Some tips on ARC Discovery Grant writing

It’s that time of year again when many of us are spending every waking moment working on some ARC grant application. I’m currently writing a Discovery Grant application and there are quite a lot of differences in this year’s application compared to previous years. These include:

  • The section numbering. What was E is now C, and there are new letters F and G.
  • More work! For example, in F13.3, each of the “Ten-best career publications” requires a 30 word description of the impact and significance of the publication. Each paper in F13.2 (papers from the last five years) must be aligned with a previous Discovery Project if applicable.
  • No paper printout, everything is uploaded in the RMS system.

I am currently about half-way through and here are some things I’ve learnt so far which might help you in economising your time and effort:

  • The budget part hasn’t changed much from previous years, so you can do what you always did. The only difference is that you do everything through RMS.
  • First write down your objectives for C2, and use these as notional subheadings for C3 and C4.
  • Then start writing “C3 Significance and Innovation”. I think of this section as the middle ground, and so what you over-write here usually spills over into C2 and C4. The C2 section gives the subtext and philosophy of the project without details on the background theory. The background theory finds its place in C3 because usually the significance, motivation, innovation and impact is better phrased within a story of the subject.
  • C4 is really the “how to” part of the proposal. When you feel like you’ve started describing methodology in C3, move the material to C4, but don’t be afraid to write too much in C3. I find it difficult to separate the two sections while I’m writing. I think it is best to write a whole slab of stuff on a particular topic, and then separate them into the two sections afterwards.
  • C2 is now much easier to write when you can see what examples and themes you will need to make C3 and C4 easier to understand and more cohesive. Be imaginative, write enthusiastically and do a lot of brain-storming with your C2 section. This is probably the most important part of the application. Your C2 should be understandable to another academic who may not be familiar with your discipline, but might be from an allied discipline (e.g., physics and chemistry, history and english literature).

If you are also hard at work on your grant proposal and have spotted some “things to be careful of” items, please comment below. Good luck!


5 thoughts on “Some tips on ARC Discovery Grant writing

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  1. Here is another thing I’ve found: this year, the margin permission is 0.5cm, which at first you would think is way too small, but it is there for a special reason. After you have uploaded all your PDFs, you will compile the full proposal document as one PDF (this button is on the front page of the draft proposal screen). Each PDF is framed with (I guess) a 2cm margin, effectively embedding your PDF into another PDF by shrinking your work a little. So you should go for the 0.5cm option, otherwise you will have this huge amount of white space in the final product. Here’s a quick way to do it:


  2. Just some news on F13. The parts F13.1, F13.4 and F13.5 require the applicant to enter text into boxes (as opposed to uploading a PDF attachment). Unfortunately, RMS does not permit any formatting or line spaces, and so after compiling the master PDF, it all turns into a solid block of text which is not clear enough for assessors to read, and no-doubt, the applicant will cop the criticism for it from the assessors…

    If anyone has found a way around it, let us know. We’ve tried html and xml commands, to no avail.

  3. Another tip, which I overlooked when reading the “Instructions to Applicants”. When entering the budget items, the items auto-populate each year. You can’t change the descriptions unless you change all of them (see what happens when you save). So enter in all the descriptions in the first year: for example, “Travel expenses for Visitor X” and “Travel expenses for Visitor Y”. The items which have a 0 next to them for a particular year will not show up in the compiled PDF. So it works quite well once you know how.

  4. do you guys have a latex template for ARC proposal? or where can i find it? very new to this land. need to find my way. thanks!

  5. I would also be very interested in a LaTeX template.

    I have found a couple from US sites: one for NIH grants at and two for NSF ones: the first is at, and the second at

    I suspect any of these could be easily altered to the ARC format if anyone could be bothered? I haven’t read the rules closely enough yet to see if there are any formatting requirements other than the 0.5 cm margin, but possibly one could just use a plain \documentclass{article} format for the project description, since the rest of it is all online?

    Any suggestions would be most welcome.

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