Tony Abbott

Independence of research funding critical

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott

Scientists around the nation are profoundly concerned by news today that a Coalition Government would interfere in Australia’s independent system of research-grant funding.

STA CEO Catriona Jackson said: “The Coalition Government has this afternoon confirmed it would, if elected, re-prioritise funding through the nation’s key independent granting body Australian Research Council (ARC).

“Specific research projects – all in the arts and social sciences – have been labeled ‘increasingly ridiculous’. But scientists know that the flow of new knowledge is critical to the kinds of ‘real word’ results that all Australians are proud of, and that the Coalition is calling for.

“It was CSIRO scientist John O’Sullivan’s search for exploding black holes that led to his discovery of wireless technology that has swept the world, and earned Australia $500 million in royalties with probably as much again to come.

“Australians should ask: Do we want politicians picking and choosing which grant proposals deserve funding?

“The Coalition statement raises a number of critical questions:

•       How would the new grants process work?

•       Who would make the final funding call?

•       How much would this new process cost, and would it simply add another political or bureaucratic layer?

“Scientists and research funding agencies understand that Governments set priorities for research and that this is entirely valid given we do not have the resources to fund everything.

“Priority setting is very different from political picking and choosing.

“Only a quarter of research grant bids that go to the ARC each year are successful. Only the best of the very best get through the very careful peer review, expert-driven process.”

STA is the peak group for the nation’s 68,000 scientists and those working in technology. STA’s mission is to bring together scientists, governments, industry and the broader community to advance the role, reputation and impact of science and technology in Australia.


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