The ARC was established under the Australian Research Council Act 2001 (ARC Act). The ARC Act provides detail in relation to:
- the functions of the ARC
- the establishment of designated committees by the responsible Minister
- the CEO and ARC staff
- reporting requirements
- the funding of research, including the funding cap, funding assistance, funding rules and the ARC research endowment fund.
The funding caps in the ARC Act are regularly updated through an amendment bill, to allow continued funding under the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP). The ARC Act was last amended in February 2020.
Role and functions
The ARC administers the NCGP, assesses the quality, engagement and impact of research, and advises the Australian Government on research matters.
Funding the highest quality research
The NCGP supports the highest quality research and research training across all disciplines. The NCGP comprises two funding programs—Discovery and Linkage—each incorporating a range of complementary schemes that support basic and applied research, research training, collaboration and infrastructure.
Funding is awarded on the basis of a competitive peer review process.
Assessing the quality, engagement and impact of research
The ARC administers two evaluation frameworks to assess the quality, engagement and impact of research.
Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) provides a comprehensive evaluation of the quality of research produced by Australian universities against national and international benchmarks. The ARC has conducted four ERA evaluations, in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018.
The ARC is also responsible for administering the Engagement and Impact (EI) assessment of university research. EI assesses the engagement of researchers with research end-users and shows how universities are translating their research into economic, environmental, social, health and/or cultural and other impacts. The ARC conducted the inaugural EI assessment in 2018.
A review of the ERA and EI programs commenced in 2019–20 to inform the next ERA evaluation in 2023 and EI assessment in 2024. Findings from the review will be reported in 2021.
Providing advice on research matters
The ARC provides advice to the responsible Minister on matters related to the portfolio, including research and research training, research partnerships, and the quality, engagement and impact of research in Australia.
In 2019–20 the ARC:
- managed a total estimated budget of $818.3 million, of which approximately $789.9 million was provided to support research through the NCGP
- had an average staffing level of 129 employees.
The ARC’s key stakeholders are the Australian Government, Australian universities, research partner organisations, industry, government, not-for-profit entities, business, publicly funded research agencies, research peak bodies, the global research sector and Australian taxpayers.
The ARC maintains close relationships with a range of Australian Government agencies to support the national research and innovation system. It collaborates with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) on matters relating to the joint administration of the Australian Research Integrity Committee, the implementation of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and the administration of competitive grant schemes. The ARC funds research across all disciplines (with the exception of clinical medicine), while the NHMRC provides funding for all areas of research relevant to human health and medicine.
The ARC works collaboratively with its portfolio agency, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment as well as the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. Areas of common interest include international engagement, and mechanisms of government support for building Australia’s research capacity, for example, through funding infrastructure, research training and collaboration.