Big ideas for a better ARC

Submissions to the Sheil Review closed last night

Universities Australia wants to save peoples’ time and assert researchers’ independence

It calls for

* an end to Excellence in Research for Australia

* (optimally) no ministerial veto of individual ARC grants

* “an application process that significantly reduces the amount of time spent by researchers on unsuccessful grant applications”

* clarification of what the ARC can fund, which should be non-medical research undertaken by universities

* a balance of research, “ have regard to the optimal distribution between basic and applied (including translational) research.

ATN focuses on the (really) big picture

The Australian Technology Network suggests the future of the ARC should be considered in the context of the Universities Accord, which, “will no doubt engender significant reforms of the system.”

However ATN also has specific suggestions including;

* “an exercise to map out ARC’s place in the national research ecosystem” which “could be part of a broader review … (including research and development tax incentives)”

* “a whole-of-government, cross-agency review of the administrative and regulatory burden on universities and possible backend efficiencies with other agencies”

* “enshrining strategic outcomes, rather than specific funding programmes”

* “support research innovation and excellence wherever it occurs across the sector.” “For the last 18 years, six universities have shared over 50 per cent of total funding distributed by ARC leaving the remaining shared amongst 33 other public universities and other organisations.”

Gosh whatever institutions could ATN mean?

And the Innovative Research Universities group matches policy precision with original ideas

Thus IRU points to the anomaly in the Sheil review’s task – its terms of reference are about the ARC Act but operations that need addressing are beyond it. It also points to the way Research Block Grants no longer fund all ARC grants, which will get worse when the Medical Research Future Fund is fully operational.

The IRU proposes the ARC

* “remain focused on its unique role as a funder of basic research … The Discovery Programme has the most unique impact on Australia’s research system”

* “take a leadership role on specific issues across the research system,” notably Indigenous knowledge, equity and diversity and open access/data

* provide selection report data to applicants and make assessment criteria changes transparent

* have “the integrity of the basic research funding system” stated in the agency’s Act  and end the National Interest Test (but) “given public money is being invested, there must be appropriate democratic oversight, accountability and transparency.”

* have “an advisory role” on research/quality and impact