Lobbies approve research infrastructure plan

Research lobbies were pleased, up to a predictable point in some cases, with yesterday’s research infrastructure spending plan.

The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes was happy with the budget and is happy with this new funding calling it a “much welcomed long-term commitment to ensuring Australian researchers have the tools they need to make new discoveries in medical research.”

Universities Australia was also happy, with brand new CEO (designate) Catriona Jackson calling it, “a smart investment.”

“It keeps us in the race on the kinds of research that are fundamental to our economic and social prosperity. … These facilities are the backbone of our research effort and it is great to see their future so strongly backed by government,” she said.

The Innovative Research Universities agreed, saying its members are investing “a lot of time and money” researching “real-life problems, “but rely on a solid research base to make it happen.”

ANU VC Brian Schmidt also welcomed the plan, taking the opportunity to mention that his university would host three of the programmes.

But while the Academy of Science welcomed the investment plan, it worried that there is not enough detail on when money will actually be spent.

The Group of Eight also tempered its praise. Executive Director Vicki Thomson described the plan as a “strong signal of Australia’s capacity as a research nation.” However, she regretted the government’s refusal to set up an independent advisory group and to use the money still in the Education Investment Fund as originally intended. (The government wants the $3.8bn to go to the NDIS.)

Opposition research shadow Kim Carr was not having any of it, calling the plan; “a pre-election stunt by a desperate government.” The fund will only spend $5.5m in the next financial year and $1.5bn “is not accounted for in the budget,” the senator said.

There was silence from the only apparent losers, humanities researchers. The 2016 roadmap recommended, “enhanced digitisation aggregation and interpretation platform processes,” for the humanities and social sciences. The urban research network delivers, a bit, for some social sciences but the humanities look out of luck.


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