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ECONOMICS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
01/06/2009
INNOVATION, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND RESEARCH
Australian Research Council

CHAIR —Welcome to the officers of the Australian Research Council.

Senator ABETZ —Has there been an increase in the number of ERA staff budgeted for in the coming year?

Ms Harvey —Over the life of the forward estimates, yes.

Senator ABETZ —Is that because you are bringing on another eight streams? Is that the terminology?

Prof. Sheil —Discipline clusters.

Senator ABETZ —Is that the reason for it?

Ms Harvey —It is for the implementation of the work and the evaluation. We have been preparing for it and we are now rolling it into implementation.

Senator ABETZ —Can I ask, in relation to the humanities and arts cluster—

Ms Harvey —Humanities and Creative Arts.

Senator ABETZ —Thank you very much. When were the professional associations contacted in relation to the list of journals?

Ms Harvey —There has been a range of work back to 2007 when we started looking at the issue of ranked outlets, which includes journals. Initially, as Professor Sheil described, the learned academies were approached and there were some disciplines that we approached separately as well, because of the very specific nature. There has been a range of ongoing work over the last couple of years.

Senator ABETZ —When was the Australasian Society for Classical Studies asked to comment on the draft list of journals?

Ms Harvey —With regards to the journals we asked some professional bodies where there was specific issue that we needed some help with or the academy suggested that we get some help with, but we actually did a full public consultation on the list where anybody could write in. It included professional bodies, groups of deans, institutions and individual academics. We had the HCA list out for consultation from 12 June 2008 to 14 August 2008 and then we prorated the work on that. We were opening for cluster 1 first, which is the physics, chemistry and earth sciences, and then we proceeded to work on the HCA list. We looked at the draft list that had been developed with the help of the different academies and some professional bodies; we looked at the feedback that came in to see where there were discrepancies or where people agreed with those and then we convened a group of people to come in and help us work through that feedback. The list was then published earlier this year for the trials itself.

Senator ABETZ —When was the Australasian Society for Classical Studies advised of the draft list?

Ms Harvey —The draft list was out for public consultation in June last year.

Senator ABETZ —When specifically?

Ms Harvey —We did not write to every single association. We publicly advertised it.

Senator ABETZ —Did you write to this one.

Ms Harvey —I do not believe so. It was a public consultation process.

Senator ABETZ —You would agree that an organisation such as that, with at least the benefit of hindsight, should have been written to.

Ms Harvey —We went to a number of consultation forums. We went to different cities. We went to every deputy vice-chancellor’s research committee and every council of deans that were convening in the time. We went along and talked about the consultation. We publicised it on our website. We notified every institution. Many of them have their mechanisms for translating that through the institution.

Senator ABETZ —With the benefit of hindsight, would you agree that this is an organisation that should have been proactively contacted?

Prof. Sheil —Not necessarily. As Ms Harvey described, we have had a very extensive public consultation. We could not possibly individually contact every particular learned society or group of academics.

Senator ABETZ —This society only has 470 members, 80 per cent of whom are from Australia, comprising academic staff, 140 current and retired. Rightly or wrongly, they see themselves as the peak professional body for classicists and ancient historians. Are you able to point to another professional body that you would say covers the area of classicists and ancient historians better than the Australasian Society for Classical Studies?

Prof. Sheil —The peak body in this area is the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Senator ABETZ —Within the humanities there are a huge range of disciplines that have specific expertise. Would you agree with that?

Senator Carr —That is why you go to the learned academy. That is exactly the reason.

Senator ABETZ —You therefore deliberately ignore organisations like the Australasian Society for Classical Studies because they are unable to provide any extra information.

Prof. Sheil —When the Australasian Society for Classical Studies wrote to one of my officers on 4 May, another one of my officers spent an hour on the phone to the particular honorary secretary of that society. Certainly, when contacted by any organisation of this type, we make a concerted effort to understand their concerns and we understand that particular individual’s concerns have been allayed through that extra consultation.

