A large number of good quality proposals were received, 178 in total, across a range of areas. The Africa Research Selection Committee (RSC) commented that Africa is clearly an area of interest and capability for Australian and international research institutions. The Committee noted that given such a large number, it might be necessary to refine the focus of research topics in the future. A total of 30 applications were shortlisted for further consideration.
There was a good spread of proposals across the sub-themes with Agriculture and Food Security receiving the most applications. The Water and Sanitation sub-theme received the least number, although these were generally of good quality.
The Committee noted that good proposals provided evidence of strong and pre-existing local partnerships, alignment with the department’s priority themes and countries in Africa, clear descriptions of research methods, and had team members with relevant skills and experience.
Those proposals that were not shortlisted often had weak demonstration of local partnerships or no evidence of collaboration locally in Africa, little evidence of relevant experience in the proposed area, or poor description of the methods proposed.
A total of 48 applications were received from a variety of research institutions in Australia and overseas under the two sub-themes (‘Improving the quality of life of people with disability’, and ‘Improving information on disability and development’), with 14 applications being shortlisted for further consideration. The Committee was pleased with the generally high quality of the proposals and the variety of proposed research activities.
In making its short-listing decisions the Committee particularly valued applications that proposed research in priority and focus countries for the department’s Development for All strategy.
The Committee tended to shortlist applications that had good, relevant and well-developed research questions and involvement and support from local organisations, especially Disabled Person’s Organisations (DPOs). The Committee also valued proposals that linked research to the local context, had effective capacity building components, credible researchers, provided a balance between research and practical relevance and benefit, and were cost effective.
The Committee also commented that it welcomed research proposals that clearly articulated how the research methods addressed the research questions and described how the research evidence would not only add to the general knowledge base of disability-inclusive development but also have practical applications for people with disability.
Applications that were not well written, incomplete, did not relate to the sub-themes, were too localised, were too ambitious in terms of the number of countries, judged to be impractical, had overly medical approaches, or were high cost in terms of what was proposed to be delivered were not shortlisted.
A total of 70 applications proposing a variety of research activities were received across the two sub-themes (‘Transitioning from school to productive livelihoods’ and ‘Improving learning outcomes for the poorest children’). Ten applications were shortlisted for further consideration.
In making its shortlisting decisions the Committee valued policy relevance to the department’s education program and specifically, the relevance and alignment of the education sub-themes to the country proposed. Those applications that were not considered relevant tended not to be shortlisted.
The Committee also valued team membership, communications and engagement, and value for money in its considerations.
Applications that were not clear, not well written, incomplete, poorly presented, had research questions that were not compelling, where there was no control group where one would add value, or where the methodology was not outlined clearly were not shortlisted.
The Committee also noted that some applications had weak relationships with in-country partners and these tended not to be shortlisted.
The Committee members received a number of good quality proposals in the 46 applications received, and shortlisted ten for further consideration.
The Committee noted that while there were a number of interesting and worthwhile applications, not all were relevant to the specified sub themes. Some quality applications did not relate to the sub themes clearly and were not shortlisted for that reason.
The Committee placed significant value on research proposals where the researchers planned to feed the results back to the local community. They thought that the research communication plan should, at a minimum, include strategies to communicate with, and provide feedback to, the research subjects.
The Committee valued research partnerships between established research institutions and local research institutions, particularly when they included, where relevant, a well-designed capacity building component. Research capacity building, for the Committee, occurred in the setting of the development research institutions rather than in the established research institution.
The Health theme attracted 113 applications across the two sub themes of universal coverage/sustainable health financing and emerging issues. With a limited amount of funding available, a vigorous shortlisting process resulted in 11 applications being further considered for funding.
The Committee noted that while there were many interesting and worthwhile applications, not all had sufficient focus on the department’s Health Policy objectives, programs and focus countries. They also noted that some applications were clinical in nature or were about product development and therefore out of scope for ADRAS funding.
The Committee also commented that in some applications the research design was not clearly articulated.
Mining for Development
A total of 29 applications were received across the three sub-themes, with the largest number in the ‘Illegal Mining’ sub theme, and the least in ‘Seabed Mining’.
Generally, the applications were of high quality and proposed a variety of research activities. The proposals included scientific based approaches, particularly in the Seabed Mining area, and social research based approaches, particularly in Illegal Mining. There was a good mix of institutions applying.
The Committee did not short list any applications that were not relevant to the department’s Mining for Development specified sub themes.
The Committee did not score highly applications that were unclear about the anticipated outcome of the research or were not clear about their objectives, methods or research questions.
The Committee also commented that some applications did not identify links to policy outcomes, or with the department’s goals. In some cases the application title did not match the content of the proposal.
A total of 11 applications were received in the first Scholarships theme to be included within the ADRAS. Five applications were shortlisted for further consideration.
The Committee noted that while there were a number of interesting and worthwhile applications, not all specifically addressed the Scholarship sub-themes (‘Barriers to reintegration’, ‘Development impact of networks’, and ‘Long term institutional impact of tertiary education scholarships’), and were not shortlisted for that reason.
The Committee valued applications with innovative and robust methodologies and where the communications plan demonstrated that the proposed research would contribute to public debate in the scholarships area.
Water, sanitation and hygiene
There was considerable interest in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene theme with 70 applications received. With a limited amount of funding available, a rigorous shortlisting process was undertaken.
The Committee noted that the applications were generally of high quality. Each sub-theme (‘Community management and the transition to professionalised management’, ‘Rural and urban sanitation’, ‘Hygiene promotion and health’, ‘Climate change, water supply and adaptation’ and ‘Water Quality’) was well represented, with a variety of research activities proposed. The Committee valued policy relevance to the WASH theme as well as the relevance and alignment of the sub-themes of each application.
In general terms, applications were not shortlisted where the Committee considered:
- they seemed to be more like a project or a consultancy, rather than research
- they had a weak link to the nominated sub-theme
- they were too broad
- they did not seem to have the potential to fill a knowledge gap
- their outcomes were not clear or were not relevant to departmental policy
- their research questions were not compelling or not clearly articulated, and/or the proposed methodology was not strong.