Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Numbers Don’t Add Up

By Ian Lowe

Researchers spent a combined 550 years writing grant applications last year, yet 80% missed out.

Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The Australian Budget was not a good one for science and technology. Where the Budget papers once contained a specific Science and Technology statement, references to funding for science and innovation are now deep in the fine print of allocations to government departments, agencies like CSIRO, or implied in the funding of universities. It is a symptom of that approach that I found no mention of science at all in the many pages of Budget analysis by the commercial media. Not one word.

When I did track down the details, I didn’t find any good news. The Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, came out the week after the Budget to call for a science and technology strategy to ensure “we are doing research in areas that are of critical importance”. The Academy of Science and the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering backed Chubb’s call for a national science and technology strategy to guide investment in research and innovation, pointing to the fragmentation of spending across a range of departments and agencies.

As part of his pitch, he observed that research funding is “severely rationed”. As if to confirm this, a paper recently published in Nature by three researchers from Queensland University of Technology documented the amount of effort wasted by Australian scientists competing for research grants. They estimated that more than 550 person-years...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.