Three research challenges for Jason Clare

There are two policy decisions to make and a loyalty test to pass

There are the usual impossible expectations on new education minister Jason Clare that he will make all well in higher education – but there are wins available in research.

win one

One is to reject the idea of more closely connecting research block grants to research commercialisation. A departmental discussion paper commissioned by the previous government proposes this but the research community generally thinks it is a bad idea (CMM yesterday).

Universities Australia pretty much speaks for the system,

“Australia needs to maintain a balance across the types of research undertaken and the disciplines supported. Without the fundamental insights and discoveries of basic research, there is no new knowledge to translate or commercialise. This fundamental, or ‘blue-sky’, research does not always fit easily into accepted short-term incentive frameworks, yet history repeatedly demonstrates the central role of basic, curiosity-driven research in driving prosperity and progress.”

Whatever Mr Clare and his colleague in Industry and Science, Ed Husic decide to do about unlegislated elements of the previous government’s research commercialisation programme, announcing no change to the allocation of research block grants will be popular

win two

Previous (acting) HE minister Stuart Robert established an Australian Research Council advisory committee which included industry reps and researchers from discipline groups – except the humanities, which its lobbies considered a deliberate act of “disregard.” Mr Clare adding a humanities scholar to the committee would have endless upside at virtually no cost.

and then there is the one that would endear Mr Clare to many, many researchers He could instruct the Australian Research Council to fund the six Discovery Grants it recommended last year but Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert rejected on Christmas Eve. All were HASS projects and the then minister’s claim they were, “not value for the Australian people” had more than a hint of culture-waring about it. The research community also wants an end to ministerial vetos of projects recommended by the ARC. For many in the research community this will be a loyalty test for the new minister.