Outrage all over: higher education responds to vetoed ARC grants

There was uniform outrage at the Australian Research Council evidence at Senate Estimates that Simon Birmingham rejected approved humanities research grants. Universities whose researchers were vetoed spoke out, as did individuals and organisation across the HE spectrum. Here’s a cross-section;

Natasha Abrahams (Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations): “this is a sad day for Australia’s research community – including research students – as it has become apparent that the government values pushing its own agenda over innovation, intellectual robustness, and transparency.”

Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering: “the integrity of the research funding system relies on a robust, independent peer-review process. Such a process needs to be transparent and trusted by all who engage in the process of applying for grants.”

Alison Barnes (National Tertiary Education Union): “NTEU members and other researchers expect the minister to uphold the principles of academic freedom and to not directly interfere in the allocation of research grants. …  The NTEU is calling on the government to apologise to the affected researchers and immediately reverse their decision and fund these projects.”

Joy Damousi (Australian Academy of the Humanities): “The Australian research funding system is highly respected around the world for its rigour and integrity. … This interference damages Australia’s reputation on the world stage. Withdrawing funding by stealth threatens the survival of a strong humanities teaching and research sector, something no democratic society can do without.”

Mike Ewing (Australian Business Deans Council): “the intervention disregarded, and undermined the integrity of, a world-class peer-review process in favour of a politicised agenda. … Research outcomes based on merit and peer-review are the lifeblood of academic progress.”

Catriona Jackson (CEO, Universities Australia): “the current system is internationally-recognised as the best-practice process for awarding research grants. Political interference in funding decisions undermines the integrity of the system.”

John Shine (Australian Academy of Science): “Much of the value provided by research to policy makers and the public is due to its unbiased and independent nature and this should not be eroded.”

Colin Stirling (Flinders VC and chair, Innovative Research Unis): ““We have heard many calls in recent weeks for universities to defend intellectual freedom on campus. This includes the freedom for academics to pursue and express ideas without fear of political interference or retribution. It seems that we must redouble our efforts in defence of the humanities, arts and the social sciences.”

Vicki Thomson (CEO, Group of Eight): “this is a government that demands freedom of speech on campus but at the same time walks all over academic freedom; a government that, without transparency or explanation secretly vetoes some $4 million in research projects that have undergone a rigorous peer review process and have been judged worthy for recommendation to the minister by the ARC.”


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