Australian Research Council tinkers with national interest test (there’s still one)

DVC Rs  will “certify the national interest test statement” in research bids, “confirming that the statement clearly and simply explains the benefit of the research to Australia”

Programme assessors will also use the NIT statement, “when they are considering the benefit and impact of the proposed research.”

The change appears intended to address the widely-loathed ministerial veto over ARC recommended grants while maintaining a consideration of the national interest in funding research. As Education Minister Jason Clare put it, “it is my view that the National Interest Test (in research applications) should continue, but should be clearer, simpler and easily understood,” (CMM August 31).

The ARC announcement may be sufficient to calm the winds of protest that followed former acting education minister Stuart Robert’s culture-warring NIT veto of six  Discovery Programme applications on Christmas Eve (CMM January 25) . However national interest tests will still go to the minister, “who makes the final decision on grant funding.”

Question is whether this will help the ARC with Margaret Sheil and colleagues’ agency review. One of Professor Sheil’s instructions from the government is to consider how the council can “maintain the trust of the research sector,” (CMM August 31).

As Universities Australia put it late yesterday, “we look forward to further information of the exact nature of the revised National Interest Test and thank the government and the Australian Research Council for backing our researchers and the vital work they undertake on behalf of the nation.”