Science & Technology Australia (STA) today said it was concerned at the decline in public investment in science represented by the latest figures on Australian government expenditure on research and development (GOVERD).
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, GOVERD decreased 2% in current price terms and 4% in chain volume terms between 2014-15 and 2016-17.
STA CEO Kylie Walker said the statistics paint a worrying picture of a downward trend in research funding.
“The STEM sector was pleased to see steady investment in science and in research infrastructure in this year’s federal Budget, and welcomed the Government’s plan to build future investment, but these latest figures show that there needs to be a significant correction,” Ms Walker said.
“As the world moves rapidly into a science- and technology-driven future, Australia must reverse this downward trend to stay competitive and support internationally-leading research to fuel our future prosperity.”
According to the updated statistics, in 2016-17:
- 56% of GOVERD ($1,831 million) was directed to Applied research, 26% ($866 million) to Strategic basic research and 14% ($460 million) to Experimental development. The remaining 4% ($122 million) was directed towards Pure basic research.
- Fundamental research recorded the largest dollar decrease of $50 million (29%), followed by applied research, down $47 million (3%), and strategic basic research, down $22 million (3%) from 2014-15. Experimental development recorded the only increase in 2016-17, up $69 million (18%).
- The biggest public investment in research was in the areas of agricultural and veterinary science; medical and health science; engineering; and biological sciences.
Ms Walker said stronger investment in basic research, the foundation for current and future applied and commercialised research, is vital for the nation’s health, wealth and wellbeing.
“Curiosity-driven science unlocks cures for the world’s most deadly diseases and leads to technology that can dramatically improve our transportation, communication, lifestyles and national security, to name a few,” Ms Walker said.
“The Government made a good start to reversing this trend in this year’s Budget – as we head towards a federal election STA calls on all parties to make support for scientific research, infrastructure, and the future scientific workforce, a priority area for investment.”
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