The Australian Government will improve the public’s confidence in taxpayer funded university research by strengthening the application process for Australian Research Council grant funding to include a national interest test.
The Government is investing $9.6 billion for research and development this financial year.
The taxpayer is funding the Australian Research Council (ARC) to provide $3 billion in grants for individual university research projects over the next four years. ARC grants currently range in size from $30,000 to $8 million a year.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan said he was acting to ensure taxpayers had confidence in how their money was spent.
“Under the legislation, the Education Minister makes the final decision about whether a research project will receive hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars through the ARC,” Mr Tehan said.
“The value of specific projects may be obvious to the academics who recommend which projects should receive funding but it is not always obvious to a non-academic.
“If you’re asking the Australian taxpayer to fund your research you should be able to articulate how that research will advance the national interest. The new national interest test will apply for all future grant rounds that are yet to open.
“Further to this, I have tasked ARC Chief Executive Officer Professor Sue Thomas to review the 2015 Science and Research priorities and provide advice on updating these priorities in relation to ARC grants.
“The CEO will do this work in collaboration with a small panel of experts and I will advise the sector of the composition of the panel in coming weeks.
“I have also asked the CEO to examine whether the financial structure of the ARC grants fit the national priorities.
“Australians can have confidence in the independence and integrity of the ARC and I continue to work with them to ensure the taxpayer is getting value for money.
“As Minister for Education, I can guarantee the sector that I will be transparent in reporting ARC grant funding decisions. I have asked the ARC to add an additional category to the grant outcomes so applicants are notified of instances where a project is ‘recommended to but not funded by the Minister’.
“Academic freedom and free speech do not require grant funding to exist. Government funding is only one source of research funding. If a project has merit it can also be funded directly by the university, from the private sector or other non-government sources.”