LaTrobe VC John Dewar has challenged the Australian Research Council over the ministerial veto on research projects, uncovered by Labor’s Kim Carr in Senate Estimates. Former education minister Simon Birmingham cancelled a range of humanities grants, including one for an LT U academic.
In a message to staff, Professor Dewar and DVC R Keith Nugent condemn the minister’s action, writing they are, “greatly alarmed that a research application from one of our outstanding emerging academics, that was judged in a competitive process to be excellent by their academic peers has been rejected in this way.
However, they hold some of their ire for the ARC.
“More concerning, however, is the fact that the minister’s actions were concealed, both by the minister himself and by the ARC. The feedback to the applicant stated that the application was not highly ranked. This was untrue, and profoundly misled the university and researcher involved. … This is a deeply unsatisfactory state of affairs, that has the potential to undermine the ARC’s system of peer review.”
They add La Trobe U will, “press the government and the ARC for an adequate explanation of this sorry state of affairs.”
ARC chair Sue Thomas responded that, the decision on funding was the ministers to make and that he is not required to provide reasons for decisions. “The ARC cannot comment in matters regarding the minister’s decision but will investigate the feedback provided to these proposals.”
Scroll down for reaction and comment to the Birmingham veto controversy.