Research grants to be reviewed

Aimee Chanthadavong
Senior Reporter

A future Shorten Government has promised it will end political interference in the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) grants process.

“Bill Shorten has declared that if Labor wins the upcoming federal election we will end the Coalition’s war on science and research,” Opposition research spokesperson Kim Carr has said.

He said, if elected into Parliament in the upcoming federal elections in May, Labor will restore integrity of the ARC’s grant process by legislating a requirement that Ministers must table an explanation into Parliament within 15 sitting days of rejecting any recommendation of funding by the chief executive office.

This comes following the release of the first national engagement and impact assessment report, an initiative under the federal government’s national innovation and science agenda. The assessment forms part of the ARC’s Excellence in Research for Australian (ERA) report.

The report found 43 per cent of research projects were rated as having a “high” positive impact on everyday lives, and 34 per cent were rated as having “high” engagement with end users.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the assessment allows Australian taxpayers to understand how their money is being spent on research.

“The transparent reporting of university performance will encourage universities to focus on working with industry and other stakeholders on research projects that deliver real results for real people,” he said.

Senator Carr slammed the report as “inefficient and wasteful” use of researchers’ time, and features all the “hallmarks of a bureaucratic, half-baked scheme”, which the ARC has “not been allowed to, nor has been give the time to try and get right.”

“The new research assessment is a confused and contradictory piece of public policy, which will undermine research excellence and has only been done to appease the most reactionary elements of the right wing of the Liberal party,” he said.

“It is untested, confusing and is not linked to funding. [The assessment] relies on a limited range of metrics which equates income from government grants and the private sector to engagement.”

Senator Carr, however, assured he is still a strong supporter of ERA, which is used to measure the quality of university research against global standards.

He added the Labor government would, for the first time, establish an inquiry into strengthening research capabilities across whole-of-government, and set a target to lift Australian spending on R&D from 1.8 per cent of GDP to 3 per cent to restore the country’s international competitiveness.

A charter with the Australian science and research community would be developed to establish the reciprocal roles, responsibilities and expectations of government and researchers, according to Senator Carr.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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