The ARC is established under the Australian Research Council Act 2001 (ARC Act). The ARC Act provides details in relation to:
- the functions of the ARC
- the establishment of designated committees by the responsible Minister
- the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and ARC staff
- reporting requirements
- funding of research including the funding cap, funding assistance, funding rules and the ARC research endowment fund
- other miscellaneous requirements.
The ARC Act is normally updated annually through an amendment bill which allows continued funding under the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP).
The Act was last amended in April 2017.
Role and functions
The ARC administers the NCGP; assesses the quality, engagement and impact of research; and advises the Australian Government on research matters.
Funding the highest quality research
Through the NCGP, the ARC supports excellent research and research training across all disciplines. The NCGP comprises two programs—Discovery and Linkage—under which the ARC funds a range of complementary schemes that provide funding for basic and applied research, research training, research collaboration and infrastructure.
Funding is awarded on the basis of a competitive peer review process.
Assessing the quality, engagement and impact of research
The ARC administers two evaluation frameworks to assess the quality, engagement and impact of research.
Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) is an established research quality assessment framework that measures and reports on the quality of research conducted at Australia’s higher education institutions. It provides a national stocktake of discipline-level areas of research strength and areas where there are opportunities for development across the full spectrum of research activity.
The ARC is also developing an Engagement and Impact (EI) assessment that will run as a companion exercise to the existing ERA framework. The EI assessment will assess the engagement of university researchers with end-users, and the benefits of Australia’s investment in university research by showing how universities are translating their research into economic, social, environmental and other impacts.
Providing advice on research matters
The ARC provides advice to the responsible Minister on matters related to the portfolio, including research and research training, research partnerships and the quality, engagement and impact of research in Australia.
In 2016–17, the ARC:
- managed a total estimated budget of $777.9 million, of which approximately $744.4 million was provided to support research
- had an average staffing level of 114 employees.
The ARC’s key stakeholders are the Australian Government, Australian universities, partner organisations (including industry, government, not-for-profit, business and international education), publicly funded research agencies, research peak bodies, the global research sector, and Australian taxpayers.
Within the Government, the ARC works closely with a number of other agencies. It works collaboratively with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) on a range of research matters including administration of competitive grants schemes, a review of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007), and administration of the Australian Research Integrity Committee. While the ARC funds research across all disciplines (with the exception of clinical medicine) the NHMRC provides funding for all areas of research relevant to human health and medicine.
The ARC also works closely with its portfolio agency, the Department of Education and Training, and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Areas of common interest include implementation of the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda initiatives, international engagement, and mechanisms of government support for building Australia’s research capacity, for example, through funding for infrastructure, research training and collaboration.