Australian research institutions should be world leaders for scientific breakthroughs and for attracting and developing the best minds in all kinds of fields. As a country, we need to increase investment in R&D. Government funding of research needs to be independent and free of interference.
Australia’s total spending on research and development (R&D) as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is declining. According to ABS data, overall investment in R&D was just 1.79 of GDP in 2019-20, falling from 2.11 in 2011-12.
Also, we’ve witnessed political interference in the awarding of government funding for research projects, vetting the independent Australian Research Council process for reasons including the “national interest” and “value for money”.
It is unacceptable for government ministers to have veto power and to be deciding how much money will be going to which projects. That should be left to the competitive peer-review process at the Australian Research Council.
Investing in research is also good for the economy. According to economic modelling by Deloitte for Universities Australia, every $1 invested in research and development gives a $5 return to the economy.
Without this investment, Australia will see continued ‘brain drain’ of our research talent to overseas institutions.
We’re calling on the major parties to commit to increasing R&D investment in Australia. We support calls to boost R&D – including the suggestion of Professor Christobel Saunders to raise it to at least 3 percent and the recommendation of the Australia Academy of Science to grow real funding for research.
We’re lobbying the major parties and other members of parliament to make changes to the process of awarding research grants to ensure it is independent and free from political interference.
Australians should take inspiration from examples in the business world and in some local and state governments to adopt more
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