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Analysis and Comment (75)

Who’s going to pay for this? image via www.shutterstock.com

Development of new drugs is threatened by budget cuts

Foundation essay: This article is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the US. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis articles and take a wider look…
Participants and guests at a Walk for Breast Cancer decked out in pink. Breast cancer walk image via www.shutterstock.com

Awash in pink, but breast cancer awareness isn’t a cure

This month, we are inundated with pink. By wearing pink ribbons, purchasing pink products, and participating in walks and other collective activities, citizens try to raise awareness of the scourge of…
Conflicting recommendations about flu drugs has made it difficult for doctors to decide whether to prescribe them. Andrew Wales/Flickr

What kind of research can we trust?

Research involving pharmaceutical company input is notoriously compromised. While not all industry ties lead to biased research, and not all biases are a consequence of industry ties, many studies show…
Who owns the university after the crash? simononly

After the crash, who owns the British university in 2014?

By international standards, British universities have extraordinarily high levels of autonomy. They control all of their assets, they employ their own staff, renew their own leadership and governors and…
Ian Macfarlane – here at the Anglo Australian Telescope in April – had science lumped in with his industry ministry. AAP/Alan Porritt

Science and the Coalition: two big policies, one year and no minister

On science and technology, the Abbott government is somewhat of a paradox. On one hand, the government passionately believes that deregulating the university sector is essential. By taking caps off fees…
When money’s tight, there’s no better time for researchers to bust out of the Ivory Tower and actively engage with the public. Nhoj Leunamme == Jhon Emmanuel/Flickr

It’s time to ditch the ‘old academic identity’ to survive funding cuts

Much has already been written about the pressure on the Australian university system due to the federal government’s planned deregulation of fees, course funding cuts and significant research funding cuts…
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane (right) wants universities to be more supportive of industry, but without significant funding into research and development, that’s a big ask. AAP

Fund R&D, then maybe universities can support industry

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane let his discretion slip this week in a speech to the Queensland Media Club when foreshadowing an upcoming report on research funding and competition. Distancing himself…
Scottish voters are still in the dark about key health and research issues. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Is Scottish independence bad for your health?

With September 18 drawing nearer, the people of Scotland still lack answers about how independence will affect a number of institutions, policies and their everyday lives. It is crucial to uncover what…
Research is a public good in itself, not only for the benefit of creating jobs and economic prosperity. Flickr/International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

The benefits of research aren’t just economic

Forcing research and innovation to fit corporate needs exclusively sounds like a pretty blunt way to govern how public funds are awarded and used in universities. Granted, in a political environment touting…
Expanding protected areas to safeguard the unique biodiversity, such as these emperor penguins, is just part of the Australian research role in Antarctica. Australian Antarctic Division

Private funding could help Australia’s role in the Antarctic

The Australian government’s blueprint for the Antarctic is due out soon. Given the recent cuts in public funding for science, what hope is there for any extra monies for the polar region. And what should…
Research funding will continue to be haphazard if an anecdotal approach continues to be taken. Lisa S/www.shutterstock.com

How to better allocate research money and fix a flawed system

Taxpayers want to know that their money is well spent on research. Yet funding agencies persist in trying to explain research results in terms of papers and publications rather than in terms of people…
How do we know if we’re getting value for money on research funding? Flickr/Régis Matthey

Let’s spend more wisely on research in Australia

Australia allocates around A$9 billion a year of taxpayers’ money for research, but how do we know if that money is being spent wisely? With the Australian Government threatening to reduce the amount of…
The Coalition government seems to take a very keen interest in medical science, but what about the other fields? AAP/Dan Peled

Science funding is a national investment – not an expense

As a relatively small and young country, by population if not by landmass, Australia has played a noticeable role on the world stage when it comes to science. Contributions to new technologies, from Wi-Fi…
There’s no point giving money to research if there’s no-one to do the research. University of Denver/Flickr

$20 billion for medical research: but who will do the research?

Including $20 billion for medical research in the recent federal budget seemed like a win for research. At the same time, however, the government imposed fees on PhD and Masters research students. Paying…
Open access, as long as you’re a scientist. Shepherd Zhou/EPA

Humanities left behind as China embraces open access science

Two large Chinese funding bodies for scientific research are promoting so-called “open access” to research outcomes, according to an article in Nature. The Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National…
Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the day his government handed down its first Budget. AAP/Lukas Coch

Judgement day for Abbott on science and research funding

When the freshly-minted Prime Minister Tony Abbott declined for the first time since 1931 to appoint a science minister as part of his Cabinet in September last year, he did so having made an election…
Treasurer Joe Hockey and finance minister Mathias Cormann face a difficult sell for the Abbott government’s tough first budget. AAP/Alan Porritt

Federal budget 2014: political experts react

The Abbott government is hoping an A$11.6 billion infrastructure spending package, combined with a $20 billion medical research fund, will help soften the blow of widespread tightening of health and welfare…
Australia playing its part in the world of science with the planned SKA Australia survey telescopes to be located in Western Australia (artist image). SKA Organisation

The state of Australia: science innovation and research

In the lead up to the budget, the story of crisis has been hammered home, but there’s more to a country than its structural deficit. So how is Australia doing overall? In this special series, ten writers…
There’s no quick fix for the research industry in Australia, it needs a considered approach. Flickr/US Army RDECOM

