What the Budget means for science and research

May 09, 2017

Science has largely flown under the radar in a restrained Federal Budget, with no big spending measures and no major cuts apart from previously-announced university funding changes, according to the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor Les Field, Secretary for Science Policy, said it is pleasing to see $26 million to support an astronomy partnership with the European Southern Observatory, ensuring Australia’s involvement in major astronomy initiatives around the world.

“It’s also positive that part of the funding for advanced manufacturing will come under the tried and tested CRC program.

“However it is disappointing that the Budget didn’t include any of the recommendations of the Ferris-Finkel- Fraser review of the R&D Tax Incentives, particularly those which may have strengthened the engagement between our research organisations and industry.

“The budget also sees the first real investments starting to flow from the Medical Research Future Fund, including funding for cancer research and clinical trials,” Professor Field said.

The Academy also welcomes:

  • investment in new medical research and treatment facilities, with $68 million invested in South Australia to develop the first Proton Beam facility in the Southern Hemisphere
  • increased support for women to enter high-skilled STEM professions through the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute internship program
  • the commitment of $49.8m over 11 years to ensure year-round operation of the research facilities on Australia’s sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island which lies between Tasmania and Antarctica
  • funding of $14.3m over three years to establish a whole-of-government educational data framework that will allow better understanding of educational pathways and program efficacy in STEM as well as other disciplines
  • a small increase in funding for Geoscience Australia, with a particular focus on realising the opportunities presented by satellite and other geographical data.

“It is disappointing to see small decreases in indexation of funding across the forward estimates equating to savings of several million dollars per annum in agencies such as ANSTO, CSIRO and funding programs such as the ARC and NHMRC. These will certainly be absorbed, but will add to the challenge of doing important science and innovation in areas of critical national importance,” Professor Field said.

“We would have also liked to have seen the Government investing more strongly in the vision for future jobs and economic prosperity, driven by a world class STEM capability. This is one of the central planks of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

“The science sector will now look forward to the 2030 Strategy for Science and Innovation, to be finalised by the end of the year, and the Government's response to the Research Infrastructure Roadmap, which will determine priorities for new capital investment,” Professor Field said.

Media contact: Dan Wheelahan. dan.wheelahan@science.org.au ph: 0435 930 465.

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