Merit in research funding is dead, warns CAPA
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is alarmed by the Federal Government’s attempts to intervene in research funding allocations, circumventing the well-established system of experts judging how to allocate grants funding.
Last night, it was revealed in Senate Estimates that the former Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, vetoed research funding for eleven successful applications – including three Early Career grants – to the Australian Research Council. All projects were from the humanities and social sciences – an area which is already woefully under-funded.
Minister Birmingham’s unprecedented action has ignited widespread fury among researchers, as he intervened in the research community’s own system, in order to choke humanities research which had already been judged to be worthy of funding.
This follows the recent research funding scandal in which the Government gave almost half a billion dollars to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a small private foundation which is linked to coal and oil companies. This decision was made without any transparency – and for an amount of money equal to over half the yearly funding given to the Australian Research Council.
Last night’s revelations, and the Barrier Reef debacle, are clear signals that research funding allocations are decided not on merit, but on fitting with the Government’s agenda. These decisions are taken in secret with no real reasoning provided – going against the spirit of intellectual inquiry.
For a political party which claims to prefer a hands-off approach, it is ironic and disappointing that the Liberal Party has intervened so heavily in the research funding process.
“Humanities and social sciences are an important part of Australia’s research landscape. Yanking funding in secret and without consultation sets a dangerous precedent,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.
“This is a sad day for Australia’s research community – including research students – as it has become apparent that the Government values pushing its own agenda over innovation, intellectual robustness, and transparency.”
For comment: CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993