ARC experts demand legislation to ensure its independence  

Close to 150 members of the Australian Research Council’s College of Experts warn, “we cannot safeguard the independence and legitimacy of the Australian Research Council’s decisions” without legislation

In a letter to Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert and outgoing ARC chair Sue Thomas, the college members call on the current and future governments to, “maintain the rigour and integrity of the ARC’s grant assessment process by, “ending the minister’s use of the National Interest Test to make unilateral decisions on individual projects outside of the peer review process.”

On Christmas Eve the ARC announced Mr Robert had not approved six projects recommended for Discovery Programme funding.

The College of Experts members’ letter also calls for “continuing to require senior research expertise of all members admitted to the ARC College of Experts.”

This appears a response to Mr Robert’s December 6 letter which asks the ARC to, “review the operation of the College of Experts and brief me on options for expanding the pool of people who participate in the college to include experts from backgrounds beyond universities, in particular those from industry and other end-user groups.”

The College of Experts members’ letter adds to the outrage at the acting minister’s intervention in research approvals. The summer has seen a range of complaints from individuals and discipline groups.

What has not occurred is a system-wide response.

On December 24 Universities Australia tweeted, “we will be pursuing this matter, on behalf of our members, with the minister as a matter of the highest importance.”

As of yesterday, UA was still pursuing.

We have written to the acting minister raising our deep concerns over the decision to override the rigorous process of expert review and reject six Discovery Project grants,” it responded to CMM questions.