China’s role in research: it’s no secret

Australia’s China research connection is not hidden, and it’s huge

As Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U) makes clear, China is Australia’s largest research publishing partner (CMM August 18).

The top source of funding for published research which has Australian authors is the Australian Research Council, the second is the National Natural Science Foundation of China. More Australian research articles acknowledge funding from China than from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

All up, Associate Professor Montgomery states, 15 per cent of research publications from Australian universities acknowledged funding from China last year, compared to 11 per cent from the US.

This should not be especially surprising. As Kim Carr (Labor-Victoria) pointed out in the Senate Monday, China is making enormous investments in R&D, so, “it can be a global leader in advanced manufacturing. It simply doesn’t want to accept the old division of labour that has been assigned to it.”

And while there is no hard evidence that this investment includes enlisting researchers and outright industrial espionage in Australian universities, this is probably because agents of China are ahead of our intel.

But the bigger problem does not need sleuthing.

Aspro Montgomery sets it out; “as Australian governments re-consider how much funding they make available for research, they must also consider whether the majority of the nation’s brightest minds are still going to be focused on the nation’s top research priorities.”