Open Letter released on Tu 11th Jan 2021

On Christmas Eve 2021, decisions were announced on applications for 2022 Discovery Projects to be awarded by the Australian Research Council.

587 projects across the sciences and humanities passed through peer review and were approved for funding.

However, an additional six projects had funding vetoed by the acting Minister despite passing through vigorour peer review and being recommended for funding.

This interference in the ARC's usual decision making has recevied considerable criticism.

This open letter signed by 63 ARC Laureate Fellows is a response to this incident.


Click to read the letter!

Open Letter

Dear Professor Sue Thomas (CEO of the Australian Research Council) and the Hon Stuart Robert MP (acting Minister for Education and Youth),

As current and past ARC Laureate Fellows, we are very concerned in the way that applications for 2022 ARC Discovery Projects were managed. Our concerns are threefold.
First, the funding decisions were announced a month later than usual, only a week before funding could commence on January 1st. Most if not all university research offices were by then closed till the new year. It is highly unlikely that any of these grants can indeed commence on January 1st, and staff be hired.
No good reason has been given as to this delayed notification. The retention and recruitment of research staff is greatly harmed by such delays. This late decision is likely to have the greatest impact on early career researchers, especially with regards to diversity and inclusion.
Second, the funding decisions were announced on Christmas Eve, giving an appearance that the date was chosen to avoid close scrutiny. This was a heartless date to give the many unsuccessful applicants news about their applications.
Third, and most critically, six grants -- all in the humanities -- were subject to rigorous and independent peer review and were recommended for funding but vetoed by the Minister as they "do not demonstrate value for taxpayers' money nor contribute to the national interest". These projects cover topics like climate activism and China which are vital for the future well being of Australia.
We agree with Prof. Brian Schmidt's observation that in a liberal democracy like Australia it is "completely inappropriate for grants to be removed by politicians, unless the grant rules were not followed".
Whether it be the test of "national interest" or an excessive focus on a sector like manufacturing, research funding in Australia is becoming political and short sighted. The best return comes from letting researchers focus on curiosity driven research. This has given us mRNA vaccines, the laser, and many other inventions that have lifted the quality of our lives.
We strongly recommend the following five actions be taken in light of these concerns.
1. For all ARC grants, a date is provided in the call by which time applicants will be informed of the outcome. Such dates should be at least a month before the commencement date for the grant.
2. For 2022 Discovery Projects, the ARC provide transparency into why the announcement was a month later than usual and so near to the commencement date.
3. In future, no grant decisions are announced on dates like Christmas Eve to respect the work life balance of applicants.
4. The Minister accepts and approves funding for all ARC grant applications that pass through the tried, tested and rigorous peer review process and that meet the conditions set out in the call for applications.
5. The ARC be allowed to return to its core mission of funding fundamental curiosity driven research without political interference.
Yours sincerely,


Prof Adrienne Stone FASSA FAAL, Melbourne. Prof Ian Small FAA, UWA. Prof Peter Cawood, Monash.
Prof Alexander Haslam, UQ. Prof John Grundy FASE FIEAust, Monash. Prof Peter Hodgson FTSE FIEAust, Deakin.
Prof Andrew White FAA FAPS FOSA, UQ. Prof John Quiggin, UQ. Prof Peter Taylor FAustMS, Melbourne.
Prof Ann McGrath, AM FASSA FAHA RHS, ANU. Prof Jolanda Jetten FASSA, UQ. Prof Ping Koy Lam FAA, ANU.
Prof Belinda Medlyn, Western Sydney. Prof Jon Barnett, Melbourne. Prof Richard (Bert) Roberts, Wollongong.
Prof Ben Andrews FAA, ANU. Prof Julian Gale FAA, Curtin. Prof Robert G. Parton FAA, UQ.
Prof Brad Sherman, UQ. Prof Justin Marshall, UQ. Prof Rose Amal AC FAA FTSE FRNS, UNSW Sydney.
Prof Brian P. Schmidt FAA FRS, ANU. Prof Katherine Demuth FAASA FRNS, Macquarie. Prof Ross Buckley FASSA FAAL, UNSW Sydney.
Prof Christopher Barner-Kowollik FAA FRSC FRACI, QUT. Prof Leann Tilley, Melbourne. Prof Sara Dolnicar FASSA, UQ.
Prof Dan Li, Melbourne. Prof Lianzhou Wang, UQ. Prof Sharon Friel FASSA, ANU.
Prof David James FAA, Sydney. Prof Lynette Russell AM FRHistS FASSA FAHA, Monash. Prof Sharon Parker FASSA, Curtin.
Prof Douglas MacFarlane FAA FTSE, Monash. Prof Maria Forsyth FAA FRACI, Deakin. Prof Stephen Foley, Macquarie.
Prof Emerita Margaret Jolly AM FASSA, ANU. Prof Mark Finnane FAHA FASSA, Griffith. Prof Steven Sherwood, UNSW Sydney.
Prof Geoffrey McFadden FAA FASP FASM, Melbourne. Prof Mark Westoby FAA FAAAS, Macquarie. Prof Stuart Wyithe, Melbourne.
Prof George Willis FAA FRSN, Newcastle. Prof Martina Stenzel FAA FRSN FRACI, UNSW Sydney. Prof Sue O'Connor, ANU.
Prof George Zhao, UQ. Prof Matthew Bailes, Swinburne. Prof Tamara Davis AM, UQ.
Prof Gottfried Otting, ANU. Prof Matthew Spriggs FSA FAHA, ANU. Prof Toby Walsh FAA FAAAS FRSN, UNSW Sydney.
Prof Barry Pogson FAA, ANU. Prof Michael Bird FRSE, James Cook. Prof Warwick Anderson FAHA FASSA FAHMS FRSN, Sydney.
Prof Harvey Millar FAA, UWA. Prof Naomi McClure-Griffiths, ANU. Prof Yun Liu, ANU.
Prof Hong Hao FTSE DistFIAPS FASCE, Curtin. Prof Paul E. Griffiths FAHA FAAAS FRNS, Sydney.
Prof Huanting Wang FTSE FRSC FAICHE, Monash. Prof Paul Mulvaney, Melbourne.
Prof Ian Reid FAA FTSE, Adelaide. Prof Paul S.C. Tacon FAHA FSA, Griffith.


For more details, interviews, etc, please contact one of the following:

Professor Alexander Haslam, University of Queensland.

Professor Barry Pogson FAA, ANU.

Professor Lynette Russell AM FRHistS, FASSA, FAHA, Monash University.

Professor Toby Walsh FAA FRNS, UNSW Sydney.

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