Reps research inquiry: engagement and impact is too much too often

The much-anticipated House of Representatives committee report on administering research funding (ex NHMRC) was tabled in the Reps yesterday.

While the committee’s work was well underway when Education Minister Tehan raised the idea of a national interest test, the report carefully, if distantly, touches on the broad issue.  The committee makes an unequivocal commitment to peer review as the foundation of funding, but it also calls for “greater oversight and coordination of Australia’s research investment,” by government. This should require “a broader strategic review of Australia’s research and development investment to identify key research priorities, better coordinate national and international research efforts, and ensure adequate investment across the research pipeline.” Then again, the committee appears less than impressed with existing instrumentalist mechanisms for assessing research in the national interest, the Australian Research Council’s engagement and impact metrics, recommending these assessments not require new information and should only occur every five years.

Overall, the committee makes 15 recommendations, around four themes.

* reduce information funding agencies require for applications

* “make use of” existing information and data on researchers and institutions

* establish document uniformity across funding schemes

* “level the playing field for under-represented research groups,” being “early and mid-career researchers, women, minority groups, Indigenous researchers and rural and regional universities”

Notable recommendations, in whole or part include,

* using ORCID IDs in the whole-of-government research data system

* agencies should fund “smaller scale research projects across disciplines”

*  a review of research block grant administration, “to provide more timely and adequate support for the indirect costs of research”

* a parliamentary inquiry into improving university and other public research agency cooperation with industry

* a research translation fund for non-medical research.


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