National interest test for research: trajectory to a planet of pain

A learned reader wonders what government members on the House of Representatives committee inquiring into “the efficiency, effectiveness and coherency of Australian Government funding for research” might have to say on a national interest test, as promoted by Education Minister Tehan. It wasn’t big in submissions but there is certainly room in the brief for government members to include it in their to-come report.

Not that they need bother.

Mr Tehan has re-started an argument his predecessor Simon Birmingham ended by requiring the Australian Research Council to develop metrics for engagement and impact.  Engagement, “is defined as “interaction between researchers and research end-users outside of academia, for the mutually beneficial transfer of knowledge, technologies, methods or resources.” Impact, “is the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research.”

That should cover any relevance requirement. Unless of course Mr Tehan thinks of applying these criteria to individual ARC grants – which would buy him a blue with the basic research science community. Poking fun at the politically powerless humanities is unappealingly easy for politicians playing the populist but annoying STEM and medical scientists is a trip to a planet of pain


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