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Education and Employment Legislation Committee
10/02/2016
Estimates
EDUCATION AND TRAINING PORTFOLIO
Australian Research Council

Australian Research Council

[14:21]

CHAIR: I welcome officers from the Australian Research Council. We will now proceed to questions. Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: Professor, I will just start with some clarifications around the Future Fellowships program. How many future fellows are you actually funding in the forward estimates and beyond?

Prof. Byrne : We are committing to funding 100 future fellows ongoing every year.

Senator KIM CARR: When will the next Future Fellowships round be announced?

Prof. Byrne : We are about to send the rules out to the community this Friday. We hope to open the Future Fellowships program sometime in March and have an outcome later this year.

Senator KIM CARR: That is the normal schedule, is it?

Prof. Byrne : That is about right, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: MYEFO indicates that there is a year delay in implementation of the higher education changes, which would deliver savings from the ARC in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. Can you identify where those savings are coming from?

Prof. Byrne : I would have to take that one on notice, I think, to get that right.

Senator KIM CARR: Maybe Ms Harvey can help me there.

Prof. Byrne : Ms Harvey can always help us, and Ms Harvey looks like she has got it in front of me, and if Ms Harvey can do it and give it to you now, that would be good.

Ms Harvey : We have a delay of one year in the implementation of the 3.25 per cent efficiency dividend, which equates to $17.842 million over four years. We also had a delay in the commencement of the ongoing funding for the Future Fellowships scheme by one year. So for one year we are doing 50 future fellows and then we go to ongoing after that, of 100. So that would be line 1 in the portfolio additional estimates on page 66. We then had a reclassification of $6.887 million from the special appropriation to introduce and fund the continuous application process for the linkage scheme. That is also on page 66. That was a reclassification, and then we had additional funding to the ARC for the measurement of impact and engagement of university research, which was $9.370 million over four years. That is also on page 66. Then, if you move to page 67 of the portfolio additional estimates, you will see we had a movement of funds of $22.5 million.

Senator KIM CARR: Where were they moved from?

Ms Harvey : They moved from the 2014-15 financial year. We asked for a movement to the 2015-16 year, which we received. That is the upshot of all the different changes.

Senator KIM CARR: Thanks very much. So the $6.8 million—I had thought it was $5.2 million—over three years to implement the linkage project changes is being absorbed, is it? Is that how you see that?

Ms Harvey : A reclassification of administered funding.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. That means you are absorbing it.

Ms Harvey : Yes, that would be another way of saying that.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. Is the cost of these measures solely associated with moving to a continuous application process?

Prof. Byrne : That is correct, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the cost of that change alone?

Prof. Byrne : We do not completely know the answer to that question. We have that amount of money, but it is quite a significant change in business process, and we actually have not run it yet to know the exact difference in cost of running a continuous process for a large scheme compared to our current mode of operation.

Ms Harvey : We have made some estimates, of course.

Senator KIM CARR: What are your estimates?

Ms Harvey : Our estimates would be that we need $1.7 million in administered funding—so that pays for our committee members and different things. This is over the four years. We need $4.6 million in departmental funding, with a range of different things, and about half a million in capital funding. That is what is in PAES.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. When you say you are absorbing this money, where does it come from?

Ms Harvey : It is reclassified from the special appropriation account.

Senator KIM CARR: Sorry, you have to explain that to me. What do you mean by 'reclassified'?

Prof. Byrne : The money would have been allocated to the sector. It is now being used to deliver the scheme.

Senator KIM CARR: What measures are you taking to ensure the integrity and the comparability of the decision-making processes involved in a continuous assessment process?

Prof. Byrne : Again, we are exploring that now, but I am happy to outline what we need to do to make sure that we do have the continuity when you move to a continuous process. Our processes at the moment are very much predicated on having a small number of rounds where we get a significant number of applications in at one time, and then for the linkage program we would typically get 700 to 800 applications in at one time. We then run a series of processes where we send each one of those applications out to external assessors, and we have on average about three external assessors reply to us. We also get a number of people on our panels to look at those proposals in detail. For each one of those, we take those scores and aggregate them and essentially come up with a ranking of all of those proposals. We then have a committee process, if you like, that scrutinises the ranking of those proposals, looks for anomalies and then makes recommendations to me, and I make recommendations to the minister.

