Govt appoints inaugural Australian Research Council board

Thursday, 04 July, 2024

Govt appoints inaugural Australian Research Council board

The Australian Government last week announced the appointment of the new, independent Australian Research Council (ARC) board, to be chaired by Professor Peter Shergold and his deputy, Professor Susan Dodds. The board will be responsible for determining priorities, strategies and policies for the ARC, advising the Minister for Education (currently Jason Clare), and approving research grants for many ARC funding schemes.

The appointment delivers on recommendations by the independent Review of the Australian Research Council Act 2001, led by Professor Margaret Sheil AO. The ARC board, instead of the Minister, will be responsible for the approval of most research grants within the National Competitive Grants Program. The board will be supported by two key advisory committees to provide guidance and advice about ARC priorities and strategies: the ARC Advisory Committee and a new ARC Indigenous Forum.

The make-up of the new ARC board has been praised by the CEO of industry body Science & Technology Australia (STA), Ryan Winn, who called it a “highly experienced board of some of the nation’s stellar research leaders, collectively drawing experience across government, academia, research and research infrastructure”. The members of the board include:

  • Professor Peter Shergold AC, who has served as a secretary in the Australian Public Service for two decades
  • Professor Susan Dodds FAHA, who recently served as a panel member on the independent Review of the ARC and the outgoing ARC Advisory Committee
  • Distinguished Professor Maggie Walter
  • Professor Cindy Shannon AM
  • Professor Paul Wellings CBE
  • Emeritus Professor Margaret Harding
  • Mark Stickells AM
  • Sally-Ann Williams FTSE

The Minister for Education will be responsible for approving funding guidelines, which will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. The Minister also has the power to direct the board not to approve a grant, or to terminate funding to research grants, based on national security concerns. They will be required to notify Parliament of these decisions.

“Over the last decade, the ARC has been bedevilled by political interference and ministerial delays,” Clare said.

“That has made it harder for universities to recruit and retain staff, and it has damaged our international reputation.

“I promised to end the days of ministers using the ARC as a political plaything and today, with the appointment of the new independent board, that’s what we’re doing.”

The Minister retains the power to approve nationally significant investments that foster research capability for Australia, such as the ARC Centres of Excellence, Industrial Transformation Research Hubs and Industrial Transformation Training Centres. Indeed, the ARC has only just announced $29.8 million in funding for six new Industrial Transformation Training Centres and $34.7 million for seven Industrial Transformation Research Hubs to commence in 2024, including:

  • The ARC Training Centre for Future Leaders in Quantum Computing — The University of Sydney
  • The Industrial Transformation Training Centre in digital platforms for Net-Zero Building Ecosystem Lifecycle (NOBEL) — Western Sydney University
  • The ARC Training Centre for Smart and Sustainable Horticulture — Western Sydney University
  • The ARC Training Centre in Current and Emergent Quantum Technologies (CE-QuTech) — The University of Adelaide
  • The ARC Training Centre for Resource Efficient Alloys in a Circular Economy — Deakin University
  • The ARC Training Centre in Electrifying Australia for a Net-zero Future — RMIT University
  • The ARC Research Hub for Photovoltaic Solar Panel Recycling and Sustainability (PVRS) — UNSW Sydney
  • The ARC Research Hub for Human-Robot Teaming for Sustainable and Resilient Construction — University of Technology Sydney
  • The ARC Research Hub in the Internet of Things for Water — Queensland University of Technology
  • The ARC Research Hub for Molecular Biosensors at Point-of-Use (MOBIUS) — La Trobe University
  • The ARC Research Hub for Protected Cropping — La Trobe University
  • The ARC Research Hub for Infrastructure Net Zero — Monash University
  • The ARC Research Hub for Intelligent Energy Efficiency in Future Protected Cropping — RMIT University

The ARC’s Acting CEO, Dr Richard Johnson, said the Research Hubs and Training Centres will support and foster industry-university research collaboration in areas capable of driving innovation in Australian industries and developing industry-focused researchers.

Image credit: Kutyaev

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