Social Sciences lobby’s clever call for budget cash

The social sciences peak body calls for education funding the government wants for the National Disability Insurance Scheme to be used for relevant research.

And it proposes a new research funding mechanism, income-contingent loans for industry start-ups that partner with universities on R&D.

The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia’s budget submission says cash transferred from the dormant $3.8bn Education Investment Fund, “could be used to support research needs and infrastructure for social innovation in areas related to the NDIS – for instance, in disability or health. This allocation would be consistent with the best intentions of the EIF and those who suggest its deployment in the NDIS.”

ASSA also argues for restoration of research funding, notably the $134m cut from research support in December’s MYEFO and it urges the government against, “taking too narrow an approach to the fields of research which should be supported.”

STEM research may well deliver good investment returns, but so do other areas of research, including the social sciences and humanities, particularly given many of the emerging pressures Australia faces internationally and domestically.”

The academy also warns low shares of research funds going to social sciences, “have been casting doubt on the standing of the robust review processes that underpin Australia’s reputation for research excellence.”

It accordingly calls on government to enlist the Australian Council of Learned Academies, to “open wide consultations concerning research policy and design of research administration with senior research scholars.”

Perhaps the best idea in a smartly subtle submission, which avoids the obvious self-interest of some education and research interest-groups, is the idea of giving universities control of a new applied research loan programme, paid back out of income.

“Linking the scheme to large, well-managed organisations in the form of universities, guarantees proper selection procedures and financial oversight, as well as providing mechanisms that can be put in place for mentoring and assistance,” ASSA asserts.


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