Federal Budget a significant response to the pandemic science crisis

October 06, 2020

The Australian Academy of Science says the 2020–21 Federal Budget is a significant response to the crisis facing Australia’s scientists as a result of the pandemic.    

The additional $1 billion injection of funding in 2021 to support research at Australia’s universities hit badly by the pandemic is welcomed by the Academy.  

An increase in 505 jobs in a cross section of government science agencies will also assist in research recovery.   

The Academy applauds the strategic decision to back proven STEM school education programs by injecting $27.3 million over five years as an investment in the future workforce.  

This includes $9.6 million over five years to support programs delivered by the Australian Academy of Science.  

The Academy also welcomes:   

  • $10 million to extend the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Program (WISE) and the extension of the term of the Women in STEM Ambassador, both of which will assist in the continuation of the implementation of the Academy’s Women in STEM Decadal Plan.  
  • Recognition of the impact of the pandemic on Australia’s national science agencies, in particular CSIRO, BOM and ANSTO, with $965.6 million in additional funding over four years.  
  • Continued delivery of the 2020 Research Infrastructure Investment Plan with $36.3 million to upgrade the Sea Simulator at AIMS; $8.3 million for new synthetic biology infrastructure; and $7.6 million to upgrade the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS) as recommended by the Academy’s Climate Science Capability Review in 2017.  
  • $1.5 billion for the manufacturing strategy announced by the Prime Minister last Thursday focused on bringing business research collaboration at scale.  
  • $41.6 million for a Strategic University Reform Fund.  
  • A further $36.6 million provided over two years from 2020-21 to maintain the timeliness of environmental assessments and undertake further reforms under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).  

Additional refinements to the R&D tax incentive are positive, however, given that non-mining investment will fall by over 14.5% in 2021, more is needed to transform Australia’s business investment in R&D.   

President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor John Shine, says that the Government has made significant strides in addressing the impacts of the pandemic on Australian scientists.  

“Australia has been able to respond well to the pandemic because of the decades of substantial investment in science and research capability. Researchers in a wide range of disciplines including those outside of medical research are critically involved in the pandemic response,” Professor Shine says.  

“In the coming years more work will need to be done to fix Australia’s fragmented research funding system. The funding injection for university research will retain capability in 2021 and goes some of the way to cushioning the blow to the research sector as a result of the pandemic.   

“The Academy calls upon the government to engage all stakeholders to develop a comprehensive roadmap for Australian science and research funding to place it on a sustainable footing over the long term.”  

© 2020 Australian Academy of Science

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