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Funding

The science and tech sectors are waiting for the government to act on Australia’s research grant mess

- January 24, 2024 2 MIN READ
Misha Schubert,
Misha Schubert, CEO of Science and Technology Australia
Australia’s science and technology sectors have urged Federal Parliament to pass the Australian Research Council Amendment Bill – and make a key amendment that requires the research funding agency to notify successful applicants within 21 days of grant approval.

In its submission to the Senate Committee on Education and Employment reviewing the Bill, Science & Technology Australia (STA) wants the Australian Research Council Amendment (Review Response) Bill 2023 passed with a handful of small amendments to strengthen the legislation.

The industry and research peak body wants to the ARC to notify successful grant applicants within 21 days of approval by the new ARC Board.

STA CEO Misha Schubert said the sector strongly backs this bill but wants changes to strengthen the legislation

“Deadlines focus minds. And they keep bureaucratic processes on track,” she said.

“Adding a requirement that successful grant applicants must be notified within 21 days of approval by the ARC Board would give crucial certainty to both researchers and industry – and avoid being stuck in limbo amid lengthy delays – which has happened all too often in the past.”

Schubert said careers and jobs can hinge on the ARC decisions – and lengthy delays in the past have caused needless stress.

“Having swift confirmation on a grant decision either way is crucial to enable both researchers and industry to plan their future and get on with their lives,” she said.

In its submission, STA has also called for amendments to legislate that a minimum 70% of National Competitive Grant Program funding be allocated to the Discovery Program in order to maintain a strong pipeline of research breakthroughs.

STA called for all members of the new ARC Board – not just a majority – to have substantial experience in research or management of research.

“This is a golden opportunity to strengthen vital economy-boosting discovery research, ensure the ARC Board is demographically diverse and has deep research expertise, and boost certainty for Australia’s research workforce,” Schubert said.

“The modest improvements we’ve proposed would be a win for everyone – the ARC, the research community, Australian industry, and the nation. They can make a good bill a great bill.”

The legislation implements recommendations of the 2023 ARC Review by Professor Margaret Sheil, Professor Susan Dodds and former STA President Professor Mark Hutchinson.

The Bill enacts six of the 10 recommendations of the expert panel, with the remaining four not needing legislation.

“On behalf of the 115,000 scientists and technologists STA represents, we congratulate Education Minister Jason Clare for implementing the recommendations of the ARC Review, encourage the Parliament to pass the Bill, and offer our deep gratitude to the expert panel for crafting such a considered report,” she said.

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