Submission to the Australian Research Council (ARC) Review to the Department of Education

Australian Research Council Review a crucial step to revitalise Australian research

20 April 2023

FWI-ARC review-230420

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) has welcomed the release today of the final report reviewing the Australian Research Council (ARC) Act 2001.

ATSE believes the review’s recommendations will help strengthen Australian research, reduce administrative burdens, and minimise the potential for political interference in Australian research.

The Academy endorses the recommendation to optimise the grants process by introducing a two-stage grant system, as recommended by ATSE’s submission to the review, and a board with broad research experience.

Kylie Walker, CEO of ATSE said a streamlined grants process will enable researchers to spend less time writing grants and more time on solving the big challenges facing Australia and the world.

“The new approvals process will provide certainty that research proposals will be assessed by experts on their scientific and research merits.

“Restricting the Ministerial veto and requiring transparency for such decisions, as we outlined in ATSE’s submission, is a critical recommendation of the Review,” said Kylie Walker.

The current ARC Act needs to be amended every year to provide funding for the ARC’s programs. The recommendation to have automatic indexed funding built into the Act will help provide certainty for the research community and university sector and reduce unnecessary delays in yearly grant rounds.

However, this review does not address dwindling research and development funding across the nation.

“ATSE calls on the Australian Government to conduct a broader review of national research funding with an aim to bring total R&D funding to levels comparable with our international competitors, around 3% of GDP,” said Kylie Walker.

“The review also fails to address funding the full cost of research, relegating this to the concurrent Universities Accord process. This issue must not be allowed to fall through the gaps. We call on the Universities Accord panel to develop a plan for sufficiently funding the indirect costs of research.

“ATSE is disappointed that the review did not seek to address the uncertainty caused by irregular and unpredictable grant outcome dates. Legislated grant announcement dates would provide greater certainty to researchers – particularly those who are most vulnerable in the system; junior researchers employed on short-term contracts whose careers have been dependent on announcements made at the directive of the serving Minister,” said Kylie Walker.

ATSE welcomes the review’s commitment to promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the establishment of a dedicated engagement and consultation committee and new research fellowships.

“For a small population, Australia’s world class research sector performs incredibly well internationally. To maintain this position amid increasing global competition, Australia must use the opportunity provided by the ARC review to build the foundations for our future as a world-leading research nation.

“Any reforms to the ARC can and should leverage the incredible intellectual power already working in Australia’s research sector by cutting red tape and providing a lighthouse for the entire federally funded research ecosystem. The ARC must be appropriately resourced to achieve this,” said Kylie Walker.

The Academy, comprised of over 900 of Australia’s leading engineers and applied scientists, calls on the Government to adopt the recommendations of the review.


Media contacts

Edwyn Shiell
Director, Communications and Outreach
0402 254 968