19 November 2018
The Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Education
CC: Professor Sue Thomas, CEO, Australian Research Council
Dear Minister
I am writing as President of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. We have just completed our annual meetings last week, and I have been asked to write to you regarding recent ARC matters.
The Academy notes that you are reported as seeking a review of national interest provisions in ARC grant arrangements. The Academy has strong interest in such provisions. It has:
  • amongst its disciplines much experience in the definition of such provisions, including their incorporation in formal legislative, regulatory and expenditure review for government;
  • substantial concerns over the present national interest provisions for the ARC, which do appropriately draw on technological perspectives but lack any clear incorporation of social science dimensions; and
  • a view that the definition of areas for ARC grant support should also take into account other government support for priority driven research, in determining the distribution of grant allocations by the ARC.  
ASSA wished to ensure that social sciences are consulted about these matters.
Nothing at present has been conveyed to us directly, though we have approached the ARC previously seeking mutual collaborative discussion of problems of HASS representation in ARC outcomes for Australia.
Our 600 plus Fellows, comprising Australia’s senior researchers in the social sciences in Australia, are concerned at this apparent indifference and are asking for the Academy to follow up on their behalf and keep them informed.
The Academy believes that there are national interest formulations that can accomodate the full range of priority concerns for Australia’s future, and the social sciences can and should assist in their definition, including through this Learned Academy.
It also has shown through social science research the high rate of social return for research, well ahead of Department of Finance hurdle rates of return and ahead of outlays in many other areas. Properly informed review could enhance this return even further.

For further information please contact:
Academy President Professor Glenn Withers AO

Response Received – 11 January 2019