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Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards: Describing candidates, 5 years of data

In our last blog Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards: Predicting candidate success we discussed the data from our logistic regression model which demonstrated that the number of citations or h-index are significant predictors of DECRA funding success. In this final blog on we describe the variables for DECRA candidates which were not predictive. Why bother, you may ask? Because, it is interesting to see what the average candidate in our data looks like.

For potential candidates, this may also dispel some myths that certain aspects of a track record – such as an academic interruption – could be problematic.

Starting with the categorical data:

• Interruptions – 100 of 239 applicants reported an academic interruption

• Conference organisation - 132 of 239 applicants had organised a conference

• 94 applicants mentioned being a member of a professional committee

• 119 applicants had membership to a professional society.

• 61 applicants discussed public outreach activity

• 72 applicants mentioned involvement with government or NGOs

• 17 applicants had been involved in commercialisation activities

• 53 applicants had commercial research partners

• 149 applicants did not mention media engagements, five mentioned media engagements without providing a count, 41 mentioned between 1-10 media engagements and 43 mentioned 11 or more engagements.

As for the numerical data:

  • The average time since graduation (after any academic interruptions subtracted) was 3.28 years (SD = 1.16). The median = 3.5, mode = 4 and range was 0.4-5 years.

  • The average amount of research funding (for those who had received some) was $490 106 (SD = 1,637,977). The median was $102 792, mode was 0 and the range was $0 - $2 million. Note that the amount of funding received was highly variable and positively skewed; in this instance the median is a better measure of central tendency.

  • The average number of research grants was 4.8 (SD = 4.8), the median was 4, the mode was 0 and the range was 0-24.

  • The average number of prizes received was 3.8 (SD= 3.26), median was 3, mode was 0 and the range was 0-15.

  • The average number of invited talks given was 5.3 (SD = 7.3), median was 3.5, mode was 0 and the range was 0-45.

  • The average number of journals reviewed for was 2.01 (SD = 1.97), median was 2, mode was 2 and the range was 0-21.

  • The average number of journals edited was 0.5 (SD=1.05) the median and mode were 0 and the range was 0-8.

  • The average percentage of papers in Q1 (or equivalent) journals was 66 (SD=22.61), the median was 69%, mode was 100%, the range was 13-100%. Note that we were only able to obtain this information for 130 of the 239 applicants.

  • The average percent of papers the applicant was lead author on was 64.2 (SD = 21.3), the median was 67%, mode was 90% and the range was 1-100%.

Besides providing some more detailed information about the nature of the average DECRA applicant, it is heartening to note that not only was there no significant difference in whether they had an academic interruption (chi-square statistic is 0.001, p=0. 975) between successful or unsuccessful applicants, but also that just under 50% had experienced an academic interruption. This suggests that not only is having an academic interruption becoming normalised, but more importantly it is not necessary to have a smooth uninterrupted research career to be successful.

While it is important to have a strong track record, the story behind it is also important. This enables an assessor to appreciate the opportunities you have had for research, and what you have done with these. It is also important to show that you have been making continual and deliberate efforts to build and progress the breadth of your academic career. That so many variables do not seem to be predictive of success shows that this can be done in many ways and will vary between disciplines.

Writing about yourself and what you have done in your academic career is not easy. The GrantEd Group can support you in developing techniques to discuss your track record in a way that will enable people from a number of backgrounds and professions to understand. We can also work with you to benchmark yourself against successful fellowship candidates and develop a career plan to ensure you can be as competitive as possible in a fellowship application. To find out more about our OnTrack career coaching products click here or email us at

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