ARC adds “sensitivities” to files on researchers

Research funding applications are flagged for “sensitivities” which the Australian Research Council shares with security agencies. But the researchers may not have a chance to respond

Responding to close-questioning by Senator Kim Carr (Labor-Victoria), at a Senate committee hearing Friday, ARC chief executive Sue Thomas reported that information on issues considered sensitive can be added to the personal records that research-applicants file with the council. “We scan for items in the public domain that might be controversial … it could be a range of things.”

The ARC has been working with security agencies “to inform the sorts of scans we do,” Professor Thomas said.

ARC Policy and Strategy Manager Kylie Emery added “there is information that is developed through sensitivities and information that has been published in the media in the past which we look at just so everyone is aware if there have been issues in the past.”

In evidence before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on March 18, Ms Emery stated that following discussion with national security agencies last September the ARC began collecting more information from researchers, “around foreign interests and foreign political party affiliations.”

On Friday Senator Carr asked if, “individuals get natural justice and procedural fairness on reports (which) can lead to a person not getting a grant.” Ms Emery replied that universities are grant applicants and that, “natural justice is provided to applicants.”