A more transparent research funding system; a streamlined grant application process; and a Research Future Fund are the priorities highlighted by peak body Science & Technology Australia in its submission to the Inquiry into Funding Australia’s Research.
CEO of STA, Kylie Walker, commended enduring investment in research through the Australian Research Council (ARC), the creation of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), and the recent decision to implement long term-planning around research infrastructure.
“Sound investment through the ARC, the MRFF and a long-term plan for research facilities are important steps to secure a stable future for Australian research,” Ms Walker said.
“However, as the nature of science and the research sector evolves, it is important to also adapt the system for assessing and investing in promising new lines of inquiry.”
In recent years, the number of strong research proposals has flourished, yet public investment has not kept pace – resulting in worrying declines in the success of worthy applications for federal research grants.
Many researchers spend up to one-third of their time applying for funds: a streamlined process would reduce time wasted for those unlikely to be successful in their application.
“The lack of gender equity and diversity of discipline and career stage among successful grantees is also worrying, as is the confusion and a lack of transparency around the way funding is allocated,” Ms Walker said.
“This keeps the pool of government-supported researchers fairly shallow, and places a severe strain on those talented researchers struggling to find support for worthwhile projects – we should be investing in them rather than shrinking the budget.”
STA’s submission recommends a consultative approach to research funding, as the sector is eager to work with government to achieve the best outcome for Australian science and technology.
STA’s recommendations to the Inquiry included:
- Improve the transparency of funding decisions and set clear and well communicated guidelines for the allocation of public funds through the Medical Research Future Fund
- Create a consultative reform process to implement research grant funding recommendations outlined in our submission and previous reviews
- Prior to the next round of research infrastructure funding, develop clear guidelines for applying for and deciding on such funding
- Adjust the funding process for research infrastructure by consulting with the sector on the most recent allocation of funding;
- Consider applications for scoping projects at the 2-year review of research infrastructure funding;
- Create a Research Future Fund to complement the ARC, in the same way as the MRFF compliments the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
You can read the full submission online.
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