This week, STA President Mark Hutchinson and I gave evidence to the Senate hearing on the Australian Research Council Amendment (Ensuring Research Independence Bill). Our full submission is here.
On your behalf, we made a strong case that there is no need for a Ministerial power to approve individual research grants for funding because Australia has a rigorous and robust system of expert peer review and national science and research priorities set by the Government.
There always needs to be accountability for public spending – that’s an important principle.
But the best way to achieve that doesn’t require Ministerial involvement in approving hundreds and hundreds of individual grants in specialised fields of knowledge outside of their expertise.
Indeed, the Westminster traditions on which Australia’s democracy was modelled enshrine the Haldane principle of research independence. In the UK, Governments and Ministers set the overarching strategic research priorities, but individual grants are decided by expert peer review.
The Australian Research Council has rigorous and robust grant assessment procedures guided by the top experts in each field. Given this, there is no need for a Ministerial power of approval.
We also reiterated our call for fixed dates for ARC grant applications, approvals, and recipient notifications to be set and published three years ahead. This is key to bring certainty to both industry and researchers.
Views were strongly aligned across the sector, including the Australian Institute of Physics, the learned academies and university peak bodies and vice-chancellors.
This year’s Science meets Parliament was a triumph - our biggest and most successful event ever. Our huge thanks to everyone who supported it as a delegate, speaker, or sponsor. A record-breaking 528 delegates had an incredible week of professional development, networking, and skills building.
Some of the many highlights in 2022 included:
This week, Science meets Parliament delegates met with MPs and Senators to discuss their science. This included an inspiring meeting with Science and Technology Minister Melissa Price MP.
- A fireside chat with Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty on the power of science in our era;
- Global media stars Professor Brian Cox and Wiradjuri astrophysicist Kirsten Banks in conversation on the importance of clear science communication to tackle misinformation and disinformation; and
- STA President Professor Mark Hutchinson outlining a vision for how Australia can take more of our great science and technology breakthroughs from the lab “bench to boardroom”.
Huge thanks to the whole team at STA who brought together the 22nd Science meets Parliament with such skill, talent and a prodigious amount of work. Here’s a tiny glimpse from behind the scenes.
And it’s not over yet! On 2 June, we’ll bring together STEM leaders and policymakers for in-person dinners in all eight capital cities across Australia hosted by our MC, ABC star Nate Byrne – tickets are open to the whole STEM community.
If you haven’t yet done the SmP2022 delegate survey, please do so. This feedback ensures Science meets Parliament will continue to be a great success connecting the science and technology community with decision-makers.
Finally, the 2022 Federal Budget will be handed down on Tuesday 29 March. Please join us for our STA members-only post-Budget briefing on Thursday 31 March at 2pm AEDT. Register here.
Until next time,
CEO, Science & Technology Australia