ARC bombarded with FOIs for research application scores

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Australia’s university research funding agency has received hundreds of Freedom of Information requests from unsuccessful grant applicants for the scores and feedback on their rejected proposals.

Responses will be provided by the end of the month, just before the next funding application deadline.

The Australian Research Council, currently the subject of a rare government review, insists it is happy to provide the feedback but its “system isn’t set up” to do it in a proactive way.

ARC CEO Judi Zielke. Image: ARC

Around 400 researchers turned to Freedom of Information requests last year to find out the scores, ranking and detailed comments on their unsuccessful proposals.

“We haven’t seen these requests of this number before,” ARC chief executive Judi Zielke told a Senate Estimates hearing on Thursday night.

“We would potentially receive three or four a year previously for this type of information.”

Many of the researchers missed out on the last $221 million round of Discovery Project funding and want the feedback to assist with the next deadline in March.

At the time of the announcement, popular Twitter account and critic of the agency, ARC Tracker, reminded its 13,000 followers that unsuccessful applicants could seek their assessment scores via a FOI request, and provided a template.

After being inundated with the requests, the Ms Zielke wrote to universities, telling them most of the applicants would receive a response by the end of February. Requests are continuing to come in including for the separate Linkages round that was announced this month.

The late February response will give the applicants seeking Discovery Project feedback as little as a week to incorporate the feedback into applications for the 2024 round.

Ms Zielke on Thursday said the agency is “just about to push the button” on sending out the responses for requests that came in by mid-January – at least 390.

She added the agency is comfortable providing the information to applicants but is not currently equipped to do it in a systematic way.

“I’m afraid the system isn’t set up to invite that information… We are pursuing that. Unfortunately, of course, that work comes at a cost. And we’re just trying to work out how to include that going forward. It’s something that we’re investigating at the moment.”

A review of the Australian Research Council Act that includes the “role and purpose” of the funding agency began in November and took submissions on a range of issues by the end of the year. A final report with recommendations is expected by June.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

Leave a Comment

Related stories