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Reprieve for nation’s research facilities: But where’s the money coming from?

Scientists and researchers across the Australia are relieved to hear of the reprieve for the nation’s 27 major national research facilities, but concerns remain about the source of the funding.

STA CEO Catriona Jackson said Education Minister Christopher Pyne had indicated that he had heard the nation’s science and business leaders and de-linked the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure System (NCRIS) funding from the fate of the university de-regulation package.

“The 27 NCRIS facilities are the backbone of the nation’s research effort, employing 1700 highly skilled scientists and technicians, and used by 35,000 top researchers from home and overseas,” Ms Jackson said.

“Many were on the brink of shutdown as their annual operating funding became caught up in the wrangle over university deregulation.

“At risk was Australia’s ability to operate as a modern scientific nation, as well a decade-long $3.5 billion capital investment – the brain-child of John Howard.

“The reprieve is a cause for celebration for all Australians but we must not allow ourselves to land in this position again. Long-term, stable and sustainable funding must be identified for research infrastructure so science and business can continue to plan for research and innovation with certainty.

“STA calls on the Minister to guarantee that the $150 million for NCRIS will not be cut out of other research programs. Minister Pyne said only that ‘offsets’ had been found, and that details would be revealed in the upcoming budget. If this means robbing our research effort budget to pay for research infrastructure operations it would be highly counterproductive.

“We are also concerned about the fate of the ARC Future Fellows Program, which funds the work of our best and brightest mid-career researchers. It was also promised in the last budget and, like NCRIS, linked by Minister Pyne to fate of the deregulation package. Now that package has been split surely it is time for the fate of our best and brightest mid career researchers to be released from this mess as well.”

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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Media comment: STA CEO Catriona Jackson – 0417 142 238

17 March 2015

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