ARC outcomes and directions


Recent ARC Successes in Education
Our congratulations to all members and educational researchers who were successful in the 2022 ARC DP and Linkage schemes, and commiserations to those whose projects were not funded – preparing these applications is always a huge amount of intellectual and emotional labour. While outcomes according to FOR codes provide a guide to tracking the success of educational researchers in ARC schemes, it is not definitive.

Do we know about your success? Please advise the AARE secretariat if you have been awarded a grant as we are keen to learn of ARC success for educational researchers, regardless of nominated FOR code.

Ministerial veto of ARC DP applications
As many know, Discovery and Linkage grant outcomes were announced late on December 24th, along with news of a Ministerial veto of six ARC DP applications that had been identified for funding following extensive peer review and the recommendations of the ARC College of Experts. All applications were in the humanities or social sciences, with the acting Minister for Education, Stewart Robert, justifying the veto on the grounds that the six applications “do not demonstrate value for taxpayers’ money nor contribute to the national interest”. The veto has prompted considerable media coverage and widespread outcry from across the research community, with responses, among others, from current members of the ARC College of Experts, the Academy of the Social Sciences Australia, the Australian Academy of Science, current and former ARC Laureate Fellows, and the Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.

This is not the first time a Minister of Education has vetoed the award of recommended applications. Most recently, in 2018 then Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, vetoed the award of 11 applications, all in the humanities and social sciences, and in 2006 Bendan Nelson (Education Minister in the Howard government) vetoed the award of seven grants. The exercise of the veto represents a break with the established Haldane principle whereby decisions about the funding of specific projects are made by researchers, not politicians, ensuring that while broad national priorities might be set by governments, decisions about the significance and quality of research reside with experts. Politically-motivated decisions or vetos made on the basis of reading titles and short project summaries also threaten to undermine the independence and authority of rigorous academic peer review. The ARC College of Experts has called on the Australian Government to ‘legislate amendments to the Australian Research Council Act 2001 that will ensure the independence of the ARC and prevent political interference in research grants’

The Ministerial veto follows an earlier ‘Letter of Expectation’ sent by the acting Minister to the ARC in December 2021 in which he called for a “strengthening of the National Interest Test”[NIT] in evaluating grant applications and for a higher proportion of funding allocated to national priorities that enhance “future economic development in Australia”, specifically identifying National Manufacturing Priorities (for one response to this letter, see ASSA). These developments are consistent with the current federal government’s priority focus on applied research and especially research with commercialization outcomes. This neglects the interdependence of basic or blue-sky research and applied research and ignores the fact that not all transformative research is commercially oriented. Coupled with the focus on the NIT, this represents a disturbing narrowing and politicization of the concept of national benefit, focusing on short-term and immediate economic benefits and neglecting the diverse and not always predictable ways in which research has social impact, bringing benefits that are in the national (and international) interest.

These directions are of significant concern for AARE, including the challenges they present for the breadth of disciplines and approaches encompassed in educational research. We will continue to monitor developments and identify avenues for public advocacy and member input. Our planned mid-year research summit will provide an important forum for progressing these discussions.