Application assessment

All applications for sea time, irrespective of access stream applied for, are assessed against criteria under two merit principles: Research Quality and Research Benefit.

Access to grants of sea time on Research Vessel (RV) Investigator offer a valuable but limited resource, and the grants program represents a significant investment of funding by the Australian Government. Researcher demand for grants of sea time consistently exceeds availability.

All research delivered by the Marine National Facility (MNF) is expected to be of the highest research quality and offer the greatest national benefit to justify the allocation of MNF resources.

Research Quality

The merit principle of Research Quality (RQ) has four separate criteria that need to be addressed by applicants:

  • Research Rationale
  • Research Rigour
  • Research Flexibility
  • Research Capability

To be supported, research should have a robust disciplinary rationale, clear and appropriate objectives, sound methods, demonstrable feasibility, the prospect of informative results and be being delivered by researchers with the appropriate expertise.  

Research Benefit

The merit principle of Research Benefit (RB) has four separate criteria that need to be addressed by applicants:

  • Research Benefit
  • Research Outputs
  • Path to Benefit
  • Capacity to Deliver Benefit

To be supported, research should align with national interests, be likely to deliver upon national needs, have a path to impact and the right team to deliver benefit.

Assessment criteria 

Applicants will be asked to complete two questions against each of the merit criteria. The questions are designed to allow assessment of proposals against the specific attributes of research quality and research benefit.

Research Quality (RQ)

Assessment of the Research Quality will be conducted by the MNF Research Advisory Committee (RAC).

All supported research should have a robust disciplinary rationale, clear and appropriate objectives, sound methods, demonstrable feasibility, the prospect of informative results, and be being done by people with appropriate expertise. 

1. Research Rationale

RQ1A - Scientific Rationale

Explain the scientific reasons for doing this research.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Demonstrate an up-to-date understanding of the status and relevance of the proposed area of research.
  • Demonstrate the proposed research is well-grounded in the theory and practice of relevant disciplinary and/or multi-disciplinary fields.
  • Present a clear advance/progress in the identified technology/research area/discipline/stream.
  • Detail how the proposed work clearly links to the motivation of the stream applied for.

RQ1B - Research Questions

 State the research objectives and explain their relevance to the Stream strategy. 

In answering this question, you should:

  • State research objectives clearly by specific and unambiguous reference to the research or technological questions or hypotheses that are being addressed.
  • Explain how the research objective and questions arise from the rationale for the project.

2. Research Rigour

RQ2A – Research Design

 Describe the research approach, including sampling, experimental programmes and proposed analyses, that is robust and sufficient to meet project objectives.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Describe the sampling or experimental design and planned analyses for the proposed research.
  • Demonstrate how the design of the proposed research is consistent with current best practice, robust and appropriate and sufficient to meet the project objectives. 

RQ2B – Methods

 Describe the methods, whether well-established or innovative, that are fit-for-purpose and appropriate for the objectives of the work. 

In answering this question, you should make sure they: 

  • Provide detail around the research methods proposed, demonstrating that, whether well-established or innovative, they are fit-for-purpose and appropriate for the objectives of the work. 
  • Demonstrate that they have considered the most efficient and effective approaches to collecting data and/or samples.
  • Clearly indicate if any of the methods proposed are developmental or innovative and describe how potential risks of using such cutting-edge methods will be mitigated.

3. Research Feasibility

RQ3A – Voyage

Provide a plan for voyage work, including pre-voyage activities, that is efficient and feasible with the facilities, funding and sea-time available.

Note: voyage work should be well aligned with relevant information provided in the Logistics Section of this Application Form, including with respect to the scientific instrument and equipment to be deployed.

In answering this question, you should: 

  • Include a preliminary voyage plan that has enough detail to justify the efficient use of the resources involved (i.e. sea days and berths) and to demonstrate that the project proposed can be completed on time.
  • Demonstrate they have considered risks and limitations and have factored these in their plan.
  • Provide evidence, if relevant, of a plan to obtain funding to support voyage related expenses, including transportation of gear, samples and personnel.

