Peak science lobby puts quotas on agenda for research grants

Peak lobby group Science and Technology Australia has put gender and experience quotas for research grants on the agenda, “to improve equity, diversity and inclusion.”

“Australia continues to do itself a disservice by failing to rise to the challenge of ensuring diversity among successful grantees, and therefore failing to nurture new and important perspectives. Australia is also guilty of failing to protect that diversity that exists in the system by supporting marginalised populations through periods of vulnerability,” STA states in its submission to the House of Representatives committee inquiry into the efficiency Commonwealth research system.

STA specifically suggests, considering diversity quotas, “for each field of research.” “This can quickly and effectively address the issue of gender disparity where it exists.” While acknowledging it could be difficult in some fields, STA also raises gender parity in research applications, suggesting, ”for every two applications received from an institution, one of those applications must have a female chief investigator.” And to stop researchers with long careers presenting the strongest track-record in research applications STA suggests considering a five-paper cap in submission bios.

A limit of 5 of the primary author’s “self-chosen best” publications not only provides an incentive for researchers to strive for high quality research, but also removes some of the barriers in the system for people that have had interruptions in their research career due to family, illness or other reasons.”

STA’s other recommendations include:
* a two-tiered grant selection process, to minimise time spent preparing/assessing unlikely to succeed applications

* an independent infrastructure advisory board

* a translational research fund for non-medical research, along the lines of the Medical Research Future Fund to, “increase business investment in research, and improve Australia’s standing as an innovation nation.”

STA also calls for transparency in grants that are not part of a contestable process. “While competitive grants provide clear outlines and transparent, contestable application processes, there appears to be a lack of such processes for these recent decisions around research infrastructure and the MRFF.”


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