List of Recommendations

Recommendation 1

To reduce the administrative burden on research agencies and streamline grant funding processes, comprehensive reform is needed across three key areas—research management, application and assessment, and grant funding documentation. In particular, the Committee recommends:
Single online research management system
the introduction of a single whole-of-government online system for all Commonwealth grant applications and post award management; and
that, where possible, this online system link to existing systems and databases, such as ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID), to prepopulate necessary data fields.
Two-stage application process
a two-stage grant application process be introduced across Commonwealth funding schemes to reduce the amount of information provided in support of applications; comprising:
Stage one: a competitive component including an expression of interest designed to give weight to the research proposal, and prepopulated information regarding track record and research capacity; and
Stage two: a non-competitive component for successful stage one applicants to provide a full proposal and budget.
Grant funding documentation
that only information and documentation that will inform a decision be provided across grant funding schemes; and
the standardisation of grant funding documentation, including application forms, guidelines and contracts, across the Commonwealth.

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce a risk-based approach to post award variations that would allow universities to make minor or simple variations without seeking approval from funding agencies.

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that grant funding be available to support smaller scale research projects across disciplines.

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that the peer review system be maintained to support competitive grant funding in Australia.
The Committee recommends that the peer review process be strengthened by:
providing detailed information and constructive feedback to unsuccessful applicants; and
ensuring that the training of peer reviewers is of the highest standard.

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the administration of research block grants be reviewed to provide more timely and adequate support for the indirect costs of research.

Recommendation 6

The Committee recommends equitable access to and open competition for all research providers, including TAFE, regardless of their links to or partnerships with universities to ensure that research is assessed on merit.

Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends targeted support for early and mid-career researchers (EMCRs). This support should include but not be limited to:
reweighting of criteria and metrics for EMCRs to reflect career stages of researchers, and favour the strength of the research proposal rather than track record;
awarding more points to proposals that include EMCRs;
reform of specific grants and fellowships to better support EMCRs; and
where post award budgetary constraints impact on research projects, that EMCRs are not removed from projects, and continue to be supported.

Recommendation 8

The Committee recognises the importance of under-represented groups. It recommends that:
peer reviewers are mindful of under-represented groups including EMCRs, Indigenous researchers, women, minority groups and rural and regional universities; and
funding agencies monitor and report annually on grant funding success rates for under-represented groups.

Recommendation 9

The Committee recommends the introduction of mechanisms to better support interdisciplinary research. This includes:
clearer guidelines on the type of research to be supported by each scheme;
the establishment of a point of contact or panel to assist researchers determine which funding scheme will support interdisciplinary research; and
stronger consideration of interdisciplinary research as an important field to be supported and accommodated.

Recommendation 10

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government explore the feasibility of a public portal—similar to that adopted by the European Commission—to facilitate partnerships between research institutions, industry, and other strategic partners.
The Committee recommends that any feasibility study be undertaken in consultation with the research sector to identify and manage any potential risks.

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends closer examination of models, strategies and incentives, including those used internationally, to increase industry collaboration with universities and other publicly funded research institutions.
The Committee recommends the Australian Government consider this issue for a future parliamentary inquiry.

Recommendation 12

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develop a more strategic approach to Australia’s open scholarship environment.

Recommendation 13

The Committee recommends that the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) and Engagement and Impact Assessment (EIA) programs be reviewed to consider ways to reduce the cost and administrative burden on universities. In particular, the Committee recommends:
universities no longer be required to provide any information or data that is already available; and
in recognition of the amount of data already in the public domain and the labour-intensive nature of the ERA and EIA, that the timing of the data collection be reduced from three to five years.

Recommendation 14

The Committee recommends the Australian Government provide greater oversight and coordination of Australia’s research investment. It recommends a broader strategic review of Australia’s research and development investment to identify key research priorities, better coordinate national and international research efforts, and ensure adequate investment across the research pipeline.
The Committee recommends consideration be given to the establishment of a future or translation fund for non-medical research.

Recommendation 15

Given the strength of Australia’s research impact, the Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider investing and participating in international research funds such as Horizon Europe.

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