Australia’s science and technology sectors have urged Federal Parliament to pass the Australian Research Council Amendment Bill – and make a key amendment that requires the research funding agency to notify successful applicants within 21 days of grant approval.
In its submission to the Senate Committee on Education and Employment reviewing the Bill, Science & Technology Australia asked Parliament to pass the Australian Research Council Amendment (Review Response) Bill 2023 with a handful of small amendments to strengthen the legislation.
Among the amendments, the peak body representing the nation’s industry and research sectors urged Parliamentarians to require the ARC to notify successful grant applicants within 21 days of approval by the new ARC Board.
“Australia’s science and technology sector strongly backs this Bill and encourages Parliament to pass it, with a few small changes to strengthen the legislation,” said STA CEO Misha Schubert.
“Deadlines focus minds. And they keep bureaucratic processes on track.”
“Adding a requirement that successful grant applicants must be notified within 21 days of approval by the ARC Board would give crucial certainty to both researchers and industry – and avoid being stuck in limbo amid lengthy delays – which has happened all too often in the past.”
“Careers and jobs can hinge on these decisions – and lengthy delays in the past have caused needless stress. Having swift confirmation on a grant decision either way is crucial to enable both researchers and industry to plan their future and get on with their lives.”
In its submission, STA has also called for the protection of a strong pipeline of Australian research breakthroughs, by amending the bill to legislate that a minimum 70 per cent of National Competitive Grant Program funding be allocated to the Discovery Program.
Given the highly specialised system for which they would have governance oversight, STA called for all members of the new ARC Board – not just a majority – to have substantial experience in research or management of research.
And it urged that Parliamentary oversight of the ARC scheme funding rules should not cause delays to opening grant schemes to applications.
“This is a golden opportunity to strengthen vital economy-boosting discovery research, ensure the ARC Board is demographically diverse and has deep research expertise, and boost certainty for Australia’s research workforce,” Ms Schubert said.
“The modest improvements we’ve proposed would be a win for everyone – the ARC, the research community, Australian industry, and the nation. They can make a good bill a great bill.”
The legislation implements recommendations of the 2023 ARC Review by Professor Margaret Sheil AO, Professor Susan Dodds and former STA President Professor Mark Hutchinson. The Bill enacts six of the 10 recommendations of the expert panel, with the remaining four not needing legislation.
“On behalf of the 115,000 scientists and technologists STA represents, we congratulate Education Minister Jason Clare for implementing the recommendations of the ARC Review, encourage the Parliament to pass the Bill, and offer our deep gratitude to the expert panel for crafting such a considered report.”
Media contact: Martyn Pearce, STA: 0432 606 828