Senator ABETZ —When they proactively contact you it is worth while for you to engage in discussion with them. I accept that and that is good, but it does come back to the question: why did we not proactively engage them in the first place, given the number of people that they represent in this discreet and important area of academic pursuit?

Prof. Sheil —Many of their members would have been contacted via the consultations that we have described in relation to the universities, the deputy vice-chancellor’s research committee and their peak academies. There is a range of different ways in which the individuals in this society could have interacted and were contacted via those peak bodies. I am not sure what more I can add in this respect.

Senator ABETZ —Therefore, in the totality of the Humanities and Creative Arts cluster, the one peak body that you consulted with was the academy?

Prof. Sheil —No. As Ms Harvey described, our initial contact was with the two learned academies in the humanities and social sciences. We have also had a range of interactions with other bodies.

Senator ABETZ —Proactively?

Prof. Sheil —Proactively, depending on—

Senator ABETZ —Could you provide me with a list of all of those organisations with whom you have had proactive communication in relation to the Humanities and Creative Arts cluster?

Ms Harvey —On our website when we put up the draft consultation list we listed the various bodies that had helped us with that. I would happy to supply that on notice.

Senator ABETZ —Thank you, if you can provide that. When was that draft list put up for consultation?

Ms Harvey —June 2008.

Senator ABETZ —Was it 12 June?

Prof. Sheil —Yes.

Ms Harvey —12 June 2008.

Senator ABETZ —For input by 14 August?

Ms Harvey —Yes.

Senator ABETZ —When the list was first put out for consultation, was 14 August the initial cut-off date or was that an extended time?

Prof. Sheil —I believe we did extend it for two weeks.

Ms Harvey —We did extend it for two weeks.

Senator ABETZ —Originally, in rough terms, it would have closed on 31 July 2008 and then it was extended for a two-week period. Why was it deemed necessary to extend it for the two-week period? Were there concerns about further input being needed?

Prof. Sheil —As I have said from the outset, and I have said in previous estimates hearings, the most positive aspect of this exercise has been the extensive input that we have had from a range of organisations. In order to capture that, as best as we could, we extended it for a further period of two weeks and we have had further consultations with areas where there has been particular concerns and representations, as I have indicated earlier.

Ms Harvey —In actual fact, a number of bodies contacted us to say that they had done their work and they were not having a meeting of their professional body until a certain date, so they would like the body to actually ratify the input that was coming, so it had the imprimatur of that body and that is why we extended.

Senator ABETZ —That was the reason we extended until 14 August?

Ms Harvey —We gave an extra two weeks.

Senator ABETZ —Yes, but was that the reason that you gave the extra two weeks?

Ms Harvey —Yes. There were a number of people who were doing a lot of work that needed that.

Senator ABETZ —That was the reason that we extended it. Who was responsible for making the initial decision and the initial ranking of these journals? At the end of the day, with whom does the buck stop?

Ms Harvey —If you are talking about the draft lists we put out for consultation, they were lists that came back to us from the four learned academies. We then had a look through those lists. We had a look at where there were crossovers. We had a process and, where there were differences in what the rankings had been, we then went back or asked particular academics in those fields to provide us with some information on that. At the end of the day the ARC has published that list based on the information provided.

Senator ABETZ —The ARC takes responsibility, albeit they relied on advice?

Prof. Sheil —At the end of the day the buck stops with me.

Senator ABETZ —Thank you for that. Would you agree with me that the relative standing of journals in a particular discipline is potentially best judged by the professional body that deals in that area?

Prof. Sheil —Not necessarily.

Senator ABETZ —Who would be better?

Prof. Sheil —As we indicated, we take a range of input into these processes. Depending on how the professional bodies are constituted, not all of them are representative. Not all of them have criteria for membership. There is a range of different professional and other learned bodies of varying standards.

Senator ABETZ —The particular one that I am referring to, the Australasian Society for Classical Studies, representing 80 per cent, seems to be a fairly representative grouping of these academics.

Prof. Sheil —I do not have any information as to how their members are admitted or otherwise.

Senator ABETZ —Were inquiries made with all the other bodies that had input as to how they selected their members?

