The IRU has submitted a response to the Implementation of the National Science and Research Priorities inquiry, which seeks to examine:
- if the mechanism for funding Priorities is appropriate;
- whether the share of Nationally Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) funding for Priority research is appropriate;
- other challenges or areas of priority that require focus in ARC funding.
The NCGP, as administered through the ARC’s Discovery and Linkage programs, supports the highest quality research projects, for all purposes and across all non-medical fields. The Priorities seek to leverage Australia’s research strengths to support areas of critical need and national importance. They apply to the whole of Australian government investment in research, through multiple agencies, most of which target specific needs of the responsible portfolio.
The challenge is to set a balance between the NCGS supporting the full extent of high quality research and ensuring it sufficiently aligns with the Government priorities.
In summary the IRU:
- considers that the current mechanisms involving the national priorities in the selection of grants for NCGS works; and
- would support greater recognition of HASS in NCGS selection, including how such research supports the national priorities.
The IRU response makes the following five broad points:
- The current indirect mechanism for funding Priorities maintains focus on funding the highest quality projects across a breadth of fields.
- Project alignment with Priority areas is unrelated to research quality. Therefore, the current share of NCGS funding for Priority research is appropriate for an excellence-based program.
- Tighter alignment between Priorities and NCGS risks the quality of funded projects and disadvantaging curiosity-driven research.
- Assessing alignment with inter and cross-disciplinary Priorities is difficult and would risk the efficiency and transparency of the NCGS.
- Refinements to the Priorities should focus on greater engagement with humanities and social sciences (HASS) and other enabling scientific disciplines.