ARC considers providing early notifications to low-ranked applicants
The Australian Research Council is considering speeding up rejections for applications with a low chance of success.
The ARC may also reshape the Discovery grants programme to a two-stage process, with expressions of interest followed by full applications from frontrunners.
Council chief executive Judi Zielke told a Senate estimates hearing on 2 June that notifying low-ranked applicants could be part of increased advice to researchers during the assessment process.
“One of the things we are looking at is actually trying to advise those in, say, the bottom one-third as quickly as possible, earlier in the process, so that they know they can move on to other things,” she said.
Zielke told the hearing that the council would also start providing unsuccessful applicants with their scores from assessors. A trial of providing scores in the Industry Fellowships scheme was “very successful”, an ARC staff member told the hearing. The ARC is also considering providing scores to winning applicants.
However, Zielke said that researchers needed to understand the process better, especially how scores could go down in relative terms when all the applications were considered together.
She said that more conversations with deputy vice-chancellors for research were needed: “Those scores for successfuls can be used in a positive way. They can also be used in a negative way.”
The council is “working [its] way through” a review of its Discovery grants programme, with the option of a two-phase process that would “significantly impact” the time taken to make a decision.
In response to questions from Greens education spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi, Zielke said the current three-month gap between decisions and announcements was part of “cautious” timing promises.
“I would rather be able to meet it or improve on it rather than give something and then be late in delivering on that because we can’t be successful,” Zielke said.
She added that the ARC was planning an overall review of its grants policies, starting in July.
Education minister Jason Clare is yet to respond to the Sheil review of the ARC, which was released in April. Zielke told the hearing that she agreed with the recommendations “in principle”.