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Australian Research Council ERA Rankings

The Australian Research Council (ARC) is the Australian Government’s main agency for allocating research funding to academics and researchers in 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 attempts to foster excellence, partnerships and high ethical standards in research and research training in all fields of science, the social sciences, and the humanities. The ARC also brokers partnerships between researchers and industry, government, community organisations and the international community.

The ARC was established as an independent body under the Australian Research Council Act 2001, and reports to the federal Minister for Education, Science and Training.

ARC funding has increased significantly in recent years, with the following funding programs coming under the umbrella of the National Competitive Grants Program:

  • Discovery programs which fund individual researchers and projects;
  • Linkage programs which help to broker partnerships between researchers and industry, government and community organisations, and the international community;
  • Centres programs which build research scale, and focus and strengthen major research partnerships and networks.

The ARC funds research and researchers with a commitment to nurturing the creative abilities and skills of Australia’s most promising researchers, with the interrelated objectives of providing:

  • support for the highest-quality research leading to the discovery of new ideas and the advancement of knowledge
  • financial assistance towards facilities and equipment that researchers need to be internationally competitive
  • support for the training and skills development of the next generation of researchers
  • incentives for Australia’s most talented researchers to work in partnership with leading researchers throughout the national innovation system and internationally, and to form alliances with Australian industry.

The ARC Strategic Plan sets out the ARC’s vision for the next three years. It identifies the objectives and investment strategies, and specific actions that the ARC will implement in its seven key areas of discovery, linkage, research training and careers, research infrastructure, research priorities, public engagement and effective organisation. The Strategic Plan identifies the key performance indicators which will enable the ARC to measure its progress in delivering outcomes of benefit to the community.

A recent internal review and analysis identified objectives and investment strategies, and specific actions for the ARC to implement in its seven key areas:

  • Discovery
  • Linkage
  • Research training and careers
  • Research infrastructure
  • Research priorities
  • Public engagement
  • Effective organisation

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.

Some Australian researchers and academics are critical of the ARC for what they perceive as its overly bureacratic processes. Other critics, primarily those in the humanities, are critical of the ARC’s emphasis on scientific projects, although the downgrading of humanities research funding appears to be a worldwide trend.

There is broad support for the organisation on the basis that it has improved the public profile and accountability of research in Australia.

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