That process, as I say, is predicated on getting a large number of grants in at the one time. We now have to move to a continuous process where we now actually have no control over when the grant comes to the ARC, so what one has to do is essentially to create a virtual pool of grants. So the assessment process will be the same as I described—that we will assign it to a number of people on our college, the people that sit on our panels. Indeed, we are envisaging assigning it to more people in the transition phase, just for this comparability issue. We will send it out to external assessment in exactly the same way. We will take those scores back and process them but then again reference them to, if you like, a virtual pool of applications to make sure we have consistency of standards across that domain. That virtual pool will transition over time, so we will essentially be, if you like, trying to mimic a single round in a continuous process.

Senator KIM CARR: I see—a bit like the ABS's success in measuring unemployment data with their survey results.

Prof. Byrne : I could not comment on that. I would not know what they try to do.

Senator KIM CARR: Aren't you concerned about that approach?

Prof. Byrne : The approach that we are following?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. It seems to me quite risky.

Prof. Byrne : I think it gives us an opportunity to have a look at our processes and think about whether we are doing it in the most efficient way and to optimise it. Certainly it is in that light that we are approaching developing the continuous linkage scheme. We can look at even improving what we are doing. It is not that we do not have any confidence in what we are doing at the moment; it is actually a very good opportunity to make sure that we are doing it right. We are going to be looking at those scores and the way we form scores quite carefully, and I do not think that we will lose any rigour in the processes we apply at the moment.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you remind be who initiated this? Was this a proposal that you came up with?

Prof. Byrne : The request for having a much more flexible system, particularly with regard to linkages, has been around within the sector for a long time. It certainly came up in a number of conversations around the Watt review, among other things, but it is something that, when I go out or when our staff go out into the sector, people complain about the length of time between—

Senator KIM CARR: I am familiar with that, but my question was about who initiated this particular change.

Prof. Byrne : I think it has come about from a number of conversations and it is a change that I am broadly comfortable with.

Senator KIM CARR: So you are telling me that you initiated it?

Prof. Byrne : Again, it has come out of a range of conversations about how to align with the government's desire to get a better engagement between the university sector and the commercial and industry sector in the broad. It is an initiative that may make some different things and, indeed, it is a recommendation out of the government's NISA arrangements.

Senator Birmingham: It was announced as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The policy reforms of that were endorsed by the cabinet.

Senator KIM CARR: I just wanted to be clear that this was a government initiative.

Prof. Byrne : Yes.

Senator Birmingham: It was informed, as Professor Byrne has said, by evidence from a range of parties, including that garnered by Dr Watt through his review.

Senator KIM CARR: That is right. I just wanted to be clear who proposed this, because I have no doubt we will hear more about it.

Prof. Byrne : I hope so.

Senator KIM CARR: It has been around such a long time, and I presume that, if it was such a great idea, you would have done it some time ago.

Prof. Byrne : It is actually not easy to change a process from being organised in a particular way. Indeed, some countries around the world have more continuous schemes but relatively few overall. It is actually, from a programmatic point of view, far simpler to just run it in a block mode than in a continuous mode. There are overheads, which is why it costs a bit more. There are overheads both internally and externally for having a continuous process and ensuring that the standards that we do have and are proud of are carried forward into a continuous scheme.

Senator Birmingham: Obviously, the government has considered all of the feedback and waived the balance of the issues before us. It is the government's strong view that we want to encourage and incentivise greater collaboration between industry and research. Based on feedback, this is one way in which we can make it easier for industry to partner with research organisations.

Senator KIM CARR: Given that it is a linkage program, Professor, what is the current rate of industry engagement in the linkage program? In terms of cash, how much of it is actually coming from industry at the moment?

Prof. Byrne : I will have to take the details on notice—I am not sure I have it here. But I think of the order of 40 per cent would come from industry.

Senator KIM CARR: I am talking about cash, not in kind.

Prof. Byrne : No, I am talking about cash. It is probably a bit smaller than 40 per cent, but if we cannot find it soon, we will give it to you on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Could we measure the success of this by seeing an increase in the amount of cash that business puts in?

Prof. Byrne : No, I would not measure that.

Senator KIM CARR: How would we measure success here?

Prof. Byrne : That is going to be an interesting thing to look at. One of the things I would be looking for is an increase in engagement with industry—so, the number of applications that come from industry. In the longer term, when we evaluate programs, as we do, looking at the successes that come out of that, I do not think one would use the cash that comes in from industry component as a particular measure of that. It is an input into the system, not an outcome of the system.

Senator KIM CARR: What would the improvements that you would see look like?