Prof. Sheil —We definitely have extensive information as to how people are elected to the learned academies. That is a rigorous peer review process.

Senator ABETZ —What about with the others?

Prof. Sheil —In other cases we have consulted with bodies such as the Council of Australian Law Deans. They have been through a process within their own institution to become part of that body. It is similar with associations of deans of humanities and so on.

Senator ABETZ —As I understand it, and I am no expert in this area, the Australasian Society for Classical Studies made certain recommendations. For example, in one case they recommended the upgrading of one journal, Ramus, from an original B to an A. That recommendation was accepted. In another case they recommended that Antichthon be upgraded from a B to an A as the recognised premier Australasian journal, but it was left at B. Can an explanation be provided as to that?

Prof. Sheil —It would depend on the other inputs that we had into those particular journals and the various additional steps that we went to in order to scrutinise those rank lists.

Senator ABETZ —After scrutinising Antichthon, the ARC is not of the view that it is recognised as the premier Australasian journal in its area?

Prof. Sheil —That is where it stands at the moment.

Senator ABETZ —Is that your professional assessment?

Prof. Sheil —That is where it stands at the moment.

Senator ABETZ —Can you explain to us how the Journal of Hellenic Studies and—my schoolboy French is not flash anymore, not that it ever was—Revue des Etudes Grecques were left off the list?

Prof. Sheil —There are 55,000 journals on this list.

Senator ABETZ —Reputations are at stake here.

Prof. Sheil —I can tell you about the process. I cannot tell you now, in great detail, about individual journals.

Senator ABETZ —Can you take on notice to explain to us why the recommendation in relation to Ramus was accepted and why the premier Australasian journal, Antichthon, was not upgraded? Can you also tell us why the Journal of Hellenic Studies and the Revue des Etudes Grecques were missing from that original list?

Prof. Sheil —We will take that on notice.

Ms Harvey —I just wanted to clarify that when people talk about missing journals, as the minister talked earlier, in actual fact we have not published the journal list for the entire eight clusters. They may be in another cluster with a field of research code that we have not published yet. We find that when people say that journals are missing, as the minister explained, it could be that their name has changed, they did not publish in the reference period or they are not peer reviewed, so they do not meet the definition of ‘journal’ for the purposes of the ERA initiative. I am not saying any of those relates to that, but that is one of the things. The process of missing journals can be quite a challenging one.

The other one is that, as we have found, as we get closer to the implementation of ERA we have a higher level of engagement by academics in making sure that every single journal that they think should be on there is on there. That has been borne out through the process. That is why we have a formal process for updating after the trial, to the extent that, as we have discussed with the author of the letter that you are referring to, we have got a new journal form that allows them to fill it out, say why it should be there and so on. Sometimes they are not missing, they do not meet the criteria or they have not been published in that cluster yet.

Senator ABETZ —You are not suggesting that the Journal of Hellenic Studies might find itself in another one of the seven clusters, are you?

Ms Harvey —Sometimes it might.

Senator ABETZ —Sometimes it might?

Ms Harvey —Yes. I am not saying that it is, but I am happy to have a look.

Senator ABETZ —Can you take it on notice as to why the Journal of Hellenic Studies might find itself on some of the other clusters, and also the Revue des Etudes Grecques.

Ms Harvey —It may not have been added yet.

Senator ABETZ —Having said all of that, are those two now on the list?

Ms Harvey —No. We have been asked to consider that. We have spoken to the author of that letter and explained how it works and how to move forward and actually supplied the information to them ready for the review.

Senator ABETZ —It is astounding that this letter was sent on 4 May 2009. You are told in that letter, quite openly, that a number of other senators are going to be provided with this letter. I would have thought that you might have been pre-armed to answer some of these questions that I am now asking, given that this organisation was quite open in saying that they had also written to me, Senator Carr, Senator Brown and Senator Xenophon. Do you need to take these matters on notice?

Ms Harvey —We have spoken to the author about how that all works.

