Submission—Review of closer collaboration between universities and major publicly funded research agencies

The Academy made the following submission to the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training's Research Collaboration Review on 27 August 2003.


The Australian Academy of Science proposes a model for enhanced collaboration in Australia's innovation system via a postdoctoral fellowship scheme, involving universities, Publicly Funded Research Agencies and industry.

The proposed criteria for selection of postdoctoral fellows would be refined in consultation with the relevant Publicly Funded Research Agencies and industry. Selection would be competitive and administration would be independent of government and under the auspices of a committee of the Joint Academies.

The Review of Closer Collaboration between Universities and Major Publicly Funded Research Agencies provides the opportunity to consider innovative mechanisms to develop collaboration and knowledge transfer in science and technology between those in Publicly Funded Research Agencies and industry, and those in the higher education sector.

The Academy has argued in the past that 'the Australian Government must encourage a shared vision for Australian higher education, in which government, universities and the private sector work for the common good of Australia'. [1] In addition, this vision 'should include recognition of the roles of government research agencies such as CSIRO, ANSTO, AIMS...[to] contribute widely to research training at postgraduate and postdoctoral levels'.

Eligible Publicly Funded Research Agencies would include ANSTO, DSTO, AIMS and CSIRO.The Academy proposes that the Linkage-Australian Postdoctoral Fellowships (CSIRO), presently administered by the Australian Research Council (ARC), be integrated into the new model, with funds and funds administration transferred to the Joint Academies.

The model focuses on a change in the dynamics for science and research through the new production of knowledge. [2] The model also draws on the idea of network governance [3] and national innovation systems [4] [5], in which operationally autonomous but mutually independent and specialised agents or organisations are drawn together for decision-making in a regulative and cognitive framework. This new model is an alternative to using conventional government decision-making.


This current Review seeks to examine scope for greater collaboration between universities and major Publicly Funded Research Agencies, including the extent to which such collaboration can improve research outcomes, achieve more efficient and effective use of resources and strengthen institutional performance.It also seeks to consider the potential for greater synergies between universities and Publicly Funded Research Agencies, possible models for closer collaboration, scope to promote a greater focus on commercialisation of research through collaboration, and possible alternative funding models to promote excellence across the national research effort.

The Australian Academy of Science, in addition to its general support for the role of government research agencies such as CSIRO, ANSTO and AIMS in contributing widely to research training at the postdoctoral level, has previously expressed support for exciting new initiatives within CSIRO that aim to provide greater focus on partnerships with universities and other research providers.The Academy recognises a need for these initiatives to be seen as a component of the total national effort and as a collaborative and innovative part of Science Australia. [6]

The Publicly Funded Research Agencies of CSIRO, ANSTO, AIMS and DSTO are recognised by the Government as mission-oriented – focusing on public good and industry research, both strategic basic and applied.These organisations already contribute importantly to postgraduate education in linkages with the university sector.They also contribute importantly within their own organisations to postdoctoral training and development.

What is required is a mechanism to enhance communication and innovation in science and technology between researchers in industry, major Publicly Funded Research Agencies and those in the higher education sector – for the benefit of the overall Australian scientific research effort, the participating institutions and agencies, and the individual scientist.A scheme is needed to provide opportunities for researchers in the natural and applied sciences to work outside the higher education system on a project at any stage from fundamental science to industrial innovation.The aim is to facilitate scientific discussion and knowledge transfer, and to establish long-lasting personal and corporate linkages between the three sectors in Australia.

A new production of knowledge and national systems for innovation

The Academy recognises that the ARC currently administers a range of schemes that support postdoctoral activities in basic scientific research, industry-linkage research and specific research linkages with CSIRO.In all three schemes, researchers are located within higher education institutions.The funding, guidelines, administration and decision-making for these schemes are vested in the ARC.In addition, selection is made in line with National Research Priorities and academic performance.

While this mode has been successful in the past, and may continue, Gibbons [7] proposes that an alternative mode is becoming important in changing research practice.In the past, problems have been set and solved in a context governed by the (largely) traditional academic interests of a specific community, but there is now a need to produce knowledge in the context of application, involving a much broader range of perspectives.This shift calls on the participation of business, industry and other research agencies in knowledge production, and hence training of researchers.It also requires a rethinking of the distribution of research funding.

Taking a systematic perspective on innovation [8] , involving the interaction of a range of organisations, develops long-term relationships, establishes trust, and builds channels of communication.Three different delimitations of innovation systems are identified – extended R&D systems, extended production systems, and extended production and competence-building systems.Such innovation requires the contribution of a range of institutions.