Prof. Byrne : Obviously the scheme is going to try to get a faster turnaround when the conversation first happens between a person in a university and the potential industry partner. If we can get a much faster turnaround before that, I think that would be highly advantageous for the system. We hear reports at the moment where we have a conversation initiated by an industry, it takes a number of months to prepare a proposal—and that has to be submitted at a particular time to the ARC—we take a number of months to make a decision, and it is then announced. A year could have gone by from that first conversation. If we can speed that up significantly, that would be an advantage to everyone.

Senator KIM CARR: Is that the only measure you would look to?

Prof. Byrne : No, certainly that is not the only measure I would look for. And, in fact, why I am being a little bit cautious about just saying the cash contribution, and indeed the numbers, as indicators is that we are actually anticipating a decrease in application numbers as we go to a continuous round. When funding agencies in the world have gone to continuous rounds, one of the things that almost certainly happen is that it acts as a filter for some proposals—so what you tend to have happen is actually that more significant, more immediate proposals come to the fore, and those other ones that are really not thought through well enough do not come to us at all. What we are actually trying to get, interestingly—even though the objective is very much to try and focus on the connection between researchers and university and industry in a faster time scale—is an overall efficiency in the system.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. And that will be measured by fewer applications?

Prof. Byrne : Well, it could well be manifest in fewer applications, but hopefully the quality of applications will be higher.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. I look forward to it. I am obviously quite sceptical about this. Let us deal with one which I am really sceptical about—as distinct from only mildly sceptical about.

Senator Birmingham: You have brought such cynicism to us today.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, none of these areas are freshly ploughed grounds, are they?

Prof. Byrne : No.

Senator KIM CARR: We have dealt with this for a long time. And just because you take on the flavour of the month because some lobbyist gets hold of you does not make it the right decision.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Carr, just because something may not be easy does not mean that the government should not seek to do it if the government believes that it will improve the outcomes and particularly improve the type of outcomes from our research that will lead to greater economic growth across Australia.

Senator KIM CARR: Nor should we ignore international experience or domestic experience.

Prof. Byrne : No. Actually, the continuous process is something that—we talked earlier about where the initiative came from. This is something that I have thought a lot about. I actually think there are enormous advantages in a continuous process.

Senator KIM CARR: And you are glad to put your name all over this, are you? I am delighted by that—delighted.

Prof. Byrne : I think if we can get more responsive to the sector—as an agency, as a whole—that is a good thing, not a bad thing. If we can minimise the delays that people do complain about between the process of application and an announcement, that is good for the sector as a whole.

Senator KIM CARR: Let us move on. Time is short. On the announcement that the government is providing $9.4 million for the new impact measures, does this funding align with the ARC's estimates of the cost of that measure?

Prof. Byrne : Indeed it does, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Ipso facto—the government has given it to you and that is what you will spend?

Prof. Byrne : When we were thinking about these initiatives—and again it is one of these initiatives that are a part of a much broader set of decisions of government—we were asked to provide estimates about what we thought it would cost, and this is the estimate that we came up with.

Senator KIM CARR: So this is your estimate?

Prof. Byrne : This is an estimate that is pretty close to our estimate.

Senator KIM CARR: No. That is not the question. What was your estimate?

Prof. Byrne : I do not know that precisely. I do not know if we still can find that number, but it is of this order. It is not very different.

Senator KIM CARR: And what is the estimate of the—

Ms Harvey : Senator, I believe it is very close to our estimate. I think there is a bit of rounding involved, but I think it is very close to the estimate that we calculated.

Senator KIM CARR: Good. And what is the estimate of the cost, including the time and commitment for the research sector and to industry? Is there a contribution there that you could measure?

Prof. Byrne : Sorry—the cost to industry?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Prof. Byrne : I am not sure I could give you a hard answer to that, because again we have not designed the instruments in any way. Until we get a better idea of what the measures might be, what the approach we need to take is—this is a conversation that is going to be had over the next year or so, and longer—I could not give you that answer.

Senator KIM CARR: What about the universities? Have you got a cost of what it will cost them?

Prof. Byrne : Again, my answer is somewhat the same. But we are going to be using information that we already collect as part of the ERA process so that some of the costs that the universities bear as part of our ERA exercise will already be met in terms of this other exercise. And again, until we get to the point where we determine what are the dashboard indicators in this measure compared to the ERA one—whether they are truly additional, whether they are requiring of activity by the university, or indeed whether they are indicators that we can draw out of other sources, and we are going to be looking very strongly, where we can, to draw information out of other sources—we do not know the cost to particular partners, either industry or university partners, in that.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Carr, in terms of matters of regulatory costs to universities, I would note that the reforms in terms of the consolidation of the research block grants are expected to deliver some regulatory savings of some note to the universities.

