What’s next for the Australian Research Council

The Sheil Review of the ARC asks questions it wants answered and seeks responses on issues where it has ideas

The review consultation paper was quietly released yesterday, responses are due December 14, although chair Margaret Sheil and colleagues already appear to have a fair idea of what the research establishment will wear, having “sought input” from “peak bodies, university groupings, learned academies, publicly-funded research organisations and focus groups.”

Positions the consultation paper points to include

* opportunities” to simplify the ARC Act to ensure continuing investment in Discovery research, “to underpin the remainder of the research ecosystem”

* a five – seven member board with charges including “development and convergence” of ARC policies and strategies and appointing the agency’s College of Experts

And then there are the big ones

* ministerial approval of grants

“The panel is seeking recommendations that may give confidence to the academic community such that when a minister intervenes in genuine and extraordinary circumstances, they would be obliged to notify that intervention and give reasons in detail to the Parliament, in addition to their obligations under guidelines, Senate orders and the provisions of any other legislation.”

* National Interest Test

“There is potential individual and collective benefit to be gained by researchers if public understanding of and support for research can be extended and consolidated. The astute use of national benefit provisions in the selection criteria may be appropriate, or there may be better ways to communicate the possible outcomes of ARC recommendations in a way that the language is more easily understood by the community.”

* Performance measures: “it can be argued that Excellence in Research for Australia has achieved its initial purpose and that the time and resources involved may be better re-directed to other evaluation needs.”

* Both ERA and Engagement and Impact are, “framed around the performance of individual institutions and drive institutional comparisons and competition in ways that often lead to counter-productive duplication of expertise.”