RQ3B – Post-voyage work and research outputs

 Outline your post-voyage plan of work, including lab-work, data/sample processing and the research outputs that will result from your analyses.

Note: details of samples and data management plans are to be provided in the Compliance with MNF Policies Section of the Application Form.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Demonstrate that they have a realistic and appropriate plan for finalising sample and data processing and analysis and the preparation of key research outputs.
  • Articulate the proposed research outputs and explain their appropriateness for the research field.
  • Demonstrate support has been secured from institutions external to the proposal but required for completion of post-voyage work and outputs.
  • Provide evidence, if relevant, of a plan to obtain funding to support post-voyage work, including production and dissemination of research outputs.

4. Research Capability

RQ4A – Team Capability (Research)

 Demonstrate that the research team has the essential capability and experience to complete the proposed work, both during and following the voyage.

Note: details of research track record and publication output will be assessed relative to opportunity.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Describe how the team has the breadth of disciplinary and professional capabilities required to successfully deliver the work proposed.
  • Provide evidence of research capability and research delivery for each team member (relative to opportunity). Attach up to date CV for the voyage leader and PIs.
  • Demonstrate that sufficient time commitment has been made by team members to complete research objectives.

RQ4B – Leadership

Demonstrate the research team includes appropriate leadership both on land and at sea.

Note: Evidence of leadership will be assessed relative to opportunity.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Provide clear evidence of how the project leader(s) will ensure successful delivery of the proposed outcomes, both during the voyage and the delivery of the research outputs.
  • Provide clear evidence of previous voyage leadership experience or clearly articulate how leadership support and mentoring will be provided for first-time voyage leaders and PIs.
  • Explain how the project leader(s) propose to engage with the broad range of researchers.

Research Benefit (RB)

Assessment of the Research Benefit will be conducted by the MNF National Benefit Advisory Committee (NBAC).

All supported research should also align with national interests, be likely to deliver upon national needs, have a path to impact and the right team to deliver benefit to justify investment of MNF resources.

1. Benefit Rationale

RB1A – National interest and user needs

Provide the rationale for the project in terms of national interest and user needs.

In answering this question, you should: 

  • Explain the national relevance of the proposed research.
  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of the needs (policy, regulatory, innovation or industry) that the proposed research will address. 

RB1B - Benefit objectives

State the project benefit objectives and explain how they align with the needs of end-users.

In answering this question, you should:

  • State the objectives of the research in the context of the benefits to be delivered.
  • Identify clearly the stakeholders for the research—including next- and end- users.
  • Explain how the proposed research addresses an end-user need and/or benefit to the nation. 

2. Benefit Outputs

RB2A – Alignment

 Describe the benefit outputs and justify them in the context of their alignment to the identified needs.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Describe the proposed outputs and articulate how these are matched to national interests and/or to meet end-user demand.
  • Demonstrate that the outputs will be fit-for-purpose for adoption by the expected next- or end-users.

RB2B – Delivery Plan

Outline your benefit delivery plan in the context of your research project timeframe and funding constraints.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Provide a plan (including outputs format and delivery mode and timetable) for delivering the intended benefits within available time and resources.
  • Explain how they have assessed users’ needs and constraints and factored these in the design of the delivery plan.
  • Provide evidence that adequate resources are available to deliver the proposed benefits.

3. Path to Benefit

RB3A – Engagement and Adoption

Describe key engagement activities for promoting and assisting adoption of project outputs.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Describe how next- and end-users and other relevant stakeholders will be engaged at critical points of the project. 
  • Outline a strategy for maximising uptake of the research results and outputs.
  • Demonstrate how the planned outputs will be applied to effect change in the relevant operational domain.
  • Provide evidence that the end-users endorse your approach and delivery plan.

RB3B – Evaluation of Performance

Describe how you will evaluate your effectiveness in delivering the intended benefit. 

