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Publicly Funded Research

Posted 8 November 2011 by Paul Kniest (NTEU National Office)

Dividends from Australian Publicly Funded Research.

At the beginning of 2011 Senator Kim Carr, the Minister for Industry, Innovation, Science and Research asked his Department to undertake a review of Australia’s publicly funded research and science with a particular emphasis on the opportunities and impediments to maximising the innovation dividend derived from the Australian Government investment in publicly funded research. Its report entitled Focusing Australia’s Publicly Funded Research Review: Maximising the Innovation Dividend was released on 7 November 2011.

The terms of reference for the review include examining the nature and utility of public funding arrangements for research with reference to the National Research Priorities (NRPs).  In that context, the review will specifically consider:

  1. The role of publicly funded research agencies in encouraging appropriate co-ordination and efficient use of resources;
  2. The level and balance of public funding for different types of research;
  3. How to most effectively evaluate the performance of publicly funded research programs in meeting national priorities and needs;
  4. The ongoing relevance of NRPs as currently framed and consideration of possible alternative approaches; and
  5. Whether changes to existing resource allocation arrangements could enhance the innovation dividend we derive from our investment in publicly funded research

In addition to the recommendations outlined below the Report contains an extensive overview of Australia’s publicly funded research landscape, including a significant amount of the latest data on funding and research outputs.  More information of the Review and a copy of the relevant reports can be downloaded from the Department of Industry Innovation, Science and Research (DIISR) website.

Recommendations are:

1.     that an Australian Research Committee of senior officials from key Australian Government departments and agencies, chaired by the Chief Scientist for Australia, be established to develop, among other responsibilities, a national research investment plan (with input from the states and territories and industry) to cover the full range of research activities, including human capital, infrastructure and collaborations.

2.   that the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) consult with the research sector and other relevant stakeholders on:

  • changes to the existing NRPs to reflect recent policy changes including the introduction of the National Innovation Priorities;
  • the addition of an NRP to better reflect the priority of HASS in Australia’s research enterprise;
  • refinements to the priority goals under the NRPs to make them tangible and measurable; and
  • options for appropriate reporting of expenditure against the NRPs.

3.   that the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research undertake a feasibility study on possible approaches for developing a rigorous, transparent, system wide Australian research impact assessment mechanism, separate from Excellence in Research for Australia, to evaluate the wider benefits of publicly funded research.

4:   that consideration be given, in the first instance, to amending existing Innovation, Industry, Science and Research programs, within existing funding allocations, to encourage, recognise and reward collaboration between universities and end users. Consideration should also be given to future initiatives to focus on ways to encourage and maximise the rewards for successful collaborations.