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Government's research priorities policy "elitist-driven"

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SENATOR KIM CARR Shadow Minister for Science and Research


29 January 2002


The Federal Government’s announcement today of priorities for research funds is only a small beginning in developing a national policy for research, according to the Shadow Minister for Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr.

Senator Carr was commenting on the Government’s announcement today of its research funding priority areas for the next five years.

“Dr Nelson’s policy is elitist-driven and determined behind closed doors without adequate or open consultation,” he said.

“On the basis of selective and secretive discussions, the Government has now invoked legislation which empowers it to direct the Australian Research Council (ARC), our chief research advisory body, to alter its funding priorities. It has been told to redirect 33% of its research funds to four narrow fields of scientific research, at the expense of all other areas.

“The Government’s ‘picking winners’ approach to research contradicts the stated objectives of the Australian Research Council.”

Senator Carr said that the allocation of 33% of ARC funding in the 2003 round to these priority areas would only exacerbate the unsatisfactory failure rate for ARC applications, which now stands at a historic high of 80%.

“This means that many more excellent and worthwhile research projects will go unfunded,” he said.

Senator Carr called on the Minister to explain the formal consultative process used to identify the Government’s four priority research areas. “While Labor supports the establishment of research priorities, this must be done in an open way that involves the public.

“Where is the Government’s acknowledgement of public-interest research, in fields such as the environment? These areas are also very much national priorities,” Senator Carr said.

“Were either the Australian Academy of the Humanities or the Social Sciences consulted on national priority research areas?

“Dr Nelson’s announcement emphasises the arbitrary and incomplete nature of this Government’s national research strategy,” said Senator Carr.

Further information: Kim Carr 0419 563 922