In answering this question, you should: 

  • Demonstrate that consideration has been given to what effective delivery will look like, based on understanding of the pathway from research outputs to user benefit to impact.
  • Articulate any performance measures they intend to use to evaluate the success of their project in delivering the stated benefits.
  • Explain how they plan to disseminate information about the impact of their research.

4. Delivery Capability and Education Opportunities

RB4A – Team Capability (Benefit Delivery)

Provide evidence that the project team includes people with demonstrated capability to deliver benefits effectively to end-users.

Note: capabilities will be assessed relative to opportunity.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Provide evidence (e.g. through publications, products, testimonials) that the research team has the capabilities and capacity to engage effectively with next- and/or end-users to deliver benefit (applicable to Early Career Researchers) or previously delivered outputs of demonstrable utility to next- and/or end-users in appropriate forms (applicable to senior researchers).
  • Demonstrate that the team has the experience and capability required to successfully deliver the intended benefits, including team member responsibilities for delivery (e.g. who will have leadership of delivering outputs or products to end-users). Output delivery can be led by researchers with little relevant experience provided there is a robust strategy for them to be mentored by others with a sound track-record of end-user engagement.

RB4B – Education and Training Opportunities

Outline the education, training and capacity building opportunities and explain how these contribute strategically to the objectives of the Stream.

In answering this question, you should:

  • Describe education, training and or capacity building activities.
  • Provide evidence of targeted capacity building, training and education opportunities that have been clearly linked to the research objectives and field work plan.
  • Explain the benefits of research training and education opportunities of the team’s research program with respect to national priorities or next- and/or end-user needs or the wider marine community.

Assessment process

Research Advisory Committee

The Research Advisory Committee (RAC) assesses your application and advises the MNF Steering Committee on matters relating to your proposal’s alignment with Research Quality.

RAC membership is comprised of marine research experts from diverse backgrounds.

For further information about the RAC’s role, membership and Terms of Reference visit link.

National Benefit Advisory Committee

The National Benefit Advisory Committee (NBAC) assesses your application and advises the MNF Steering Committee on matters relating to your proposal’s alignment with Research Benefit.

NBAC membership is comprised of user groups including government, industry and research institutes from diverse backgrounds. Committee members may seek external opinion and review as part of their assessment process.

For further information about the NBAC’s role, membership and Terms of Reference visit link.

Independent Expert Assessors

All applications will be independently reviewed by up to 4 national and international assessors.

Assessor(s) will be sourced from the national and international expert pool for the applicant’s discipline and asked to evaluate your responses to the Research Quality criteria.

Operational and scheduling feasibility

The MNF Operations Team assess each proposal for both logistic and scheduling feasibility.

Taking into account seasonal, regional, equipment and/or personnel, MNF will advise the MNF Steering Committee of the overall feasibility of each proposal.

This information does not impact the proposal’s score, rather informs the MNF SC’s final decision as to whether a meritorious proposal is feasible with a voyage schedule. 

MNF Steering Committee

The MNF Steering Committee (MNF SC) assists the CSIRO Board to fulfil its governance responsibilities by providing high level advice on the ongoing delivery of ocean research capabilities for the nation.

Recommendations and scores from RAC, NBAC and External Assessors are compiled, ranked and provided to the MNF SC for consideration in parallel with MNF operational and scheduling feasibility reports.

A proposed voyage schedule will be complied into a recommendation to the MNF Director.

For further information about the MNF SC, including delineation of its role, membership, Charter and Terms of Reference view link.

MNF Director

The MNF Director will consider the MNF SC recommendation, including operational feasibility and scheduling constraints, and the make the final decision on the application’s outcome:

>> Sea time granted

If the application is successful, the applicant will be notified and provided with an offer of sea time and formal agreement.

>> Sea time not granted

If the application is unsuccessful, the applicant will be notified and provided with feedback.

Further information

FAQ

With a fixed budget for the Granted Voyage schedule, the MNF is unable to fund additional days at sea and must at least recover the incremental operating costs for the vessel. Commercial rates will apply to proposals deemed subject to competitive neutrality policy.