Research funding freeze?

I started this blog because research is my life, and I’m frustrated by a lot of things about it. My latest frustration concerns the rumours swirling around that the government plans to put a freeze on all ARC funding in order to keep the budget in surplus. This was reported recently in the Australian, but it was behind a paywall and seems to have received little attention. Here’s a great blog post about it:

http://increasingdisorder.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/the-australian-government-doesnt-care-about-research/

And also, because I hate paywalls, here’s the text of the original article:

THE Australian Research Council has confirmed that all funding announcements are on hold as the Gillard government seeks budget cuts.

It comes as concern increases that the freeze on grants is debilitating research efforts. Researchers warn that frustrated industry partners are increasingly likely to pull out of proposed Linkage grant partnerships due to lack of certainty.

Acting ARC chief executive Leanne Harvey sought to reassure concerned researchers by describing the freeze as a “brief pause”.

In a statement to the HES, Ms Harvey said the government was looking at all its discretionary grant schemes “to ensure taxpayers are getting value for money”.

“For the ARC, this means funding announcements and the opening of new funding rounds are on hold.”

James Cook University deputy vice-chancellor (research) Chris Cocklin said the uncertainty was “debilitating” research and putting industry participation at risk.

“I’m hearing from staff that there is anxiety creeping in,” Professor Cocklin said.

“Lots of people are on short-term contracts that rely on this funding to give them jobs.”

Australian Academy of Science policy secretary Bob Williamson said: “We understand the government wants a balanced budget but attacking the science budget isn’t the way to do it. Science represents the future, including the future of the economy beyond the mining boom.”

University of Technology innovation expert Roy Green said the government was currently “reflecting” on how best to boost collaboration.

He said a government industry statement was expected before the end of the year that may have implications for future research funding.

I’ll be posting more about this in coming days. There are rumours that NHMRC grants will be affected too. This is a disaster, particularly for early-career scientists like me relying on “soft” funding money to pay their salaries. Many, many people will leave Australia or even leave science if this short-sighted move takes place. I’m going to be in Canberra next week and perhaps the academics there will know more about it.

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