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Aus: HEIs welcome ARC transparency rules

Grant applicants to the Australian Research Council will now be notified if the education minister has rejected their project, the Australian government has announced. Moving forward, however, applicants must better articulate their research’s benefit to Australia, in a move slammed by the higher education sector.

Tehan has said the ARC will notify applicants when the minister has not accepted their grant. Photo: IDP/AIECTehan has said the ARC will notify applicants when the minister has not accepted their grant. Photo: IDP/AIEC

A new requirement for applicants to "articulate how [their] research will advance the national interest" has come under fire

“The minister is introducing a redundant question in the application process”

The decision comes in the aftermath of controversy from the discovery that former education minister Simon Birmingham vetoed 11 humanities projects last financial year.

“As Minister for Education, I can guarantee the sector that I will be transparent in reporting ARC grant funding decisions,” new education minister Dan Tehan said.

“I have asked the ARC to add an additional category to the grant outcomes so applicants are notified of instances where a project is ‘recommended to but not funded by the Minister’.”

Universities Australia and the Group of Eight both welcomed the rule, issuing statements in support of increased transparency around the ARC’s processes.

“Now Australia will know when a research project considered worthy of grant funding by the ARC’s internationally-recognised peer review process has been rejected by the minister,” Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson said.

UA chief executive Catriona Jackson meanwhile said the move would remove “an impossible position” for public servants who were previously unable to provide guidance to applicants.

The sector has remained critical of the minister’s right to veto funding recommendations, however, and a new requirement for applicants to “articulate how [their] research will advance the national interest” has come under fire.

Natasha Abrahams, national president of postgraduate students peak body the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, called the rule “bizarre“.

“The minister is introducing a redundant question in the application process in order to address perceptions of value in research funding, while ignoring the Great Barrier Reef Foundation funding scandal,” she said.

The ARC recommends and supports research initiatives and includes a focus on increasing international research collaboration.

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