Flinders University provided the following statement to Cosmos, as we continue to publish the views of academics and institutions on the Government review of the ARC Act, which underpins science funding.
Improvements to the ARC Act
1. Flinders University strongly supports the position put forward by Universities Australia and the IRU and so we respond only briefly to the questions raised by the Review Panel, as we believe these are well covered in other responses.
2. We are strongly supportive of the ARC continuing to be recognized in the ARC Act as the key funder of basic and applied research in universities across all non-medical disciplines
3. We recommend that peer review is recognised in the Act as the best method for determining how funding is distributed across disciplines.
4. We recommend that commitment to support for basic research (currently through the Discovery schemes) and for industry engagement (currently through the Linkage schemes) should be incorporated into the Act.
5. The ARC Act should legislate a similar board structure to the NHMRC to provide consistency in the governance processes for the two major research funding bodies and to support the work of the ARC CEO.
6. The Act should make it clear that the Minister responsible for the ARC (currently the Minister for Education) can only intervene in extraordinary cases where there is a genuine national security issue that would warrant withholding of funding. The Minister should not be able to reject grants based on his/her perception of benefit to the Australian community, overriding a peer-review process that has already thoroughly and specifically assessed this through the Benefit statement in the application. Appropriate involvement of other arms of the Commonwealth Government responsible for national security should be utilised to advise on such a decision.
7. We agree with the statement in the consultation document that the ARC Act, strategies and operations should be informed by the structures, governance and practices of other successful international funding bodies.
Recommendations outside of the ARC Act
We strongly support discontinuing the Excellence for Research in Australia and Engagement and Impact assessment processes as they currently stand, as we believe they have served their purpose and no longer justify the extraordinary workload required to prepare submissions.
Nonetheless, we also support the ARC should have a role in advising the Minister for Education on the quality and impact of the research that it supports, although in a future vision manner rather than the current retrospective manner. How the ARC might support the Minister in this respect should not be prescribed in detail in the ARC Act. At a bigger picture level, a forward looking, broader and system wide approach to assessment of research quality and impact could be considered perhaps focusing on particular disciplines on a rotating basis.
Other submissions to the ARC review published by Cosmos
Cosmos will publish a selection of responses to these occasional posts. Please email your thoughts direct to [email protected].
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