Section 5 - Assessment guidelines
The Antarctic Research Assessment Committee (ARAC) assesses all Expressions of Interest (EOIs) and full applications within the Antarctic Science program.
There are four categories of project defined in the Science Strategic Plan:
Research that encompasses short term projects (generally one year or less) designed to answer specific questions from policy-makers, environmental managers and operational users of science data.
Research that encompasses projects of medium-term duration (2–5 years) that provide findings and data of direct relevance to achieving the projected outcomes of the plan within the timeframe of the plan (i.e. there is a demonstrated link between the output of the project and the outcomes we are looking to achieve).
Encompasses longer term projects that reflect the high level goals of science priorities, but are not expected to provide outputs of direct relevance to projected outcomes of the plan within the life of the plan.
Long term monitoring projects (up to 10 years)
Assessment of the projects will be conducted using criteria-based scoring with scientific excellence as a key determinant. The strategic importance of the project will also be a major criterion. The quality and track record of the research team to deliver on time and on budget together with the outreach and education plan for the project will also be assessed. Instead of a purely additive series of criteria there will be threshold scores within criteria so that if a project does not demonstrate some key criteria at a high enough level, the project will not be given approval to proceed.
Applicants will need to articulate clearly how the expected outputs (including outreach activities and publications) of their project will contribute to the strategic goals and desired outcomes set out in the plan. As evaluation of the likely contribution of the research to achieving these outcomes will be an integral part of the assessment process, it will be important to look at the broad context of the work, and to understand where the project fits within stream project portfolios and plans. Theme Leaders can provide assistance in bringing this context to science proposals.
For projects within the Frontier Science theme, the requirement for strategic relevance to theme and stream goals will not apply. However the project must address the National Research Priorities.
All EOIs will be assessed by the ARAC. Theme Leaders will provide the ARAC with a report on how well the research proposed aligns to the Theme and Stream goals, the Data Centre will provide a report on compliance with the AADC data policy and Science Planning and Coordination section within the AAD will provide a report on compliance with grant and reporting requirements.
At the full application stage there will be at least two external reviews for all projects; however if a project is multidisciplinary up to four reviews may be sought. Science Planning and Coordination will identify suitable external reviewers in Australia and abroad, and assign applications for comment. The reviewers will consider the scientific merit of the application. Unattributed reviewer comments will be forwarded to CIs for a rejoinder prior to the project being considered by the ARAC.
Each application will be assessed by the ARAC, which is chaired by a nationally recognised expert external to the AAD. One member of the ARAC will act as sponsor for each proposal and will speak to the application in detail, interpreting the reviewer’s comments and CI’s rejoinder. The ARAC, guided by reviewers’ scores and recommendations of the Program Leader and sponsor, will consider each project and list them in order of priority.
Prior to the assessment of a project, any potential conflicts of interest should be declared to the ARAC chair. A reviewer or sponsor who has a professional interest in the outcome of competing proposals should not be involved in their assessment. During an ARAC meeting, members who are co-investigators must leave the room during the assessment of that project by the committee. All decisions on whether a conflict of interest exists will be minuted at the meeting.
The ARAC will assess the progress of continuing projects. The ARAC retains the right to reassess the conditional approval given to a continuing project if the progress of that project is considered unsatisfactory, or if the objectives, investigators, and/or research design of the project are substantially altered during the period for which the project has received conditional support.