Australia’s $221 million annual spend on basic research: who got Discovery Grants?

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has announced its 2023 Discovery Grant recipients, giving funding to 478 research projects across the country.

Discovery Projects are one of the central ways research gets funding in Australia. The grants range between $30,000 and $500,000 per year, for a maximum of five years.

In total, the 478 projects received more than $221 million in funding. This money goes to support research assistants and technicians, provide access to facilities, fund field trips, equipment and materials, and publish and disseminate findings.

The funded projects grants range from looking at early galaxies with the James Webb Space Telescope, to making better materials to generate and store green hydrogen fuel, to studying the history of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

The only field that doesn’t receive much attention from the ARC is medical research, which is funded separately through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

“Funding these cutting-edge research projects will expand the knowledge base and research capacity in Australia,” says Judi Zielke, CEO of the ARC.

“Projects will deliver significant outcomes in fields such as advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, environmental change, health, and water.”

A group based at Swinburne University of Technology has received $375,000 over three years to study early and “dusty” galaxies with the James Webb Space Telescope. It’s currently something of a mystery as to how these galaxies formed, but the new telescope will be able to provide much more information.

Around 10 projects are focusing on ways to efficiently generate, transport and store green hydrogen fuel. Researchers at the University of Wollongong, for instance, have been granted $388,316 over three years to develop safety standards around hydrogen’s flammability and explosiveness.

Researchers at University of Technology Sydney have received $1.4 million over five years to create a detailed study of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, which was a government body that managed a number of different Indigenous organisations and programs from 1990 to 2005. The researchers will be creating a set of Indigenous oral histories and biographies related to the commission as well as developing detailed data on its successes and challenges, which the researchers hope will “inform Indigenous policy-making and governance in Australia”.

A Flinders University project on sleepy lizards has been granted $374,856 over five years, tying into a survey of the animals that has been running since 1983, making it one of the longest-running ectotherm studies in the world. This specific project will be investigating the neuroscience behind the lizards’ pair bonding behaviour: the first time ever this will be done on a wild animal.

A full list of projects can be found here.

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