The departments of education and industry jointly released a Pape, Boosting the industrial returns from research, this afternoon. While somewhat short on information, the document explains the Commonwealth puts industry-university involvement and cooperation at the heart of its research funding schedule.
Industry led research schedule a part of its wider “Competitiveness Agenda”, which also seeks to address skills, the business climate and business coverage. Across each these domains, public financing is in escape requiring to be done with fewer resources.
Generally, these take the kind of incentives for business to become more involved with universities and plenty of rods for research agencies and universities that don’t get on board the government’s agenda.
The tone of the document clearly differs from industry Minister Ian Macfarlane’s comments in August when he appeared to dismiss the generally accepted measures of research quality in favour of patents. His comments were, in the time, roundly criticised within the study community. Today’s document appears at pains to point out that there’s not any dichotomy between research quality and research significance.
The paper cites OECD information that reveals poor collaboration between Australian universities and business although it will point to the CSIRO as an exemplar of business collaboration. That is somewhat ironic given that the recent budget cuts for its unlucky scientists in our premier research firm.
In other OECD statistics unsurprisingly not cited by the paper that show government expenditures on research and development in Australia are one of the lowest of OECD member states.
Governmental Expenditure On Research
Indeed, for Australia’s governmental expenditure on research And development (reported by the OECD in 0.529percent of GDP) into the recent OECD average of 0.843percent of GDP will require an approximate extra A$4.7 billion a year spent by government research and development. Now that would buy some collaboration with business! Otherwise, the proposals are in accordance with prior statements.
It appears likely that the Australian research council and, to some lesser degree, the national health and medical research council will include other criteria prior industry experience and engagement to their grant decision making. At the margins, the effect of such changes will probably be some grants getting financed that would otherwise not. Changing the funding criteria doesn’t, of course, overcome the problem of budget cuts across the board for study and increasing research costs.
The costs of study that these block grants support already significantly exceed the value of their grants. Any constraints will catalyst either creative accounting at universities, or further cuts to internal research funding, or most likely both.
The newspaper mentions leveraging public funding and additional tax Incentives for industry. These arrangements will make additional advantages for researchers who will garner business financial support, at the expense of those who cannot.
In a fundamental sense, the increased indirect and direct influence of business funding outcomes will produce major changes in results which the government clearly desires. Essentially, research is going to need to be both rewarding and scientifically meritorious. Little thought seems to be given to the belief that such skewing isn’t without costs.
For example, Ebola first appeared in the mid 1970s, but little research has been undertaken to its treatment as its casualties were poor Africans.
Other study that may be of great social advantage in main school education, as an example, or at the creation of greater understanding of autism spectrum disorders but which would not drive commercial gain, seems doomed to marginalisation.
Flagged, and also the gain constraint, potentially include astronomy, mathematics, pure physics and (of course) the entirety of the humanities. It’s a pity that the government hasn’t thought this is a problem or if it’s fails to determine It as important enough to mention in its own report.