As you were, Australian researchers.

Waking up to look at this before a coffee and a shower was enough to put me into fight or flight mode this morning.

With hackles raised I read on and found a sciency corner of Australian Twitter users in a flap about Abbott’s 20% ARC cuts. #AbbottsRazor #ARCcuts etc etc

While the wording of these Tweets is strictly true, they are also completely misrepresenting the politics of these ARC funding estimates.

The numbers are below. The top row is the current budget handed down by Labour in 2013. The middle row is the Abbott Government amendment. The bottom row is the difference. Numbers represented in thousands (000’s).

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

TOTAL

May budget

$883,959

$879,983

$834,587

$788,710

$3,387,239

Amendment

$883,959

$853,110

$783,253

$716,205

$3,236,527

Difference

$0

$26,873

$51,334

$72,505

$150,712

YES. ARC funding will dive by 19% in the next 4 years. But this is a dive courtesy of the Labour Government’s May 2013 budget.

YES. Abbott is cutting funding further, but this amounts to 4% cut in total ARC spending over the next 4 years. The majority of the sliding investment trend came from the initial budget trajectory set out in May.

The time to make a flap about budget cuts was in May. And some of us had a good whinge then. The truth of this latest news is that it is a continuation of the prevailing “death by a thousand cuts” trend, as another shaving is whittled off our future investment in research and innovation.

But the big lesson here is to hold fire when it comes to social media. A forgiving person might acknowledge that this shows that scientists are only human, prone to the occasional passionate, emotional, reactionary outbursts. A harder judge might question whether researchers who don’t think critically and do a bit of their own “research”, deserve any ARC funding at all.

Thanks Alice Hutchings, for engaging your brain. And Tom Stayner for the title.

Postscript

Jeremy Shearman from the Genome Institute in Thailand has produced this graphic showing the effect of amendments on ARC funding over the last few years. The trend is one of providing more upfront dollars with increasingly steep sliding scales of less funding later.

ARC funding amendment history

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6 thoughts on “As you were, Australian researchers.

  1. How do you get the cuts being a further 0.04% cut? I get ALP’s May budget cut as 11% from 2013 to 2016, while the planned LNP cut is 19%. To me that is a further 8% cut. I’m confused.

  2. I reported the amended bill. I also pointed out the difference to the forward estimates. $150m over four years is significant in anyone’s numbers, I would have thought.

  3. For future years, the proposed reductions are a further 3, 6, and 9% in each year compared to the May 2013 budget. This is on top of the declines taht were already in the budget. These seem substantial cuts. Comparing 19% with 4% (your corrected number) is not correct – you are comparing the reduction from 2013 to 2016 (19% for the proposed cut) to the average cut per year. The new government is basically doubling the proposed cuts that were budgeted in May.

    These cuts are on top of the previous government’s other cuts to universities, and “delays” of increases in research overhead funding such that ARC grants remain a significant net financial liability for universities. I think it is reasonable for scientists and other researchers to be dismayed at where research funding is heading. The trend is alarming.

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