An Australian way for mission-driven research

The wild bunnies are back where CMM lives and he would like them gone (they scare the dog). But Tony Peacock explains working out ways to contain wildlife numbers isn’t easy – which has lessons for mission-driven research 

The former CRC Association chief, and invasive animal expert reports the ways researchers, including a succession of cooperative research centres, have worked on ways to contain populations. “I am pretty sure the series of CRCs was the biggest, most intense and best funded effort anywhere” he  writes

And there are successes, containing fox numbers in remote Australia, ideas for controlling carp based on knowledge about their breeding. But, “to my knowledge, no one has cracked the issue of widespread population control and all current fertility control is limited in scope.”

There are lessons here for the present debate on a national “mission-based” research effort. For a start, specific missions must be part of a bigger policy process, “it is vital to establish goals, to take a rounded approach beyond just the technology and to respond appropriately to shifts in the legal, community or actual landscape.”

And missions must be managed, “researchers will want a complete solution, funders will settle for progress.”

“The problem I am seeing develop in the Australian push for mission-driven research is that we look to be going down the track of putting all our effort into developing the missions. In a well-balanced innovation portfolio, there should be high risk work. The nature of research means we don’t know what is going to happen,” he tells CMM.

“We should be putting about one-third of our effort into mission selection, one-third into mission management and one-third into mission dissemination. If we have the balance right, we would actually be shutting down some missions before their anticipated completion because they haven’t worked well enough and the money is better spent elsewhere