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Friendly guide to the acronym (FGA)

Just in case you are new to the academy and are what is termed an early career researcher, (even if you are 50+) there are some acronyms you need to be able to toss around if you want to survive. Just realise first off that the ARC and ERA have nothing to do with the Australian Rally Championship and history. Although there are some university researchers who might consider putting in an application for grant funding to the Australian Research Council (ARC) analogous to a rally. You have to cover a lot of ground quickly and you never know who will win.

Oh and there can be a few crashes along the route.

The ARC, as it explains online, is a statutory authority within the Australian government’s Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (IISR) portfolio. Its mission is to deliver policy and programs that advance Australian research and innovation globally and benefit the community.

The ARC provides advice to the government on research matters and manages the NCGP (National Competitive Grants Program). The NCGP is a significant component of Australia’s investment in research and development. The idea is to support fundamental and applied research and research training through national competition across all disciplines, with the exception of clinical medicine and dentistry. Just this month ARC allocated more than $310 million in research grants for more than 1000 projects.

A total of $236 million was awarded to 778 projects under the discovery projects scheme, $42 million for 151 projects under the linkage projects scheme, $28 million for 77 projects under the linkage equipment, infrastructure and facilities scheme and $3.8 million for 10 indigenous researchers under the discovery indigenous scheme. The ARC is also responsible for administering the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative.

The ERA initiative assesses research quality within Australia’s higher education institutions and gives government, industry, business and the wider community assurance of the excellence of research conducted.  It also provides a national stocktake, by research discipline areas, of research strength against international benchmarks.  As in other areas in the sector acronym can be nudged into retirement by another.

In the case of ERA it replaced the Research Quality Framework (RQF). And even since ERA was established there have been major changes in how research is assessed.

Journal rankings bit the dust in June after strong complaints about the downgrading of some journals with serious impacts on the newer disciplines such as communications.

Within ERA they will be replaced next year by “journal quality profiles” which will indicate the most popular journals in which each discipline publishes.

For Health research grants you need to go to the NHMRC (the National Health and Medical Research Council). It is Australia’s peak body for supporting health and medical research. The Federal Health Council (FHC), the precursor to the NHMRC, was set up in 1926 following a royal commission’s recommendations.

The first meeting of the new NHMRC was held in February 1937 and was taken up mainly by discussion on medical research, including the £30,000 allocated for grants in the first year.

NHMRC became an independent statutory agency within the portfolio of the Australian Government Minister for Health and Ageing, operating under the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 on July1, 2006. Following an Australian government decision in August 2006, the National Institute of Clinical Studies (NICS), was incorporated into NHMRC on April 1, 2007.

In October this year it allocated $673 million with the bulk of the money going to university health and medical researchers. There had been fears the funding would be cut. The fear was so great that medical researchers took to the streets, which is something you don’t see every day. In the end the government actually increased the funding. Then there is the measuring of research impact – a thorny issue that can lead you into another jungle of acronyms. But because ERA is steering clear for now, so will we.

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