Universities Australia | 17 June 2013
Australian research bodies have come together to urge non-partisan support for science and all forms of research, demanding that all parties make a commitment to the fundamental value of research in the physical, biological and social sciences, through to engineering and humanities.
The research alliance has a broad base, including researchers across business and industry, universities and medical research institutes. The call comes from peak bodies from across the research spectrum, in science, education, social sciences and humanities and from our eminent scientists and engineers, including Australia’s most recent Nobel Laureate, Brian Schmidt.
The group says that what can be achieved through research science and innovation will decide whether Australia is a success in the 21st century, which will be compromised by a stop-start, badly coordinated approach to research.
We call on Government to work with the sector to build a long-term, strategic vision that makes the most of our natural talent and helps the nation flourish economically and socially.
The group sets out six fundamental principles for the government to act on :
Investing strategically and sustainably
Governments must support planned, stable and appropriate investment in research over the long term, which is essential if we are to tackle large, complex problems and opportunities facing Australia. This will yield better results and ensure the best use of every dollar spent.
Building our research workforce – getting and keeping the best
To ensure we attract and retain the best researchers we must offer appropriate conditions. Many of the nation’s world class researchers are stuck in a cycle of one- to three-year grants for their salaries and research materials. This career uncertainty means many leave research or leave Australia to seek a stable future. The nation is the loser every time uncertainty impedes discovery, prevents planning and inhibits fruitful partnerships.
Building a productive system and getting the most out of it
Governments must set a stable and sustainable funding framework for infrastructure (buildings, equipment and the technical experts to keep them operating), especially for national facilities without which critical work cannot continue or even begin. This must be backed with resources that keep valuable facilities running once they are built. A central research infrastructure investment framework, such as National Research Investment Plan (NRIP), is essential.
Being among and working with the world’s best
Global collaboration is more necessary than ever with the rise of international research, commerce, communication and other systems that transform our lives and opportunities. Our best researchers must be able to work with the best globally, building on the credibility Australian researchers already have across a wide array of disciplines. This will require a strategic investment that can facilitate international engagement at a government to government level, as well as support for collaboration on specific research projects.
Bringing industry and academia together
When industry and researchers work together effectively we innovate and multiply our strengths. We must ensure there are clear and reliable policy incentives that facilitate deep and sustained collaboration between industry, public sector, university and research institutes.
This not only ensures that the benefits from basic research are translated into practice in Australia, but also harnesses national talent and creates knowledge, opportunity and new jobs.
Expanding industry research
Governments need to create an environment which encourages industry to invest more in research and which makes Australia an attractive place for international companies to undertake research. Improving industrial productivity has become critical to ensuring strong growth and innovation underpinned by research and development and investment plays a key part in meeting this objective.