National Interest Test


On 31 October 2018, the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, announced the implementation of a National Interest Test as part of the ARC grant funding application process.

Under the NIT, applicants seeking funding under the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) must provide a NIT Statement that articulates the extent to which the proposed research will contribute to Australia’s national interest through its potential to have economic, commercial, environmental, social or cultural benefits to the Australian community.

In addition to the assessment criteria, the Minister may consider the NIT in determining which applications to approve.  The intent of the NIT is to provide a statement to enable the community to understand the value of the Government’s investment in research.

On the application form, applicants must provide a separate response on the national interest of the research proposal.  The Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) makes recommendations to the CEO on which applications should be approved for funding, which applications should not be approved for funding, and the level of funding and duration of each grant.

In making recommendations to the Minister the CEO will:

  1. consider the recommendations from the SAC;
  2. consider the applicant’s response to the National Interest Test;
  3. seek information from Administering Organisations on applications where there is concern about how they meet the National Interest Test based on the information provided in the application form; and
  4. make grant recommendations to the Minister that satisfy the National Interest Test and which are eligible for funding

ARC Assessment Cycle (detail including National Interest Test)

This flowchart shows the ARC’s assessment cycle

Guidance in preparing National Interest Test Statements

When preparing NIT Statements, applicants are asked to take into account the following advice.

  • NIT Statements must be between 750 and 1125 characters (between approximately 100 and 150 words).
  • NIT Statements should explain research activities, outcomes and benefits in plain English so that it is accessible to the Australian community.
  • NIT Statements should be clear and understandable to lay individuals not disciplinary experts—check the readability of NIT Statement text before submitting.
  • NIT Statements should be reasonable—that is, realistic and specific to the research project being proposed.
  • NIT Statements should be logical and must not overstate the outcomes of the research (be accurate about whether the outcomes are likely to solve all of a major problem, or contribute to the solution).
  • NIT Statements will be made public—careful attention should be given to writing and grammar. Acronyms should be avoided or spelt out.
  • NIT statements must be stand-alone statements—they may not always be read in tandem with application summaries and project titles. However, they should not repeat information from the project summary. They are about “why”, not repeating “what”.
  • NIT Statements must provide an adequate explanation of the benefit to the Australian community that is beyond the intrinsic value of undertaking the research or the reputation of a particular research discipline.
  • Suitable NIT Statements relate proposed research to policies or government initiatives, or to industry and economic values.
  • Be clear about who benefits from the research—all, or a specific section of Australia.
  • Some directions include:
    • Development of a new product, process, industry or market (which then has a described value, savings or worth)
    • Relating the work to existing or proposed policies and the issues they are focussed on addressing – perhaps in reports, commissions, data
    • Applications of the work, which then have a benefit
    • Increased understanding of something – which then has a described benefit that ensues
    • Better capacity to address a current problem – with what this alleviates or solves described.
  • The following should not be the sole rationale for why the proposed research is being undertaken:
    • enhancing the discipline’s reputation
    • training of the research workforce (instead, this could be linked to outcomes and their value)
    • production of academic publications (this is an output of the research).
  • If the proposed research is about an international matter, it is important that the NIT Statement strongly relates the research outcomes to Australia’s role and the impact for Australia.