Australian Institute of Physics

Related consultation
Submission received

Name (Individual/Organisation)

Australian Institute of Physics


Q1. How could the purpose in the ARC Act be revised to reflect the current and future role of the ARC?

For example, should the ARC Act be amended to specify in legislation:
(a) the scope of research funding supported by the ARC
(b) the balance of Discovery and Linkage research programs
(c) the role of the ARC in actively shaping the research landscape in Australia
(d) any other functions?

If so, what scope, functions and role?

If not, please suggest alternative ways to clarify and define these functions.

While the AIP strongly supports the translation of research to real-world outcomes, it advocates for a balance between fundamental and applied research supported through well-managed ARC funding schemes.

It is important to recognise that many technological and scientific breakthroughs were enabled by fundamental research that, at the time when it was carried out, had no foreseeable commercial application. It is crucial for Australia’s long-term prosperity to support and strengthen Australian fundamental research programs, through the Discovery Project scheme and beyond.

Q2. Do you consider the current ARC governance model is adequate for the ARC to perform its functions?

If not, how could governance of the ARC be improved? For example, should the ARC Act be amended to incorporate a new governance model that establishes a Board on the model outlined in the consultation paper, or another model.

Please expand on your reasoning and/or provide alternative suggestions to enhance the governance, if you consider this to be important.

The AIP recommends creating an ARC Board, which should consist of prominent members of the research community, appointed by the research community.

We recommend that the ARC Board appoint the ARC CEO, who must have high-level research and management expertise.

Q3. How could the Act be improved to ensure academic and research expertise is obtained and maintained to support the ARC?

How could this be done without the Act becoming overly prescriptive?

We recommend the creation of an advisory panel to support and advise the ARC CEO.

Q4. Should the ARC Act be amended to consolidate the pre-eminence or importance of peer review?

Please provide any specific suggestions you may have for amendment of the Act, and/or for non-legislative measures.

The AIP strongly advocates for the pre-eminence of peer review in grant assessment.

We recommend the creation of an advisory panel to support and advise the ARC CEO.

Q5. Please provide suggestions on how the ARC, researchers and universities can better preserve and strengthen the social licence for public funding of research?

To our knowledge, no other advanced democratic country includes a ministerial veto over research funding. This system damages Australia’s international reputation. We recommend that the minister has no veto power over research grants.

We are of the view that the National Interest test (NIT) should be removed. The AIP believes that strengthening the social licence for public funding is of critical importance. However, in our view, the NIT does little to achieve this aim. Good value for money for our society needs to be achieved by a robust policy framework. In addition, we consider that the social licence of public funding would be strengthened by ensuring that the funding system is held in high regard by the science community and by the Australian public, is viewed as impartial and fair, and is free from the perception of political interference.

Q6. What elements of ARC processes or practices create administrative burdens and/or duplication of effort for researchers, research offices and research partners?

We agree that some current administrative arrangements are onerous, particularly concerning:
- delays to, and uncertainty regarding, announcements;
- unexpected changes to grant rules and deadlines;
- onerous requirements made of partners who do not receive direct funding;
- the scope and currency of Australia’s Science and Research Priorities.

Q7. What improvements could be made:

(a) to ARC processes to promote excellence, improve agility, and better facilitate globally collaborative research and partnerships while maintaining rigour, excellence and peer review at an international standard?

(b) to the ARC Act to give effect to these process improvements, or do you suggest other means?

Please include examples of success or best practice from other countries or communities if you have direct experience of these.

We appreciate and support the improvements that have been made to deliver grant rounds on time, to a predetermined time frame.

Q8. With respect to ERA and EI:

(a) Do you believe there is a need for a highly rigorous, retrospective excellence and impact assessment exercise, particularly in the absence of a link to funding?

(b) What other evaluation measures or approaches (e.g. data driven approaches) could be deployed to inform research standards and future academic capability that are relevant to all disciplines, without increasing the administrative burden?

(c) Should the ARC Act be amended to reference a research quality, engagement and impact assessment function, however conducted?

(d) If so, should that reference include the function of developing new methods in research assessment and keeping up with best practice and global insights?

Our view is that the ERA initiative is a costly initiative, both for the universities and the ARC, and no longer of benefit to the research community and the ARC. It should be discontinued.

Q9. With respect to the ARC’s capability to evaluate research excellence and impact:

(a) How can the ARC best use its expertise and capability in evaluating the outcomes and benefits of research to demonstrate the ongoing value and excellence of Australian research in different disciplines and/or in response to perceived problems?

(b) What elements would be important so that such a capability could inform potential collaborators and end-users, share best practice, and identify national gaps and opportunities?

(c) Would a data-driven methodology assist in fulfilling this purpose?

Already addressed in other responses.

Q10. Having regard to the Review’s Terms of Reference, the ARC Act itself, the function, structure and operation of the ARC, and the current and potential role of the ARC in fostering excellent Australian research of global significance, do you have any other comments or suggestions?

The separation of policy and execution is an important principle in terms of independence and practicality.

Submission received

14 December 2022

Publishing statement

Yes, I would like my submission to be published and my name and/or the name of the organisation to be published alongside the submission. Your submission will need to meet government accessibility requirements.