A media release by Science and Technology Australia
The Federal Budget is a very mixed one for science, technology and innovation, with short-term reprieves for infrastructure and fellowships, but significant cuts across a number of science agencies and grants bodies, according to STA CEO Catriona Jackson.
“At least $420 million will be cut from 5 key science and research agencies – the Australian Research Council (ARC) ($74.9m), the CSIRO ($111.4m), the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) ($120m), Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) ($27.6m), and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) ($7.8m) – as well as the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program ($80m),” she said.
“The impact on a number of other science bodies is still unclear, but it is certain that many hundreds of science and technology jobs have been slashed.
“These cuts are profoundly counterproductive, and will reduce national capacity to conduct world-leading research, which fuels the economy and ensures we hold our place among advanced, first world nations
“Specifically it is very disappointing to see funding to the trusted national icon CSIRO cut when they have already made significant staff reductions. There is little fat left to trim, the brutal reality is that research programs will now have to be slashed. Also ending the current round of CRCs midway through is very hard to understand, and sends the wrong message to industry and academia, who have together delivered such concrete and consistent returns to the Australian public through CRCs.
“On the positive side of the ledger a life-line has been thrown to big science infrastructure in the form of $150m for one additional year (2015-16) of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). This move is to be applauded, but a long-term plan for science infrastructure is desperately required. Short-term promises make it very difficult for the world-leading researchers to get on with the job.
“Also the ARC’s Future Fellowships scheme – to keep top rank mid-career researchers at work in Australia – will continue but with reduced funding: $140 million available for fellowships over the next 4 years, compared with $150m each year previously. It is unclear whether the fellowships will be of the same value.
STA President Dr Ross Smith said
“Scientists welcome the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund, but are concerned that other cuts across the sector are likely to affect Australia’s capacity to continue to produce the world-leading researchers needed to capitalise on such a research fund.
“We understand the need for efficient investment of taxpayers’ dollars – and we stand ready to work with government and industry to drive a prosperous future.
“But reducing our effort to minimise the mid-career brain drain and not investing in a diversity of research capacity risks our ability to innovate across our economy and the foundation of our future competitiveness with other developed nations” he said.
STA is the peak group for the nation’s 68,000 scientists and those working in technology. STA’s mission is to bring together scientists, governments, industry and the broader community to advance the role, reputation and impact of science and technology in Australia.
Media comment: STA CEO Catriona Jackson – 0417 142 238.