Message from the Chief Executive Officer

The purpose of the Australian Research Council (ARC) 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’s assessors are a community of individuals who have knowledge, experience and expertise in specific disciplines. Detailed Assessors read, comment and score applications in their area of expertise, which are then considered by members of the ARC College of Experts or Selection Advisory Committees.

The contribution of ARC assessors in ensuring that the ARC funds the highest quality applications as well as providing applicants with useful feedback for future applications is extremely valuable. Involvement in the ARC’s peer review processes is not only of great assistance to the ARC, it also makes an important and worthwhile contribution to the research community as a whole.

The ARC is very grateful to all those researchers who provide detailed assessments to evaluate research applications submitted to the ARC for funding as well as to members of its selection committees. Without these assessors, the ARC’s robust peer review process would not be possible.

Professor Sue Thomas
Chief Executive Officer

Purpose

This policy aims to support the ARC’s peer review process by acknowledging the significant contribution of assessors to the ARC’s peer review process and outlining the ARC’s commitment to and expectations of assessors.

Context

The ARC’s delivery of the NCGP is underpinned by a competitive peer review process involving national and international assessors. 

There are two levels of service as an ARC assessor.

Detailed assessors are discipline-specific and interdisciplinary experts in their knowledge fields, drawn from the Australian and international research community. They complete in-depth assessments of applications by providing scores and comments against the scheme-specific selection criteria. These assessments are considered by general assessors in determining which applications to recommend for funding.

General assessors are members of the ARC’s peer review committees (for example, the ARC College of Experts or scheme-specific Selection Advisory Committees) who are both specialist and generalist experts in their knowledge fields. General Assessors (i) assign detailed assessors to applications; (ii) consider the application, the scores and comments provided by detailed assessors and the applicant’s rejoinder; (iii) assign their own scores against the relevant scheme-specific assessment criteria; and (iv) attend a selection meeting to discuss and determine funding recommendations.

Both detailed and general assessors devote considerable time and effort to their responsibilities in reviewing applications for ARC funding. Each year approximately 7000 experts act as detailed assessors and provide detailed written analysis of the merit of applications allocated to them for assessment. In addition, more than 150 researchers from universities, government and industry participate as members of the ARC’s peer review committees (general assessors).

The process of informing all decisions regarding the awarding of grants through the conduct of a thorough assessment of applications by experts in the field is fundamental to ARC’s values, risk management, stewardship and accountability. It is consistent with the Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines (see Note 1) and the activities of research funding councils around the world, as articulated in Global Research Council’s peer review principles (see Note 2).

Principles

Assessors provide an invaluable service to the ARC and to the Australian research community. With the help of their contribution, the ARC funds the highest quality research and researchers through the NCGP, helping to build Australia’s research capacity and generating outcomes of benefit to Australia. 

In supporting the assessors that participate in its peer review processes, the ARC is committed to:

Confidentiality

  • maintaining the anonymity of assessors to researchers being assessed

Communication

  • establishing channels of effective and efficient communications with assessors
  • providing training or guidance (as appropriate) on issues arising from the assessment process
  • providing feedback to assessors on the outcomes of the assessment process in which they participated

Recognition

  • acknowledging and providing recognition of the contribution of assessors to the ARC’s peer review processes
  • recognising assessor work by annually reporting the number of individual assessments made by assessors to their respective institutions  to support their academic development and progress within the institution.

Expectations of assessors

The ARC expects assessors to:

  • provide timely advice to the ARC regarding their ability to assess the applications assigned to them, noting that reasons for rejection include lack of expertise in the discipline area or conflict of interest
  • provide high quality assessments including both scores and/or comments against each of the assessment criteria
  • be thorough, fair and objective in their assessment of applications
  • observe the confidentiality requirements of the process
  • respect the proprietary nature of the intellectual property in the applications
  • notify the ARC in a timely manner if any research integrity issues are identified.

Becoming an assessor

Detailed assessors

The excellence of the ARC’s peer review process is directly related to its ability to involve experts to participate as detailed assessors. Being a detailed assessor has a number of potential benefits including:

  • knowledge of the ARC’s peer review processes
  • familiarity with application content expectations
  • familiarity with the range of research in their field of expertise
  • an opportunity to contribute to the development of the research community.

The ARC encourages all researchers to nominate as detailed assessors. Nominees need to have sufficient knowledge and experience in their discipline area to make a fair and informed assessment of applications for funding. To be considered for the role of an assessor for the ARC, researchers should send an email to ARC-Peer_Review@arc.gov.au with a brief CV, a list of five recent publications, their RMS user ID or a web link to this information.

Chief Investigators on a funded ARC project are automatically added to the ARC’s assessor list as a condition of funding. Under the terms of the Grant Agreements signed with the ARC, Administering Organisations must ensure that, if requested by the ARC, named investigators on ARC grants agree to assess up to 20 new applications per awarded project for each year of funding. If the ARC determines that a recipient has failed to meet the obligation to assess applications assigned by the ARC for assessment, the ARC may notify the Administering Organisation in writing of that failure. 

General assessors

ARC College of Experts members are experts of international standing drawn from the Australian research community: from higher education, industry and government research organisations. The ARC seeks nominations from suitably qualified and experienced individuals in all disciplines, with strong emphasis placed on multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary expertise. ARC College of Experts nominations are sought by the ARC annually from Australian universities and other research organisations.  Nominations must be certified by the nominee’s primary employer (an approved nominator or delegate) unless the nominee is self-employed.  Appointments are approved by the ARC CEO for a one to three-year period.

The ARC is committed to improving the gender balance of membership on ARC selection committees and encourages women to nominate. In addition, nominations from people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and from end-users across the private, public and not-for profit sectors are particularly encouraged.

Further information

Further information about the ARC’s peer review process can be found on the following pages:

Contact and document details

Policy and Strategy Branch
Australian Research Council 
Phone: 02 6287 6600
PolicyandStrategy@arc.gov.au
Level 2, 11 Lancaster Place, Canberra Airport ACT 2609 
GPO Box 2702, Canberra ACT 2601

Notes

  1. Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines (2017); paragraph 11.5; ‘Competitive, merit-based selection processes can achieve better outcomes and value with relevant money. Competitive, merit-based selection processes should be used to allocate grants, unless specifically agreed otherwise by a Minister, accountable authority or delegate’.
  2. The Global Research Council is a virtual organisation comprised of the heads of science and engineering funding agencies from around the world dedicated to promoting the sharing of data and best practices for high-quality collaboration among funding agencies worldwide.