Senator ABETZ —Can you tell us, on notice, whether these journals were dropped simply as a mistake or were deliberately dropped and, if it is the latter, who made the decision? All these matters are asked for in this letter and, quite frankly, I am astounded that we cannot get answers today. In relation to the submission this organisation undertook, I understand they have worked through 21,400-plus items on the original list. Would that be right?

Ms Harvey —That is referring to the original draft consultation list that came out last June, which was a full list, not just HCA, as you are referring to now.

Senator ABETZ —When organisations saw that a particular journal was on the list with a classification next to it, I think they not unreasonably assumed that the classification might remain unless objection was raised. They are now saying that they did not comment on a whole range of journals and their classifications because they in fact agreed with your classification and inclusion on the list. Then when the list was republished some of these classifications had changed without the benefit of further input. These organisations, I think quite rightly, are saying to me that if there were a hint that some of these journals’ classifications were going to be in dispute they would have made representations saying, ‘No, that classification should be maintained’, or possibly, on further reflection, that it should be downgraded. Can you tell me how that process actually worked? Did it only need one body to say, ‘Bump it up the list, bump it down the list or take it off the list’?

Ms Harvey —No, in actual fact I think we got 116 representations with regard to journals on the list, we went through them all and looked at where people agreed or did not agree. When we actually had a conflict with regards to the ranking, we asked particular academics in those fields to come in and work through the list to look at the rationale from the two different areas, the original consultation list or the submission that came through, to try to actually look at what weighting should really be applied to that journal. For every single one where there was a difference, we actually had some academic input.

Senator ABETZ —Were the journals themselves consulted in relation to the standing that they would have in relation to this listing and whether they would want to have some input?

Ms Harvey —We just did a public consultation. Some journal editors did actually write to us. Not all of them did, obviously, but some did. We did not ask all the different editors of the journals.

Senator ABETZ —In relation to what I am told is a significant journal—and I am sure somebody will correct my Greek or Latin; I am sure you have it in front of you, Professor Sheil—is it Mnemosyne journal, new list number 7,442? It had its rating significantly downgraded from A to C, which according to these academics is patently wrong. On what basis was that decision made?

Prof. Sheil —As Ms Harvey has described, it would have been on the basis of other input and additional review to the list from a range of different experts. In addition we had 116 submissions, some of which addressed many of the journals that are on various lists.

Senator ABETZ —When is the review coming up again for this list?

Prof. Sheil —The list will be reviewed prior to the full ERA evaluations next year.

Senator ABETZ —Which is when next year?

Prof. Sheil —We have not released the details of the timing for next year, but we have spoken to the secretary of the society and explained to him in great detail how he can go about putting additional information into that consultation and that review process.

Senator ABETZ —But do you understand for example that if this journal Mnemosyne is downgraded from A to C, a number of academics may well say, ‘I do not want my work published in that journal anymore because it is so downgraded.’ They will move to other journals and then it may potentially be very difficult for some of these journals to regain their reputations in the academic world. Without putting too strong a point on it, it is potentially an academic defamation against them to say that these journals are no longer worth an A rating but a C rating. It could do untold damage to their reputation during this period when you are reviewing. I assume objectively you would agree that that is a possibility. What I am putting to you is: is there any possibility of any gross examples of misrepresentation on these lists being corrected immediately?

Prof. Sheil —We have not even established whether it is a gross misrepresentation of that particular journal—

Senator ABETZ —That is why I am asking in general terms as to whether there is that opportunity?

Prof. Sheil —At some point when you go through a consultation process you have to draw the consultation and the review to a close, which we have done. We have indicated that we will review the list prior to the full trial next year. That is the only thing that is feasible at this point.

Senator ABETZ —But if somebody were able to submit to you—and I pick this name not at random but because it was supplied to me, as it was supplied to you, Professor Sheil—that this might do untold damage to this journal over the next roughly 12-month period and in fact that most academics would be of the view that it should be given a higher category, there is no mechanism for that rating to be changed now as opposed to when you do the full review next year?

