2.4 Annual Performance Statement: Purpose 3

Case study 3: Outcomes of benefit

Informed by ERA: Australian Academy of Science’s Decadal Plan for Chemistry


Providing advice on research matters (Outcome 1, Programmes 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3)


The ARC’s commitment and contribution to policy development plays an essential role in facilitating excellent research outcomes for Australia. In doing so the ARC takes an active and collegiate approach to identifying and responding to emerging issues and challenges relevant to Australia’s research sector.

Through policy development and advice, the ARC aims to:

  • reflect current government priorities and initiatives in its operations
  • contribute to the development of national research and innovation policy
  • provide influential advice on research matters to the Australian government
  • support the effective delivery of ARC programmes.

Highlights of delivery

Policy advice underpins the ARC’s delivery of the National Competitive Grants Programme (NCGP) and Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) (PBS p158–166). In the ARC Corporate Plan (CP) 2015–16 to 2018–19, policy advice deliverables are identified as NCGP funding rules and related programme documentation, ERA outcomes and analyses; research related policies; research informatics and participation in coordinated policy development across portfolios.

In 2015–16 the ARC:

  • released funding rules and associated programme documentation for the Discovery and Linkage Programmes of the NCGP
  • completed the 2015 ERA evaluation process and published the Statement of Australian University Research 2015–16, Volume 1 ERA National Report research related policy (see Section 2.3 for further information on ERA)
  • continued to identify different ways of presenting ARC data to help highlight the outcomes being achieved
  • continued to work with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Universities Australia on revising the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.


Intended result: Outcomes of benefit to Australia


The ARC’s aim is to develop and, as appropriate, implement policies and policy advice that support the achievement of outcomes of benefit to Australia.


Measure 1

Evidence that ARC policies and/or policy advice facilitate outcomes of benefit to Australia


CP 2015–19, page 27


At least two case studies per year


Two case studies of policy development activities undertaken during 2015–16 are provided at the end of this section. The case studies relate to: the release of the ARC’s Statement of Support and Expectations for Gender Equality, and the ARC’s contribution to research code review activities undertaken during 2015–16.

Target met


During 2015–16, the ARC:

  • continued to support current government priorities, including implementation of the new Science and Research Priorities (through all funding schemes of the NCGP) and Industrial Research Transformation priorities (through the Industrial Transformation Research Programme)
  • participated in a range of national innovation policy initiatives including the Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements (the Watt Review), the Review of Research Infrastructure and the Review of Australia’s Research Training System
  • provided advice to the Minister on NCGP and ERA operations and outcomes, as required, including development of NCGP funding rules
  • continued to monitor activities both nationally and internationally in relation to current ARC policies, for example, open access, open data, research integrity and conflict of interest
  • worked cooperatively with other agencies on a range of research policy activities.

Outcomes or potential outcomes of benefit arising from the activities above included the following:

  • on 6 May 2016, the Government announced it had accepted all the recommendations of the Watt review to strengthen Australia’s research system, improve collaboration between universities and business, and translate research outcomes into economic and social benefits. The recommendations encompassed a range of ARC policy and programme areas and included: improving recognition of industry experience in competitive grant processes; increasing collaboration between universities and industry; supporting more consistent and targeted approaches to different streams of research funding (in particular, competitive grants and research block grants); assessing research impact; and encouraging research commercialisation through more effective intellectual property management
  • the implementation of minor changes to 2017 NCGP funding rules, including an increase in the on-cost amounts to be requested in respect of salaries (from 28 per cent to 30 per cent).

Intended result: ARC policies and policy advice are delivered effectively


The ARC’s aim in delivering its policies and policy advice effectively is to ensure that its programmes deliver outcomes and are accepted by stakeholders.


Measure 2

Level of stakeholder satisfaction with ARC policy advice


CP 2015–19, page 27


Stakeholders are satisfied with ARC policies and policy advice


Feedback received following the release of policies indicates general satisfaction with policy advice. A case study of the outcomes of a regional Global Research Council meeting hosted by the ARC in December 2015 is provided at the end of this section as an example of ways in which ARC policy development activities are informed by international engagement activities.

Target met


During 2015–16 the ARC:

  • continued to ensure its development of policy advice was evidence based, including investigating different ways of interrogating data to help reveal trends or issues of concern
  • continued to engage with a broad range of stakeholders both nationally and internationally about research matters (including peer review and evaluation).
  • communicated any changes in its policies
  • maintained an evaluation plan for key programme initiatives.

Stakeholders engaged with information provided as well as with consultation and information sessions under both ERA and NCGP.

Analysis of the impact of changes on performance

There were no changes in the ARC’s purposes, activities, organisational capability or environment that impacted on its performance in delivering Purpose 3: providing policy advice.

As noted on page 3, a key development during the year was the conduct by the Australian Government of a range of research and higher education review activities. This provided opportunities for the ARC to engage in discussions and respond to requests for information about a broad range of research and higher education issues. However, it had no impact on the ARC’s performance in delivering its ongoing policy activities during 2015–16.

The ARC is committed to ensuring that all eligible researchers, irrespective of gender, have the opportunity to participate in NCGP funding schemes.

As part of this commitment, in November 2015 the ARC published Gender Equality in Research: ARC Statement of Support and Expectations for Gender Equality and the ARC Gender Equality Action Plan for 2015–16.

