Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Resetting Research Priorities

By Simon Grose

Our latest strategic research agenda reveals marginal changes and a faster pace of renewal.

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

One of Julia Gillard’s last acts as Prime Minister was to issue a new set of national Strategic Research Priorities. Three days later she was ousted from the leadership and retired from politics.

Of three other names on the announcement, only Chief Scientist Ian Chubb still holds his position. Former Minister Craig Emerson also left politics and Senator Don Farrell’s short time as Science Minister ended when Kevin Rudd regained the top job and gave him the Sport portfolio.

While the revolving door of politics turns quickly, research priorities cycle at a slower rate. The new list of 15 priorities (grouped under five headings) replaced a list of four (with 21 “associated priority goals”) announced 10 years ago when John Howard was PM and Robin Batterham was Chief Scientist.

“So what?” 99.999% of Australians might ask. Only science policy wonks, diligent bureaucrats and researchers focused on fine-tuning their grant applications need care.

But comparing the two lists provides insight into how perceptions of the challenges facing Australia and the research sector’s role in addressing those challenges have evolved over the decade.

Both lists achieve a broad scope, belying the definition of “priorities”, and are couched in sometimes uplifting but often banal officialese that we have come to know and love. The new list defines itself as an “...

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