  
  • Ensure, where possible, ARC committees including the ARC College of Experts and the ARC Advisory Council, have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members.  
  • Highlight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers’ achievements and research outcomes in ARC publications.
  • Liaise with relevant groups including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC) and AIATSIS and, where appropriate, provide input into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education and research policies.
  • Monitor the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers under NCGP schemes, including the Discovery Indigenous scheme, to ensure currency with the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and identify any opportunities to improve policies and programs.
  • Monitor, analyse and report funding outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research across ARC activities.

Further supporting documentation is on the ARC website and includes the ARC Research Workforce Statement.