Translating these new approaches – production of knowledge, national innovations systems and network governance – into a new postdoctoral model would require an organisation (or organisations) other than the ARC to oversee selection and management of particular focused postdoctoral research.While such responsibility could be transferred, with funding, directly to the Publicly Funded Research Agencies and/or industry, an alternative would be for a committee of the Joint Academies to assume responsibility, with active input from the agencies and industry.Besides providing checks and balances this also has the advantage of disaggregating decision-making.

Funding for innovative research collaboration

The ARC currently allocates and administers funds for Discovery and Linkage fellowships, as well as receiving and reviewing progress and final reports.

It is proposed that new funding to support fellowships in this proposal be made available to the Joint Academies Fellowships Committee for allocation.For ease of administration, it is proposed that the funds would be managed by the Australian Academy of Science, and that fellowship reports would be received by the Academy for review by the Joint Academies Fellowship Committee.The Joint Academies would require support for administering the program.

The collaborative fellowship model

The following provides a framework for the practical operation of the model.

1. Nomenclature

Joint Academies Collaborative Postdoctoral Fellowships

2. Criteria

Place of tenure of fellowship

Awards will be held in an Australian Publicly Funded Research Agency, or in industry, and fellows are expected to be based and working at that host site.

Subject of study

The fellowship research topic must be approved by the host institution or industrial organisation where the award is to be held, and by the Joint Academies Fellowships Committee.
The scheme would support projects in any field of the natural and applied sciences.The project should be a significant element of an organisation’s research, development, design, or manufacturing program and/or important in its potential effect on the research of an academic institution.


Applicants will be Australian citizens or permanent residents and hold a PhD, or be of equivalent standing in their profession.
Candidates must normally hold a substantive post in a university or similar academic institution as a scientist, mathematician or engineer, or be employed as a scientist, mathematician or engineer in industry or a Publicly Funded Research Agency.
Candidates should be at early-career stage.An important requirement is that the fellow should have significant achievement in his/her home organisation and a substantial career should be ahead of the fellow at the end of the award, to build upon the contacts made during the fellowship.
Preference would be given to candidates who show evidence of previous contact with, or interest in, the other sector of employment.
The model does not exclude the award of fellowships to new postgraduates.Such candidates would be expected to have evidence of contact or interest in research of the allied organisations, as evidenced by the PhD topic and/or interaction during the period of the PhD.

3. Period of award

Full-time awards can be of any period up to three years’ duration.

4. Funding

It is envisaged that up to eight fellowships might be offered annually, with the fellows’ salary within the minimum range for researcher Level A/Level B [9] . However, to provide comparability with salaries in the industry sector, this level may require reconsideration.One option could be that industrial firms enhance, where necessary, the salary of an academic to an appropriate industrial level when acting as the host partner, or to maintain their own employee at the usual salary level if the fellowship is attached to another institution.
Selected fellows would normally retain their existing employment and the employer would be responsible for the arrangement and the provision of sick leave, superannuation and related contributions.The Joint Academies would reimburse the employer for salary only.
Cost of travel and removal to the new workplace will normally be borne by the existing employers under their usual rules, unless alternative arrangements are agreed between the parent and host organisations.
Where new graduates are awarded fellowships, the new employer would be reimbursed salary costs.

5. Research support and additional funds and allowances


The host organisation would be expected to provide all facilities and equipment necessary for the project and fellowships would be made on the presumption that adequate resources will be available for the research program proposed.

Research grants

It is proposed that successful candidates would also be eligible to apply for additional funding through the ARC or other funding bodies to assist the costs of their research more effectively.

Personal travel and fieldwork expenses

Where fieldwork or visits to other institutions are directly associated with and are essential to the fellowship and where a research grant application would not be appropriate, a contribution towards the fellow’s personal expenses within approved limits could be envisaged.Contributions towards the cost of attending conferences, workshops, symposia or similar functions might also be considered.These additional levels of support would need to be factored into total funding provided to the Joint Academies for disbursement.

6. Rights in patents and other exploitable results

The Joint Academies recognise that under such a fellowship scheme the industrial employer or host body may have a commercial interest in the exploitation of results which needs to be taken into account. Applicants should show that any results will be exploited, and that a suitable return will be secured for the institution and the fellow.Any collaboration agreement must reflect the interests of the employer, the host institution and the Joint Academies.When negotiating the terms of a collaboration agreement or before making any other commitment to a third party, the fellow should consult the appropriate official in the his/her institution and should inform the Joint Academies of developments.


© 2021 Australian Academy of Science