Ms Harvey —The full review of the journals will take place later this year. We published on 7 May how we were going to do that, including that new journal form that I talked about and including the opportunity to give feedback about any ratings on the draft list. One of the challenges we have, as you can imagine, is that we have developed the ranked journals list fit for purpose. For us, ‘fit for purpose’ is to try to recognise the quality of the research that is published in that journal. We try to be very careful and tell people that that is the reason that those journals have been developed with those ratings and the reason for those lists. It is a very specific fit-for-purpose listing.

Senator ABETZ —Just as long as you can confirm to me that none were accidentally left off the list in the first place and that none have been accidentally miscategorised in the thousands that you are dealing with. I accept it is a difficult task. But even if there is one error in that list, that one journal might suffer severe consequences.

Ms Harvey —I think there are two points to be made there. One is that with regards to ‘accidentally left off’, there are journals that people would now like to have added to the list that were not included when we did the consultation. We call them new journals, ones that were not actually provided as part of that process and whether they should be categorised, whether they meet the definition, so we have to do that work again—

Senator ABETZ —I accept a date has to be set to finalise these things but if there are so-called new journals, I suspect a lot of those new journals had been around for some time already and—

Ms Harvey —New to the list, yes.

Senator ABETZ —Yes, they are simply new to the list, not actually new journals, and these journals may have some very real damage done to them by having been left off the list. You are saying that a review is taking place later this year. When will that review take place?

Ms Harvey —After we finish the HCA cluster, which closes in August, then we will actually be starting to undertake that review, but we are allowing people to do the submissions now.

Senator ABETZ —When will that review be completed?

Ms Harvey —It will be completed prior to the implementation of ERA next year, in 2010.

Senator ABETZ —Professor Sheil was in fact correct that this new list will be put out in 2010?

Ms Harvey —It may be put out in 2009, but it will be utilised for the 2010 evaluations. The list which we currently have is the one that will be used for the 2009 trial.

Senator ABETZ —I am aware of that. But I have pointed out some issues—let us put it in a neutral context—with the 2009 list. I thought you sought to, in effect, correct Professor Sheil, but I must have misunderstood that, when you indicated that there was a review of that list this year. But the outcomes of that review will, chances are, only be published next year? That is the current timetable?

Prof. Sheil —They will be utilised next year. They may or may not be published towards the end of this year or early next year.

Senator ABETZ —We do not have a timetable set for that?

Prof. Sheil —No, we do not.

Senator ABETZ —The point that I think Bruce Marshall of this organisation says quite rightly is that the reputation of journals will hinge on this list and scholars will not seek to have their research published in them if they are left off or given a low ranking, and their rank will become fossilised and very difficult to change in people’s perceptions. I think that is a matter of some concern, at least to myself, and I trust it is to the ARC as well. How many complaints has the ARC had about its journal ranking lists to date?

Ms Harvey —’Complaints’ might be a strong word—

Senator ABETZ —All right—issues?

Ms Harvey —We run a help desk for a range of various things, including a whole range of different sorts of aspects. We have actually had feedback over the time with regard to it. Often they are one or two a week. They are not prolific in number. However, as we get closer to actually starting the trial people have actually been trying to clarify things more. I could get you a breakdown of exactly how many there were with regard to the journals themselves. But in total, since August last year, we have had just over 600 inquiries in total for ERA.

Senator ABETZ —I dare say those 600 inquiries did not include a majority saying, ‘Well done, we agree with our rating’?

Ms Harvey —We do get inquiries of that nature but—

Senator ABETZ —I am sure you do. But I am asking whether a majority of those inquiries—

Ms Harvey —No.

Senator ABETZ —Chances are the majority of those 600 are related to certain issues surrounding the ERA process?

Ms Harvey —No, but I am happy to clarify that. The majority of them are about clarifying how things would work. It is why we continue to update our frequently asked questions. It is inquiries of that nature.

Senator ABETZ —When the ERA for the Humanities and Creative Arts cluster was changed to a trial, that was announced on 31 March; is that right?

Ms Harvey —The minister actually announced that earlier this year.

Prof. Sheil —The 31 March was the HCA journal list.