The Gender Equality in Research statement outlines the principles of gender equality within the provisions of the NCGP. It also sets out for Administering Organisations receiving ARC funding, the ARC’s expectations regarding the processes that they will have in place to support gender equality in their research workforce, with a current focus on the retention and progression of women.

The Gender Equality Action Plan 2015–16 highlights the initiatives that the ARC currently has in place which have a gender equality component, as well as setting out activities the agency will undertake during the year to promote research workforce gender equality.
A report against the initiatives identified in the 2015–16 Action Plan is provided below.

Case study 1: policy advice facilitates outcomes of benefits to Australia

Gender statement and action plan

Progress against activities planned in 2015–16

In 2015–16, the ARC:

  • monitored and evaluated the impact of changes to the eligibility requirements under the Discovery Early Career Researchers Award scheme. Researchers seeking an extension of eligibility under the DECRA and Future Fellowships scheme were allowed to claim two years’ career interruption for carer’s responsibilities for dependent children without any documentation
  • created a dedicated web portal for research workforce gender equality information as a resource for researchers at the same time the documents above were released. This resource includes gender disaggregated statistics, and highlights the ARC’s gender equality initiatives
  • monitored the gender balance of membership on ARC selection committees relative to the overall gender balance in particular research fields. The gender balance for all discipline groupings of the ARC College of Experts improved in 2016, with an overall increase in the proportion of female College Experts members of seven per cent (36 per cent up from 29 per cent in 2015). In calling for new College of Experts members the ARC encouraged applications from women
  • commenced planning for a forum involving named Australian Laureate Fellows about mentorship activities undertaken as part of their fellowship
  • continued to raise awareness of the options for recipients of fellowships and awards to utilise parental leave and part-time arrangements for caring responsibilities. As part of the material published on the website, the ARC published a quick reference guide to leave arrangements
  • included a requirement for the development and implementation of a Centre-specific equity plan within the Funding Agreement for ARC Centres of Excellence commencing in 2017
  • continued to promote gender equality issues through presentations and participation in relevant forums. During 2015–16 ARC staff participated in a range of forums focused on the topic of gender equality
  • investigated options for unconscious bias training for ARC College of Experts members.
  • continued to monitor leave provisions under fellowships and awards to ensure consistency between schemes

2015–16 statistics

  • Success rates for women exceeded those of men under the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2016, Future Fellowships 2015 and Australian Laureate Fellowships 2015 schemes.
  • Schemes where the success rates of women were below those of men include Linkage Projects 2015 and Linkage Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities 2016.
  • Across all schemes, the participation rates for women were lower than the rates of men, ranging from 16 per cent for Industrial Transformation Training Centres to 57 per cent for Discovery Indigenous.

Case-study 2: Policy advice facilitates outcomes of benefit to Australia

Contribution to research code development

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007) guides institutions and researchers in responsible research practices. The code—developed jointly by the NHMRC, the ARC and Universities Australia—has application across all research disciplines and all ARC-funded research must conform to the principles outlined in the code. It advocates and describes best practice and provides a framework for handling breaches of the code and research misconduct.

A review of the Code commenced in 2014–15 and continued throughout 2015–16. The review is supported by the NHMRC, the ARC and Universities Australia (as co-authors of the code), and a Code Review Committee representative of the research sector. The review is undertaking a combination of both targeted and broad consultation with the sector. The revised code is expected to be released in mid-2017.

National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research

The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) consists of a series of guidelines made in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992. The statement is intended for use by: any researcher conducting research with human participants; any member of an ethical review body reviewing that research; those involved in research governance; and potential research participants.

In 2015–16 the ARC was represented on the National Statement Review Working Group, led by the NHMRC, which undertakes rolling review of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. In 2015–16 the Review Working Group continued to focus on ‘Section 3: Ethical considerations specific to research methods or fields of the National Statement’.

Human Research Ethics Application

In 2015–16 the ARC participated in an advisory group formed to develop a Human Research Ethics Application to replace the National Ethics Application Form, following a consultation commissioned by the NHMRC. A simplified and efficient form will support nationally consistent ethical review and site-assessment for all research involving human participants, in particular clinical trials. It is expected that the application will be finalised and released in 2016–17.

Case study 3: ARC policies and policy advice are delivered effectively

Global Research Council meeting @ ARC

In December 2015, the ARC and Papua New Guinea Research, Science and Technology Secretariat co-hosted the Global Research Council (GRC) Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting in Canberra. The meeting brought together senior representatives of research funding agencies from seventeen countries to discuss recent developments, shared priorities and challenges in research management across the region.

Along with the co-hosts, the countries represented at the meeting included China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, United Kingdom and United States of America.

Participants at the meeting shared perspectives and best practices, and developed a regional position on two GRC 2016 topics: interdisciplinarity; and the equality and status of women in research. Discussion highlighted the complexity of both topics, including the challenges that funding agencies may face within their own national contexts, particularly when addressing issues that have implications across national boundaries. The outcomes of discussion on these two topics contributed to a broader global-level dialogue at the GRC Annual Meeting in New Delhi in May 2016.

Additionally, participants at the Regional Meeting discussed two supplementary topics identified by the co-hosts as important for the region: research integrity; and research capacity building and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. Discussion of these topics reinforced the diversity of experiences and approaches within the region and emphasised the value of continued dialogue and information sharing.

The Regional Meeting exemplified the role of Australia and the ARC as a research leader in the region and the opportunities that forums, such as the GRC, provide for the diversity of countries in the region to participate in rich conversations and exchanges.