Prof. Byrne : If I could go on, the cost of these exercises is still relatively small compared to the investment the government does make in the sector and, as a measure of quality control of that investment, it is actually quite an effective measure.

Senator KIM CARR: Now, on page 162 of the budget documents, it says:

… this proposal will receive $9.4 million over four years from 2015-16 to establish a new system to assess the engagement of university researchers with end users, and to measure the commercial, economic, social and other impacts of research …

Looking at that statement, how does the ARC do that in a manner that is comparable across disciplines, across industry sectors and across the public and private sectors by way of applications?

Prof. Byrne : That is a task to be determined over the next few years, in the same way that, when we had a conversation a decade ago, we were looking at quality and, indeed, also the potential to measure impact. It is not going to be an easy task. It is something that is almost certainly going to be discipline and sector dependent, so one of the tasks that we are already planning in the consultation process is to go out to the discipline groups and ask them: 'What are the key indicators in your particular discipline?' I think we learnt, with the quality exercise, that you do have to do it with regard to the disciplines and do, when you can, appropriate normalisations of data if you have data that leads to that. It is going to be a mixture. But that is a circumstance that actually we have experience in and a tolerance of in our existing quality evaluation exercise, ERA, because there are measures of quality in universities in different disciplines across the discipline domain that we consider as very broad already. So the experience of dealing with the different dimensions and the different requirements of disciplines and sectors is something that is already part of the evaluation methodologies that we have demonstrated through ERA.

Senator KIM CARR: You did say 'some years', did you?

Prof. Byrne : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Some years to get 'clear and transparent measures of non-academic impact and industry and end-user engagement'?

Prof. Byrne : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Some years away?

Prof. Byrne : We are committing to do a pilot next year, so that is part of the educative and learning process for us, and the sector as a whole, and we are intending to deliver a measure with the evaluation of quality in 2018. That is 'some years'.

Senator KIM CARR: I am told there has been a working group established. Has that been done?

Prof. Byrne : We are in the process of establishing a number of working groups and a steering committee. We are approaching people to be on that steering committee. We have not finalised fully that steering committee but, when we do, we will be announcing that. There will be at least two other working groups—one looking at the performance measures and one looking at the technical requirements for how you capture and how you synthesise information around things as difficult to measure, actually, as impact and engagement.

Senator KIM CARR: Do you expect that those working groups will run for some years as well?

Prof. Byrne : Again, because we are committing to a pilot, a lot of work will be done this year. But I would be hoping to see us running a pilot—and again I cannot say exactly what form that pilot will take—that will enable us to sample what we talked about a moment ago: the difference in discipline characteristics and the difference in sectorial characteristics. So it will allow some sampling of that. But I think we need to take the learnings from that before we roll it out to the major exercise. Again, I would be hoping too that that is not the end of it either, because you do want this to be adaptable. There has been a lot of effort all round the world to measure engagement and indeed impact, and it is not easy. I do not think there is a perfect measure of engagement and impact anywhere in the world—

Senator KIM CARR: You can say that again!

Prof. Byrne : I will say that again if you want: there is not one and—

CHAIR: In the interests of time, let's not!

Senator KIM CARR: Let me keep pressing on because it is quite clear, once again, we will have some years to discuss this. Given that it is an ongoing debate now, and my knowledge covers about 20 years, I am looking forward to the next decade of developments here.

Prof. Byrne : I hope we take a shorter time than a decade.

Senator KIM CARR: To what extent will you be relying on the work that ATSE has done?

Prof. Byrne : ATSE did a very interesting exercise, which I think was useful—and I was on the steering committee of the ATSE exercise. It was useful from a number of points of view. But the ATSE exercise very deliberately and consciously restricted itself to looking at indicators that were already in our system. They used information that was already embedded within the ERA exercise and deliberately and consciously restricted themselves to that. The ATSE exercise then looked at how you tackle the problem that you quite correctly articulated before, that you have a disciplined sensitivity in the system, and the ATSE exercise then looked at ways of normalising that data to try to give it some meaning. They really only focused on one indicator and that was the commercial dollars in the system, and to focus on one indicator is not sufficient for any exercise. I think the ATSI exercise was very good and well done in some ways but it looked at just one indicator.

Senator KIM CARR: I am told there have been some further developments since we last discussed this, and there is now a move to replace the ranking system that they proposed with an ABCD model. Is that correct?