Senator ABETZ —But it was a trial list, not a final list?

Ms Harvey —I am sorry, I thought you meant the actual trial. Yes, absolutely, but it was the list to be used for the trial.

Senator ABETZ —Yes. Prior to that announcement it was not going to be ‘a trial list’; is that right?

Ms Harvey —Yes, it was. It was always to be used for the trial. We use the term ‘trial’ with regard to the two clusters we are doing this year. When I say a ‘trial list’, it is the list to be used for that trial.

Senator ABETZ —If we were always going to have a trial, why was the minister’s announcement made on 31 March?

Ms Harvey —The actual list itself was released on 31 March.

Senator ABETZ —As a trial list?

Prof. Sheil —As a list for the trial.

Senator ABETZ —I am not sure much revolves around that, but I accept the different wording—

Ms Harvey —Sorry, on 23 February the minister announced the time frame for ERA, which included the announcement that there would be two trials. That was 23 February 2009.

Senator ABETZ —That was the first time that it was announced that there would be trials?

Ms Harvey —With regard to formal releases. The minister has, through many speeches and things, talked for some time about testing and trialling ERA in 2009.

Senator Carr —I indicated to you before what our policy objective here is. I will be brief, but I think it is important that we do understand that the purpose of this exercise is to find a mechanism that can verify claims made by researchers about the quality of their research. In that context, of course it is going to be the case that people will want to contest ratings and rankings of journals and all sorts of other pieces of data as to the proxies for metrics which have been put together in regard to the humanities and the creative arts. Particularly in regard to the humanities and the creative arts—classical studies might well fit within this category—there will be discussions about the quality of journals. But I would be surprised that you would be proposing that we go down the scale rather than up the scale. We are talking about Australia’s international reputation. It is extremely important that the processes that the ARC engages in are rigorous and can be defended in terms of their excellence.

Having said that, of course we are encouraging people to actually make comment on the construction of these journal listings. That is what is happening at the moment. There is plenty of scope for people to argue the toss about any particular decision, but in general terms I am urging the Australian Research Council to be sure that the quality of our work can be demonstrated internationally. We are in the business of making sure that Australia’s standing in research circles is protected. We do not want to see ourselves being asked to fund second-rate research. I trust that is your view, too.

Senator ABETZ —I dare say our international reputation is extremely enhanced when a journal that rejoices in a French name Revue des Etudes Grecques is left off the list. I am sure that does—

Senator Carr —You assert that.

Senator ABETZ —a lot of good for our international reputation.

Senator Carr —You assert that and you have had—

Senator ABETZ —In relation to the journals, do they have to be commercial journals to appear on the list?

Ms Harvey —No. They have to be peer reviewed. They have to be a scholarly journal. They have to be published in the reference period and they also have to have an international standard serial number to be considered for the list.

Senator ABETZ —Can you tell me whether the journal of American Mathematical Societies is on the list? Take that on notice. I do not expect you to know that.

Ms Harvey —We have only published the physics, chemistry and earth sciences list and the humanities and creative arts list. Given it is a mathematical journal, it is probably not on this list but it may be—

Senator ABETZ —With the physics, I thought it might.

Ms Harvey —That is right. It may be under the—

Senator ABETZ —My very rudimentary understanding tells me there is a fair bit of maths associated with physics, but I will not seek to embarrass myself further by going down that track. How are we dealing with the issue of that research which might only be abstracted rather than dealt with in a fully fledged journal article?

Prof. Sheil —Do you mean someone who has published an abstract over a conference presentation?

Senator ABETZ —Yes.

Prof. Sheil —In the two discipline clusters that we are trialling, the physical sciences and the humanities and creative arts, abstracts of conference proceedings are not typically publications that are valued to any great extent. There are some disciplines that do value conference papers quite substantially—principally that is computer science and engineering. But in the current clusters that we are dealing with most physical sciences—and I can speak to that with some authority—would not consider conference abstracts as something that they would want valued in this exercise.

Senator ABETZ —Is there a mechanism to discriminate between research or simply an overview document, something that provides some new information into the marketplace or something which just deals with overviewing that which is already in the marketplace?

