The Australian Research Council (ARC) is a Commonwealth entity established under the Australian Research Council Act 2001 that advises the Australian Government on research matters, administers the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) and has responsibility for Excellence in Research for Australia and Engagement and Impact assessments. The ARC’s purpose is to grow knowledge and innovation for the benefit of the Australian community through funding the highest quality research, assessing the quality, engagement and impact of research, and providing advice to Government on research matters.
The NCGP funds fundamental and applied research and research training across all disciplines, except clinical medical research, to eligible organisations. The NCGP comprises 13 schemes under two programs: the Discovery program, which primarily focuses on supporting individuals and small teams to undertake fundamental research; and the Linkage program, which focuses on creating links between university researchers, industry partners and other community organisation to undertake applied research.
Government-funded research contributes to improving Australia’s social and cultural environment, international competitiveness and ensuring that the economy can embrace changing economic and technological conditions, deliver future prosperity and support the wellbeing of all Australians. The NCGP is one of the key sources of research funding, with an allocation of $791.3 million in 2019–20. The audit provides assurance to Parliament about whether this significant source of research and development funding is being administered by the ARC in an effective manner and is meeting the objectives set for the NCGP by the Government.
The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the ARC’s administration of the NCGP. To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO adopted the following criteria:
- Do the NCGP guidelines align with the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines (CGRGs) and government objectives in relation to research and innovation?
- Do the ARC’s grant assessment processes comply with the NCGP guidelines?
- Has the ARC implemented effective monitoring, assurance, evaluation and reporting arrangements for the NCGP?