Prof. Byrne : In some ways that is not relevant any more.

Senator KIM CARR: Not relevant to what you are doing?

Prof. Byrne : No.

Senator KIM CARR: You don't give a bugger, really, whether they have changed their system?

Prof. Byrne : I do care a lot about that exercise because I think he was a very good and well-run exercise when you focus down and look at a particular indicator and look at the issues associated with that. It is really a worthwhile exercise.

Senator KIM CARR: The problem we have is that a lot of attention has been paid to this model, and I am wondering to what extent you see flaws in the model that has been proposed.

Prof. Byrne : The biggest flaw in the model, which is a flaw associated with the decision made for the exercise just to focus on existing and one, is that it just focuses on one indicator, which is the commercial dollars in the system. A system that relies on a single indicator and pretend that it can measure impact or engagement is deeply flawed. Commercial dollars in the system is one proxy for engagement. It does not actually measure impact or benefit in any way, shape or form. In that sense that exercise would not be sufficient to meet the government's requirement—

Senator KIM CARR: That is an important point. As far as you are concerned, you are looking at an entirely different model.

Prof. Byrne : Correct. However, I suspect that we will have an indicator like commercial dollars in the system as one of the many indicators we have on our dashboard.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you relying upon a case-by-case study approach?

Prof. Byrne : I think we have had conversations before about case studies. It is my view that case studies on their own are not a sufficient indicator, although it is very difficult to measure impact. In fact, you assess impact rather than measure it.

Senator KIM CARR: What other indicators will you be looking at to capture the diversity of research that is undertaken?

Prof. Byrne : I think there is going to be a whole range, and some of them are looking at the number and scale of interactions that university has with commercial and other partners—they do not have to be commercial, they can be other partners. An indicator that was suggested yesterday at a meeting I was at talking about this with the ATN network is the number of repeat interchanges, relationships, that institutions have with particular partners—so an extra weighting, if you like, for return business. If you think about indicators of success of relationships with universities, certainly having them is important but having a business come back to universities would be a very good indicator, which probably transcends different disciplines but one has to normalise for different disciplines because the way different sectors interact with universities is very different. You have to take that into account.

Senator KIM CARR: I am particularly concerned about the impact that such proposals will have on humanities and the social sciences.

Prof. Byrne : And, again, this is why I keep repeating that you have to do this with a disciplined sensitivity and a normalisation for disciplines. Even the ATSE exercise, which did do the discipline normalisation, was able to categorise institutions in their success in the humanities.

Senator KIM CARR: It might be. Melbourne university has just received a very substantial contribution to the history department. They do not get them very often and it would hardly be a reflection of success, as I am sure the vice-chancellor would only be too quick to point out, given the reductions that have occurred in the humanities at that university. How would you measure that in these proposals?

Prof. Byrne : That is the danger in picking a number like commercial dollars or donation dollars into a system where you have large variability and occasionally small but large amounts distorting them. This is why you cannot rely, for instance, on the ATSE indicator—because it is about commercial dollars in the system, which has the exposure to single-hit events making a big difference in the system.

Senator KIM CARR: What about research that actually saves the community substantial sums of money, not necessarily raises money?

Prof. Byrne : Exactly.

Senator KIM CARR: How does that get measured in your system?

Prof. Byrne : What one has to do is try to compare like with like. If you are comparing universities in the medical domain—and we will be looking at university research in the medical field as well—you at least have the opportunity of doing discipline-sensitive normalisation of those numbers.

Senator KIM CARR: Is there not any concern about the impact that such a process would have on pure research, basic research, blue-sky research?

Prof. Byrne : I think there always is a desire and a need to make sure that funding covers a whole portfolio of supporting research from blue-sky to direct and immediately engaged research. The ATSE exercise is a very interesting one because we are now able to look at the outcomes of the ATSE exercise and correlate that to the ERA exercise, which is a measurement of research quality and actually, I think, a very good one. They are enormously, strongly correlated. So commercial dollars in the system are already correlated to research quality.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. As you know, I am a very strong supporter of ERA. I think one of the arguments for why the Group of Eight are strongly supporting the initiative is that they think they will actually get more money out of this because there is a higher correlation of their universities with private income.

Prof. Byrne : Indeed. Part of the attempt of the exercise, meeting the government's objectives, is to try to better stimulate the connection between researchers in universities and activities outside the university sector. There have been arguments, which I can completely understand, that the ERA exercise, because it is such a dominant exercise in the system, focuses attention in universities, to the exclusion of everything else, on the academic activity. I think a slight rebalancing of that will be very healthy for the system.