Prof. Sheil —Certain journals are what would be referred to as review journals. In my area, for example Mass Spectrometry Reviews is the journal where reviews would be published.

Senator ABETZ —Is that on the list?

Prof. Sheil —That is on the list, but I might point out that the Australian and New Zealand Society for Mass Spectrometry was not consulted about the list.

Senator ABETZ —Chances are they had some good inside running, though?

Prof. Sheil —There are typically review journals and they are readily identified and our experts understand that you have a different citation pattern in relation to review journals than you do with journals that publish original research.

Senator ABETZ —But if it is cited for this exercise it is research; is that right?

Ms Harvey —It needs to have a research component and we have actually defined ‘research component’. For example, with abstracts and conferences and things we are looking to do ranked conference lists and we actually have various groups of councils of deans who are helping us with that. That is one of the things they look at: do the abstracts actually have a research component or not?

Senator ABETZ —How is the impact assessment of certain research being dealt with?

Prof. Sheil —We are not asking for impact statements of research in this exercise. But we recognise that the very best research that does have an impact is published in good journals and in other forums and we will be taking that into account using other indicators—for example, applied research income, commercialisation income and so on.

Senator ABETZ —What else does the ARC do besides the ERA?

Prof. Sheil —It does have a very important function to administer the National Competitive Grants Program.

Senator ABETZ —Would it be fair to say that a fair bit of your time not only at estimates but from a day-to-day operational point of view is being consumed by the ERA process?

Prof. Sheil —Do you mean my time in particular or the organisation’s time?

Senator ABETZ —The whole organisation.

Prof. Sheil —I would say that the ERA team led by Ms Harvey spends most of their day dealing with ERA issues. The National Competitive Grants team spends most of their day dealing with national competitive grants issues. The senior executive of the ARC is spread across both of those, but it would be fair to say that the time that I have spent on ERA this year, for example, is much less than I have spent on it last year. In particular, this year I have been focussing on quite a number of aspects of the NCGP program and advancing that agenda.

Senator ABETZ —That completes my bracket of questions on the ARC.

CHAIR —Thank you. Senator Cameron.

Senator CAMERON —The government has made an announcement that $27.2 million will be available over four years for Super Science Fellowships, specifically in the areas of space and astronomy, marine and climate, and future industries. Could you advise me where we are up to in terms of initiating that government budget decision?

Prof. Sheil —The proposal is to have 50 fellowships this year and next year. It will be 100 fellowships in total across those areas. The team within the National Competitive Grants Program area working on fellowships has almost completed an outline of the proposal, the call for proposals and we will be forwarding that for further approval shortly with a view to awarding 50 fellowships by the end of this calendar year.

Senator CAMERON —Thank you.

CHAIR —Senator Pratt.

Senator PRATT —There have been concerns in recent years about the collapse of our research capacity in the Southern Ocean. I understand some steps have been taken to address this, largely through new capacity and the number of days that we are able to spend at sea in the Southern Ocean. Could you highlight for me what is being achieved through the Super Science initiative?

Prof. Sheil —That is not my area of expertise.

Senator Carr —I might be able to assist you with this.

Senator ABETZ —It is a good story to tell, but—

Senator Carr —I thought you would be very pleased about it.

Senator PRATT —I would like to know the answer. I have been concerned about it.

Senator ABETZ —I am, but it does not fit in this.

CHAIR —I think that is right. We might deal with that in Outcome 2.

Senator ABETZ —Science, yes.

Senator Carr —It is actually a CSIRO project. The point is that this was a program that the previous government refused to fund on many occasions and this government has now decided to fund it.

Senator Carr —I would have thought you would be only too happy about that, Senator Abetz.

Senator ABETZ —I am very happy about that funding.

Senator Carr —You were so unsuccessful in previous years at securing funding.

Senator ABETZ —No, you took it out of our budget.

CHAIR —If there are no more questions for the Australian Research Council, I will thank them for their time here today and ask IP Australia to come to the table.

[2.46 pm]