The Group of Eight (Go8) – which represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities – welcomes new Minister for Education Dan Tehan’s commitment to ensure and formalise transparency in reporting of Australian Research Council (ARC) funding outcomes.
Vicki Thomson, Chief Executive of the Go8, says that this is a “constructive” decision.
“Now Australia will know when a research project considered worthy of grant funding by the ARC’s internationally-recognised peer review process has been rejected by the Minister,” she said.
“While the Go8’s strong position remains that Government should never insert itself into the review process because to do so is to the detriment of the nation’s international reputation, and amounts to nothing short of blatant political interference, future transparency of any such Government involvement is paramount.”
Ms Thomson said there was now further discussion to be had with the Minister about his second statement regarding research needing to be in the ‘national interest’.
“The current ARC application process for Discovery schemes already does contain a national benefit statement – including alignment with the national science and research priorities,” she said. “However, the Go8 is open to any further methodologies in the ARC application process where our researchers (across all disciplines) have the opportunity to illustrate more clearly how their work has national benefit.”
“However, any discussion or outcome must not limit our ability to also produce the great breakthrough discoveries that transform our understanding of the world. Academic inquiry must be protected at all costs.
“Research that can seem irrelevant at one time can provide the missing piece that helps us take a great leap forward later. It’s not hard to imagine, for example, a Minister lampooning a paper entitled “College Admissions and the Stability of Marriage”. Yet this work, by mathematicians David Gale and Lloyd Shapley – which examined optimal models for pairing couples into stable relationships – later formed the basis of a program to optimize the matching of kidney donors with recipients and earned its author, Economist Alvin Roth, a Nobel Prize in Economics.
““The Go8 is strongly committed to its research being for global and national benefit,” said Ms Thomson. We have concerns about the term ‘national interest’ because it is such a subjective political term, whereas ‘national benefit’ can be quantifiable and is already our focus. We look forward to reassuring the Minister that this is indeed the case.”
Contact: Vicki Thomson Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 417 808 472