Australian Research Council
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The Australian Research Council (ARC) is the Australian government’s main agency for allocating research funding to academics and researchers at Australian universities. Its mission is to advance Australia’s capacity to undertake research that brings economic, social, and cultural benefit to the Australian community.
The ARC aims to foster excellence, partnerships, and high ethical standards in research and research training in all fields of science, the social sciences, and the humanities. It also brokers partnerships between researchers and industry, government, community organisations, and the international community.
The Australian Research Council Act 2001 established the ARC as an independent body reporting to the federal Minister for Education, Science and Training. As of 2007[update] the ARC reports to the federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
ARC funding increased significantly, with a planned budget of some A$736 million by 2006. Its funding programs come under the umbrella of the National Competitive Grants Program:
- Centres programs, which build research scale, and focus and strengthen major research partnerships and networks
- Discovery programs, which fund individual researchers and projects
- Linkage Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities program which allows universities to apply collaboratively for infrastructure to assist or underpin research in the sciences and the humanities
- Linkage programs, which help to broker partnerships between researchers and industry, government and community organisations, and the international community
The ARC Strategic Plan 2005–07 lays out its three-year vision. It identified the objectives and investment strategies, and specific actions for the ARC to implement in its seven key areas:
- Effective organisation
- Public engagement
- Research infrastructure
- Research priorities
- Research training and careers
The strategic plan identified the key performance indicators which would enable the ARC to measure its progress in delivering outcomes of benefit to the community.
The Australian Research Council has come under criticism. Brian Martin points out that the ARC has tended to confuse inputs and outputs, that is, in assessing potential research projects it tends to look at how much money a researcher has previously been granted (2011:100); the ARC artificially sets reporting requirements to confirm how effective the ARC is in promoting research (2011:100); and the result of the ARC and its recent initiatives has been to encourage competition between universities, competition ultimately counterproductive to the research process (2011:101).
Martin, B. (2011) 'ERA: Adverse Consequences'. Australian Universities Review. 53(2): 99-102.