Senator KIM CARR: Time is short so I turn to the question of collaboration with CSIRO, in particular around the climate change measurements that have received so much attention in the last week or so. The ARC and the CSIRO have a number of collaborations. It is not just on climate change, is it?

Prof. Byrne : The ARC is primarily a funder of universities and university research. The engagement with the CSIRO is almost as a third partner. We are not a funder of the CSIRO.

Senator KIM CARR: No, and I am not suggesting that. But there are collaborations?

Prof. Byrne : Of course. Yes, indeed.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you give me a feel of how broad is that collaboration?

Prof. Byrne : I would have to take that on notice, what fraction of our—

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. What happens if the CSIRO withdraws funding from any collaboration?

Prof. Byrne : That would depend on the type and the nature of collaboration. Again, it depends. If, for instance, the CSIRO are a partner organisation on a Discovery program grant, there is not an expectation that they will provide cash resources but, because they are partner investigator, there will be an expectation that they will provide scientific resources to the project.

CHAIR: What if those scientists who were with the CSIRO and part of that Discovery program grant take up residence within a centre of excellence—for instance, within a university? Would that scientific expertise follow the scientist or the organisation?

Prof. Byrne : Maybe I can answer the question: what's the consequence then? If there is a major scientific or research activity that is part of the proposal which sits in the CSIRO space, and that disappears for some reason, in principle that forces a re-evaluation of the grant because the grant then cannot be completed as described for funding. This happens a number of times, not just particularly with the CSIRO, but all the time when people come on, but come off grants when they are named as participants on the grant. In many cases the grant can be completed where that information and that expertise is drawn from other sources and indeed if the person actually moves to another organisation it is quite seamless then for the activity—

CHAIR: And this is something that occurs as academics?

Prof. Byrne : This is something that occurs all of the time as academics, so I do not particularly see any change there.

Senator KIM CARR: However, the National Facilities program is something that the CSIRO has maintained for a considerable length of time and in which you are also partners. Is that so?

Prof. Byrne : The end question is?

Senator KIM CARR: For the National Facilities program, housed in the CSIRO—some of them, for instance, were at centres such as Aspendale are now being proposed for reductions. What happens to those?

Prof. Byrne : I do not know anything more about the proposed changes in the CSIRO, other than what I have read in the media.

Senator KIM CARR: So you were not consulted before they were made?

Prof. Byrne : No, I was not consulted before they were made.

Senator KIM CARR: Even though you were partners in some of these projects?

Prof. Byrne : Again, we do not know yet how the proposals that are associated with the CSIRO will be impacted by these decisions. I have a full expectation that if there are CSIRO decisions that have been made which have an impact on our research grants we will be in due course informed of that and we will respond to that and make assessments of proposals to see what impact it has.

Senator KIM CARR: Okay, let's look at one where you are specifically a co-funder of—namely NICTA, which has been rolled back into the CSIRO.

Prof. Byrne : And that funding will stop in July this year.

Senator KIM CARR: And so you have had no consultation about the consequences of the project that you have funded?

Prof. Byrne : Again—

Senator KIM CARR: You were joint funders of that project.

Prof. Byrne : I understand, so the funding commitment that the ARC has made to NICTA is scheduled to stop in June this year and, yes, we were aware of the arrangements for moving NICTA into the CSIRO but the funding from the ARC to NICTA is stopping then and we have no ongoing commitment to NICTA beyond June this year.

Senator KIM CARR: And so no assets? No projects? Nothing?

Prof. Byrne : No.

Senator KIM CARR: No expectation that you have spoken to them?

Prof. Byrne : No, no! I think we have an expectation that the activities that have been developed over time, particularly those where there are strong connections to universities, are going to continue and their applications will come into us through our normal processes for support.

Senator KIM CARR: And you know that to be a fact, do you?

Prof. Byrne : Well I am almost certain that it will be the fact because again there will be a search for resources to support these initiatives. We are a funder of universities. If these people are associated—

Senator KIM CARR: No, I am talking about the projects that are currently funded, which are due to end in June and which are now part of this Data61. Do you know the consequences of those changes are?

Prof. Byrne : No, I do not know what the consequences of all of those changes are, but the commitment of the ARC money for that was terminating anyway, so there is nothing outstanding that we need to keep track of beyond June this year.

Ms Harvey : They keep us up to date through the annual activity plan on those projects, but they are for projects finishing in June.