The Australian Research Council
) is the Australian Government’s
for allocating research funding to academics and researchers in Australian universities. Its mission is to advance Australia
’s capacity to undertake research that brings economic, social and cultural benefit to the Australian community. The ARC attempts to foster excellence, partnerships and high ethical standards in research and research training in all fields of science, the social sciences, and the humanities. The ARC also brokers partnerships between researchers and industry, government, community organisations and the international community. The ARC was established as an independent body under the Australian Research Council Act 2001
, and reports to the federal Minister for Education, Science and Training
ARC funding has increased significantly in recent years, and by 2006 will reach some A$736 million. Its funding programs come under the umbrella of the National Competitive Grants Program:
- Discovery programs, which fund individual researchers and projects;
- Linkage programs, which help to broker partnerships between researchers and industry, government and community organisations, and the international community;
- Centres programs, which build research scale, and focus and strengthen major research partnerships and networks.
The ARC Strategic Plan 2005–07 sets out the ARC's vision for the next three years. It identifies the objectives and investment strategies, and specific actions that the ARC will implement in its seven key areas of discovery, linkage, research training and careers, research infrastructure, research priorities, public engagement and effective organisation. The Strategic Plan identifies the key performance indicators which will enable the ARC to measure its progress in delivering outcomes of benefit to the community.
Many Australian researchers and academics are critical of the ARC for what they perceive as its overly bureacratic processes. Other critics, primarily those in the humanities, are critical of the ARC's emphasis on scientific projects, although the downgrading of humanities research funding appears to be a worldwide trend. There is broad support for the organisation on the basis that it has improved the public profile and accountability of research in Australia.