Valuing science

Science should play a critical role in informing evidence-based policy, solving critical policy issues and leading technological innovation across many fields. Yet, it has been undervalued and, often, politicised. Our policymakers should be guided by science. Our research institutions should be world leaders for scientific breakthroughs and for attracting and developing the best minds.

What’s the problem?

Science in policymaking

While the executive branch of government has access to multiple sources of scientific advice, MPs and senators in the national parliament are rarely able to access such advice. In the United Kingdom, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology exists to make scientific research and data accessible to British parliamentarians.

We believe that Australia’s federal MPs and senators should have access to well-grounded and impartial scientific advice, evidence and data through a new Parliamentary Science Office. The Australian Academy of Science is also advocating for such a body, arguing that the “provision of trusted and independent expert advice is more critical than ever”.

Investing in science

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

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 want R&D investment to increase. 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.

Political interference

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.

We want changes made to the process of awarding research grants to ensure it is independent and free from political interference.

What we're doing

We’re lobbying the major parties and crossbenchers in the national parliament to address these issues.

Read our policy on ‘Valuing science’ here.

What you can do

You can write to your local federal member of parliament or state/territory senators, or arrange a meeting with them, to voice your support for our positions.

You can also consider helping us to make an impact by becoming a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia or making a donation.

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