Unis Australia calls for action on research funding

Universities Australia says government and business must muscle-up on research, increasing investment to support the university systems’ work. “Research expands Australia’s economy. Research saves lives. Research creates new products and industries that generate jobs, UA CEO Catriona Jackson says.

UA sets out seven recommendations, which are part of its submission to a House of Representatives committee inquiry on research funding.Including one that urges the committee to propose nothing for immediate action, until research policy changes now being implemented bed down.

Other recommendations include returning dividends from the Education Investment Fund to research support. The government’s long-established intention is to transfer the $3.8bn EIF to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (CMM May 24).

“Australia also needs capital funds to build research capacity at universities across the country. Closing EIF will deny our world-class researchers the proper resourcing and security they need to keep doing what they do best – making breakthroughs for the betterment of all,” Ms Jackson says.

UA proposes:

governments, business and the higher education sector should “develop a strategy and commit resources” to “significantly increase,” “the intensity of R&D”

* “recapitalise the EIF and start spending returns on research

* a moratorium on changes to the research funding system “until the effects of the current suite of changes are apparent”

* a commitment to peer review “as the core determinant” for funding

* restoring demand driven funding of undergraduate places, “to ensure the widest possible participation in the postgraduate research cohort

* a regulatory impact statement on the cost of reporting/compliance requirements to higher education

* more support for international research links

UA has a point in suggesting a new policy pause, what with the research system adapting to a raft of reforms. There is the National Health and Medical Research Council’s imminent new grants scheme, implementation of the Australian Council of Learned Academies’ recommendations on research training, the as yet unknown impact of the new Australian Research Council’s research impact and engagement metrics and changes to investments resulting from the as yet to be legislated R&D tax concession variations announced in the budget.


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