Creating equitable grant opportunities for humanities researchers

The Academy of the Humanities welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Review of the Australian Research Council (ARC), National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP).

The ARC is the only source of government funding for basic research in the humanities and the primary source of industry-related collaborative funding.

What we know

  • Federal funding for research in the humanities is more limited than it is for the sciences.
  • Humanities and social sciences are explicitly excluded from participating in several targeted government funding programs, leaving the ARC Discovery program as the only option for basic research funding.
  • The one-size-fits-all approach taken in Discovery has inflated the cost of humanities research while supporting a shrinking number of projects and individual researchers.
  • Success rates are shrinking and are dominated by senior researchers; the expanded focus on the track record of the investigator is effectively shutting out early career researchers.
  • The success rates in fellowship programs such as the Laureates (below 5% for HASS applicants) also underlines how difficult it is for researchers who are not working within an empirical or scientific tradition to receive funding.
  • The design, scale and assessment assumptions for the Centres of Excellence weighs heavily against successful applications from humanities researchers and collectives.

Implications for the nation

Humanities knowledges, analysis and research have never been more crucial as the nation deals with significant waves of social, cultural, economic and technological change. Major challenges to which research in the HASS disciplines will be fundamental include the social and cultural adaptation to climate change, understanding the roots of gendered violence, understanding the crisis in the public formation of knowledge and opinion (‘the rise of misinformation’), understanding the impact and possible uses of AI, developing a pathway towards the civilising regulation of social media, and engagement with Indigenous knowledges (to name a few examples).

What we’d like to see

 There are several key priorities we’d like the Review to consider, to support humanities research.

A review from first principles:

  • The current suite of funding schemes within the NCGP is the product of many iterations, revisions, additions and subtractions.
  • The Panel must approach this review from first principles, considering what the grant scheme is to achieve and how it should be designed to meet that objective.
  • The scheme must incorporate the necessary flexibility to include particular research practices across the full range of Fields of Research.

Address under-represented groups:

  • More support for women, early to mid-career researchers, and Indigenous researchers within a system that has progressively tilted towards senior and established researchers.

The Academy notes that the creation and dissemination of new knowledge has slipped off the policy agenda for research funding in recent years. This should be recovered and added as an objective of the scheme, alongside ‘research excellence’ and ‘research capacity’.

Read our submission.

Policy & advice

We provide independent expert advice about the humanities in Australia and apply humanities expertise to public policy challenges. Key areas of focus in our policy work include national research infrastructure, research engagement and impact, humanities skills and capability development, and international collaboration.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.