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Cutting research is ridiculous

 20 August 2014

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While some contentious budget savings measures require separate legislation are still in play in the Senate, such as university fee deregulation, the passage of the appropriation bills in late June means that the great bulk of savings measures are already in place. This includes cuts of at least $420 million to science and research funding.  They’re already seeing research being cutback or ceased altogether.

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The government’s campaign to secure Senate passage of controversial savings measures, such as university fee deregulation and a Medicare “co-payment”, has takenanother hit, with Treasury figures revealing that 98.9% of expense measures have already been locked in with the passage of the appropriations bills.  That is, most ofthe government’s savings measures are already in place, with the outstanding measures totalling about $44 billion over four years: that’s about 2.5% of the estimated $1.8 trillion in budget expenditure over the four years to 2017-18.  As The Australian’s headline summed it up, Treasury sinks budget crisis talk.

Researcher at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory

Researcher at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory

This obviously makes it much harder for the government to cajole the Senate crossbenchers into submitting for Team Australia.   Savings measures which are locked in include cuts of at least $420 million over the forward estimates to five vital science and research agencies — the Australian Research Council (ARC) ($74.9 million), the CSIRO ($111.4 million), the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) ($120 million), Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) ($27.6 million), and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) ($7.8 million) – as well as the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program ($80 million).  These cuts come after an overall decline in the science budget of $470 million since 2011.

Admittedly, the now government did promise in opposition to ”cut ridiculous research”.  However, according to the CSIRO Staff Association the cuts to CSIRO’s budgets will mean the curtailment of research programs into virology and infectious diseases – including Ebola virus. Research into bowel or colorectal cancer – the second largest cause of cancer deaths in Australia – will cease completely. CSIRO work in the neurosciences – including critical research into Alzheimer’s, dementia and other diseases set to beset the growing numbers of Australia’s ageing population – will be shut down entirely.

Ridiculous, indeed.

quote marks

….given science is a global discipline, Australia’s ‘‘scientifically illiterate government’’ risks losing talent to other countries, such as Singapore, which were investing in research. If or when conditions in the sector improved, they may not be willing or able to return to Australia.

–     Nobel laureate Peter Doherty

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See
CSIRO to cut research into infectious disease and biosecurity
CSIRO cuts researchers at high containment laboratory
CSIRO cuts gather pace
Science and research funding
Scrimp now, pay later: CSIRO cuts could stifle long-term research
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