Australia’s leading scientists call for ARC to restore support for basic research

December 23, 2022

The Australian Academy of Science says the lack of coherence supporting Australian research is an indictment of the approach that knowledge is only important if it can be commercialised – or relate to some ill-defined national interest test.  

The Academy also says that the current state of Australian research is the consequence of vague strategic Government direction, piecemeal interference over nearly two decades, and ad hoc interventions that have demoralised researchers, minimised efficiency and disadvantaged the nation.

The comments were made in the Academy’s submission, on the review of the Australian Research Council Act, published today.

The submission also says fundamental research should be the primary focus of the ARC.

The submission reads: It is of the utmost importance to the national research system and our national prosperity that the role of the ARC in supporting fundamental research be restored and safeguarded.  

The Academy notes while the review of the Australian Research Council Act does not have the scope to consider wider system issues, no review, or recommendations to do with the Australian Research Council (ARC) can occur in a vacuum. 

The submission reads: Changes to the role, responsibilities, focus, settings, governance, or legislation of the ARC will invariably influence the operation of the broader research system – without addressing the central problem:  212 research funding programs across 12 Commonwealth Departments. 

The submission calls on the Australian Government to commission an independent science and research system review without delay. 

It also recommends:

  • the establishment of an ARC Council or Board in the Act, with a legislated requirement to have members with diverse research expertise 
  • the objects of the Act are revised to represent the aspirations and purpose of the ARC, including the responsibility the ARC has on behalf of the Australian people to support fundamental research  
  • the focus of the Linkage program on collaborations between researchers be restored, and programs on industry engagement and commercialisation be run by a different agency   
  • that Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) be discontinued and that the ARC modernises its capacity and requirements for data collection and analysis 
  • that limits be placed on the use of ministerial discretion to disapprove properly assessed research proposals. 

The submission says it is instructive that research councils in overseas jurisdictions have different governance structures from that of the ARC. Read the submission and the full list of recommendations for the ARC.

© 2023 Australian Academy of Science

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