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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Major party’s science and research policies: Update

Two weeks ago I presented a summary of policy positions for the major parties this Australian Federal Election. Since that time we have seen the release of Science and Technology Australia’s science policy questionnaire, the release of the Coalition’s costings and an official release from the ALP outlining their position on science and research policy.

Of note is Tony Abbott’s promise to redirect $104 million of Australian Research Council funds away from projects deemed wasteful and into medical and health research. This should not be a surprise if you have been reading between the lines in the Coalition’s promise to maintain health funding and nothing more. The ARC’s competitive research budget for next year is $884 million and these cuts would “reprioritise” $16 million in the first year of a Coalition Government. While this is not a great proportion of the ARC pie, the move is more worrying for the precedent it sets in letting politicians decide the national research agenda.

Science and Technology’s response to the Coalition’s policy is here.

Updated table below:

SciPolicies8

Grading the major party’s science and research policies this election

For supporters of science and research wanting to know what the major parties have on offer in this year’s election campaign, you need go no further than here.

SciencePolicyBreakdown

Slim pickings indeed, aside from The Greens recent science package proposal. The Greens policies are thoughtful and align well with the Australian Academy of Science’s election policy recommendations. Liberal and Labor’s policies are limited token reactions to the recent McKeon NHMRC review.

I hope I will get to update the table if/when the major contenders can come up with some sensible policy for the research sector.

In the mean time, please feel free to copy and distribute the table.

THE GRADES

The Greens: Solid

Labor: Chiffon

Liberal: Gossamer

For more information:

Australian Academy of Sciences election policy recommendations

Greens Science Policy

Liberal Party health and medical research funding

Labor’s McKeon Research Package

Sydney Morning Herald coverage of Green’s science policy package