Science and Technology Australia (STA) has labelled a Senate Committee’s recommendation to wind up the Education Investment Fund (EIF) as “shortsighted and potentially damaging to research at Australian universities” and will have tangible negative effects on Australia’s capacity for research.
Kylie Walker, CEO of STA, said current funding for research infrastructure under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) was found to be insufficient by the Australian National Audit Office this year.
She said the uncertainty created by this shortfall was further exacerbated by the ongoing lack of response from the Government to recommendations from the National Infrastructure Roadmap.
“This uncertainty and stop-start approach to funding crucial national research infrastructure hampers the ability of scientists to do work that is vital to the future health and prosperity of Australia,” Walker said.
“Without a clear, long term and strategic plan for how we are going to establish, renew, manage and operate Australia’s critical research infrastructure, Australia will fall behind.”
The recommendation by the Committee is that savings from the EIF are used to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
“Reducing the capacity of Australia’s scientists and technologists is not an effective long-term solution to providing adequate funding for this important and worthwhile Scheme to support some of Australia’s most vulnerable people,” Ms Walker said.
Walker said Australian researchers’ significant contributions to advancing medical and other scientific research has been built partly on access to high quality research infrastructure, such as supercomputers for data processing, sophisticated analytical equipment, and world leading space observation capability.
“We acknowledge that funding priorities for research should be flexible, as the nature of research in scientific and technological fields is ever-changing,” she said.
“However reducing funding for research infrastructure will be the difference between Australia making its mark on the global research stage and our researchers fading in to the background.
“Anything that diminishes our research infrastructure will have negative effects on the competitiveness of our Universities and their international reputation for delivering high quality education.”