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ARC Future Fellowships
ARC Future Fellowships
ARC Future Fellowships ATN Response to the Consultation Paper Contact Details Title: Ms Name: Vicki Thomson Organisation: Australian Technology Network Contact email address: Vicki.firstname.lastname@example.org Issues for Specific Feedback Should “mid‐career” be defined as researchers who have between 5 and 15 years research experience since the award of their PhD (or equivalent research qualification or experience)? Any such definition would need to allow flexibility to extend the post‐PhD period to take into account periods during which the researcher had child‐rearing and/or carer responsibilities or the equivalent. Response: The ATN strongly supports a system that recognises the variety of modern day demands that impact on mid career researchers. For this reason, the ATN does not view the need for flexibility purely restricted to familial responsibilities, but should have regard for the variety of career interruptions, e.g. the clinical workload of clinicians undertaking a part‐time PhD in their early post doctoral careers has a significant impact on their research capacity. Career breaks are increasingly common and acceptable in business and industry and the ATN with its strong commitment to collaborating with industry has recognised the value to an organisation in supporting such schemes that build and retain a highly skilled workforce. As the nation’s (and global) demography continues to change, it is apparent that mid career researchers are increasingly challenged with the plurality of supporting familial, employment, community engagement and academic responsibilities. In the context of this issue, the ATN agrees with the ARC definition of “mid career”, specifically the reference to “equivalent research qualification or experience” which we deem to be a more relevant determinant of success than a definition narrowly based on a numerical formula. In this regard the ATN strongly recommends the selection criteria reflect the importance of productivity as a critical success factor. Should Future Fellowships be available as both part‐time and full‐time fellowship positions ranging from 0.5 to 1.0 FTE? Response: The ATN welcomes a more flexible approach to undertaking a Fellowship full or part‐time (or a combination of both during the lifetime of the award). Further, we support the capping of the fellowship period at 6 years as a means of delivering the most relevant and innovative outcomes for society while at the same time ensuring Fellows continue to sustain the momentum required to further their careers. Should there be a limit on the number of Future Fellowship proposals that an administering organisation is allowed to submit, e.g. 30 proposals per administering organisation? Response: The ATN supports a balance between Level 1 and 2 consistent with national and institutional priorities. The ATN believes that the Future Fellows will contribute most to our national well being if they are distributed across the diversity of research missions within the Australian research system, given the pressing need for Australia to grow a broad but relevant innovation platform. To this end, a principle of how Fellowship levels are allocated should be 'the strategic plan for each host institution' in which it maps these positions clearly into its own workforce planning. This would then help to address what is the 'missing link' with the Future Fellows Program as it is currently articulated, that is, what happens with the Fellow when the 4 year Fellowship has run its course? It is essential that the Fellow allocation process contains a strong connection to the future workforce planning of each host institution to the point that, in receiving a Fellow and Fellowship, the institution can be confident in providing an undertaking that it is in fact a 'tenure track' position which will flow into an on‐going position and hence a continuity of strong research performance by the Fellow. Hence, the monitoring of such progression would be a key performance indicator of the Future Fellows program. However, setting quotas within each level would assist in a healthier distribution of Fellowships as a means of planning for a sustainable research workforce, ie providing incentive for the 5‐10 year post doctoral research group. Further, we recommend that this be reviewed in successive schemes to accommodate a changing workforce need. The ATN is concerned that the paper appears to take a parochial approach and does not clearly articulate the selection criteria around local vs expatriate/ international applicants, that is, there is no mechanism that will allow, let alone require, selection committees to give priority or weighting to overseas applicants. If the scheme is to have as a primary goal the attraction and retention of talented, overseas based Australian candidates then this aim must be explicitly stated in the scheme’s objectives with selection criteria addressing this issue. Failure to do so risks delivering the fundamental objective of the scheme. The ATN therefore recommends including an explicit statement addressing a preference for expatriate Australian researchers in the Objectives with corresponding Selection Criteria including a ranking ‘bonus’ or extra weighting. Finally, in determining any quota formula, schemes such as Future Fellowships must have concern for equity, focus on quality and ensure viability across the entire higher education system, not just pockets excellence. For example, women have traditionally been “discouraged” from applying for Federation Fellowships on the basis that they haven’t (for a number of reasons not based on merit) been able to develop “outstanding performance”. The ATN recommends that in order to ensure equity among mid career researchers and thereby build a strong research workforce, the criteria include setting a target for applications from women and that the target be based on the ratio of female academics eligible for either Level 1 or 2. In addition the framing of application procedures and language must ensure engagement with all constituencies. General Feedback In summary, the ATN’s response is framed within the context of the objectives of the scheme, i.e. • support for the highest‐quality research leading to the discovery of new ideas and the advancement of knowledge; • financial assistance towards facilities and equipment that researchers need to be internationally competitive; • support for the training and skills development of the next generation of researchers; and • incentives for Australia’s most talented researchers to work in partnership with leading researchers throughout the national innovation system and internationally, and to form alliances with Australian industry. In addition to ensuring the administrative arrangements support the objectives of the scheme, the ATN suggests that the funding model be mindful of having the people and facilities ‐ the right environment ‐ to attract high quality candidates both locally and internationally. We are concerned that capping the university support funding at $50,000 has the potential to undermine the Scheme. An alternative might be to match/relate the support funding to the cost of the successful project to ensure that institutions have the capacity to create the optimum environment for internationally competitive research within a strong and viable higher education sector.
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