The competitive process aims to ensure value for money and achievement of the program outcomes by comparing the merits of applications.
Science Planning and Coordination
The SP&C section will provide general information to applicants on the AASP and application process, provide administrative and secretariat support to the expert assessment panel, and maintain conflict of interest registers, record keeping and other administrative support tasks. Tasks include:
- inviting competitive applications through the online application process
- being first point of contact and directing enquiries on research when needed to Theme Leaders
- receiving applications and conducting eligibility checks (if non-compliant or ineligible, the AAD may at its discretion seek additional information or request errors be remedied)
- selecting and contacting reviewers for all projects
- preparing papers for the expert assessment panel
- notifying applicants of the outcome of the application process.
Enquiries, responses and discussions with applicants will be recorded, either as a log (for phone calls), minutes (for meetings) or by filing emails and correspondence. At regular times, these records will be examined to evaluate if information needs to be disclosed to other applicants, and if so, the information will be recorded on file.
Theme Leaders will be required to sign a conflict of interest form that will be referred to and managed by the SP&C section throughout the assessment process. Refer to the conflicts of interest section for further detail.
During the application process, Theme Leaders will:
- be the starting point for applicants seeking information on research priorities within the AASP and Antarctic/subantarctic/marine science/field work, as referred by SP&C. The AAD Chief Scientist (Frontier Science Theme Leader) will be available for applicants to discuss project ideas
- following consultation with applicants, advise SP&C if information provided to an applicant needs to be made available to all applicants
- refer applicants to appropriate AAD staff for advice where required, record the main features discussed, and make records known to SP&C
- help build productive relationships with grant applicants to collaboratively achieve government policy outcomes, as per the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines
- keep a record of contact (calls (including indication of time spent), email etc.)
- make known to SP&C any conflict of interest issues if they become apparent when liaising with applicants
- cease discussion with applicants and refer to SP&C for probity advice if any potential conflicts of interest arise
- maintain confidentiality of applicant proposals.
During the assessment process, Theme Leaders will:
- be provided with copies of all applications submitted
- assess the strategic fit of each proposal to their specific theme in the Strategic Plan and implementation plans and provide this information to SP&C to compile as a report to the expert assessment panel.
If a Theme Leader is an investigator on an application, or if they are providing input to an application, they must inform SP&C as soon as possible. Another Theme Leader will be asked to conduct the assessment of that application and this information will also be provided in the report to the expert assessment panel.
Expert assessment panel
Members of the expert assessment panel are appointed by the AAD Director and assess applications against the selection criteria. The panel comprises the AAD Chief Scientist as chair, along with members including independent research experts, and government policy experts. The panel will operate as two subgroups, with the same chair, for the assessment of proposals. One subgroup will assess the strategic fit and outreach components of the application, and the other will assess the scientific aspects and budget of the proposal. Theme Leaders will participate in the strategic fit assessment subgroup but will be absent from any discussion about a project where they are listed as an investigator.
Members are required to agree to a code of conduct. Care is taken to select members who are not likely to have an interest in any potential applications and AAD staff who are not directly involved in applications. However, if this does occur, the conflict of interest activities outlined in the probity plan will apply.
The expert assessment panel will receive advice on applications compiled by SP&C based on advice from AAD staff. The panel will also be provided with external reviews of full applications, as well as rejoinders from applicants on the reviews received.
The panel’s main responsibility is to individually review and rank applications with respect to the selection criteria outlined in the AASP guidelines.
Through discussions, the panel will seek to reach consensus on the ranking of those applications. On completion of assessment, if there are dissenting views, they will be recorded and form part of the briefing to the AAD Director.
The expert assessment panel process will record:
- comment and scores against each selection criteria
- advisors (if any) and the extent of their involvement
- panel findings and recommendations.
Approval of projects and grants
The Director of AAD, based on the advice from the expert assessment panel and operational considerations, determines which projects are approved within the AASP and recommends to the Minister (or delegate who approves grant funding) which projects should receive a grant.