IRU explains how to make a good research funding system better

The Innovative Research Universities lobby says trends in research performance “are overwhelmingly positive” and that “wholesale changes” to the block funding and competitive grant systems, “are not warranted on productivity grounds.”

“The Australian Government should be cautious about making changes which risk undermining the benefits of competitive allocations,” the IRU states in its submission to the new parliamentary inquiry into research funding.

However the IRU does call for more funding for universities, as distinct from money staff win through competitive grants, to “create capacity in regional areas which are isolated from central infrastructure and resources.”

Regional Australian industries need access to locally-based internationally competitive research capacity which the current system is unable to deliver. “

The IRU also proposes the committee consider changes to the competitive grants process, including;

Fund universities to allocate ARC Discovery Early Career Research Awards. “Unsuccessful DECRA applications are more likely to mark the end of a research idea (and potentially a career) than the start of a process of refinement for future funding applications. … Universities are also well placed to identify high potential postdoctoral researchers aligned with institutional strengths, while maintaining external competition.”

A two-stage expression of interest process: This would, “reduce the notification times for unsuccessful applicants and the number of full applications reviewed by the ARC’s experts”.

Publicly rank applications: This would make clearer to ARC applicants whether they should appeal through the rejoinder process.

 A 25 per cent success rate: “The low rate is primarily driven by the level of funding allocated to these schemes, rather than research quality and value. A minimum grant success target of 25% across all programs, with acceptance of 50% as an aspirational target in some, would represent an acceptable balance between the benefits of competition and the cost of the peer-review process.” However, the IRU argues this should not be achieved by spreading existing funding more thinly.

Maintain investment across disciplines and support for fundamental research: “It is difficult to predict where future developments will come from. Continued investment across current and new fields is essential.”

 Support a diverse research workforce: “Funding for training and relevant research programs must be provided to bring the representation towards population relativities. This could be achieved by expanding and enhancing funding already available for indigenous grant schemes to include other diverse populations.


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