Research and innovation in Australia need a long-term strategy

Most researchers would agree with the Commission of Audit’s finding that “given overall budget constraints, it is important to take a strategic, whole-of-government approach to where Australia’s research…
According to a new report, academic research into gambling is heavily biased, and controlled by industry and government. AAP/Paul Jeffers

He who pays the piper calls the tune: gambling with research

Earlier this month, a team of British anthropologists from Goldsmiths College of the University of London published a report about the mundane, if very lucrative, world of Big Gambling and the cadre of…
Look into the future … what do you see for CSIRO, should its funding be reduced? griraffes/Flickr

Scrimp now, pay later: CSIRO cuts could stifle long-term research

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, is said to be preparing for cuts of up to 20% of government funding – that’s around A$150…
No brainer. Funding for the Human Brain Project is secure until 2016. Ars Electronica

What Swiss migrant referendum means for future of EU research

In a referendum on 9 February, the Swiss population voted against mass immigration. That outcome will have far-reaching consequences on the position of Switzerland in European research cooperation. As…
Give me a white coat any day. UCL Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Is postgraduate study still just for the elite?

The funding climate for the public sector in England has been as inclement as the actual weather recently. So the government’s recent allocation of £50m to bring down the barriers for entry into postgraduate…
Researchers are looking towards alternative sources of funding amidst increasing competition for research grants. shutterstock

By the masses: the emergence of crowdfunded research in Australia

This time of year sees many academics furiously submitting grant applications to the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Discovery Projects scheme. While prestigious, they are time-consuming and highly…
Jobs for the girls. By Rhoda Baer, via Wikimedia Commons

Stopping the brain drain of women scientists

You can be forgiven for assuming that gender is not an issue any more in higher education. There are more young women entering universities than ever before and they are graduating each year in their hundreds…
What does the future hold for research funding under an Abbott government? AAP/David Crosling

Securing Australia’s future: science and research

SECURING AUSTRALIA’S FUTURE: As the Commission of Audit reviews government activity and spending, The Conversation’s experts take a closer look at key policy areas tied to this funding – what’s working…
Fundamental, wide-ranging and curious research is the basis of a country’s development. Cuts to CSIRO won’t help. CarbonNYC/Flickr

Australia needs fundamental research to build a great country

Like many scientists, I was apprehensive in advance about the Abbott government’s approach to science policy. Would it be pragmatic but fact-based or would it be ideological and politically driven? Sadly…
Hours spent writing grant applications could be spent actually doing research with a grant-determining formula. Λ |_ ν-\ Γ Ø

The end of written grant applications: let’s use a formula

The winners and losers of the 2013 National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) Project Grants were announced in October. A record low success rate of just 16.9% (down from last year’s 20.5%) meant the…
Women who take time off research to have children face funding obstacles when returning to the workforce. Cia de Foto

Six steps to fairer funding for female scientists

A glass ceiling remains in place for female medical research scientists in Australia. Although approximately 50% of PhD students and postdoctoral scientists are female, males run the majority of research…
It’s not all about the money but universities could drive a harder bargain. Victor1558

Universities are research power houses but fail to reap rewards

In the pharmaceutical industry there is a place known as the Valley of Death. It is the place between research and innovation where many drugs enter but fail to emerge from the other side. One reason for…
Crowdfunding a research project may be for you – and here’s how you can maximise your money. nanny snowflake

Short on grant money? Five tips for crowdfunding success

With only one in five National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant applications successful, and a similar rate for Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grants, it’s little wonder researchers…
Time to shelve our overuse of antibiotics. Elsamu

Superbugs move faster than governments can act

Infections and deaths caused by superbugs are increasing every year. So the government’s five-year strategy to tackle the problem, if a little tardy, is a welcome step. In January, Chief Medical Officer…
What place for The Thinker will there be in an Australia under an Abbott government? Steven Fettig

Waste not, want not – the politics of why philosophy matters

And so now we officially know: philosophy is a waste. How can we be sure? Because Coalition spokesman for scrutiny of government waste Jamie Briggs has promised an Abbott government would get rid of “those…
Not all pursuits can have their worthiness calculated in dollars and cents. epSos.de

Guess who defines ‘waste’ in ARC-funded research

I doubt anyone truly believes governments are infinitely resourced. Even the most rabid, single-issue monomaniac can appreciate that to add public money from bucket X, it must come from bucket Y. So it’s…
Research and development election policies are a bit thin on the ground at the moment. AAP/Science in Public, Paul Phillipson

Coalition, Labor, Greens … seeking a workable research policy

Building the knowledge economy and a national innovation system should be a priority in the upcoming election but, as of today, only the Greens have released a dedicated research and development policy…
Lack of funding is just the tip of the iceberg for Australian Antarctic research. AAP/Australian Antarctic Division

Australian Antarctic science is being frozen out by budget cuts

A hundred years after Australian explorer and geologist Douglas Mawson returned from his epic scientific adventures in Antarctica, Australia’s scientific exploration of the icy southern continent has all…
Public confidence in medical research is vulnerable to attacks on its integrity. Andrew Huff

What Australia should do to ensure research integrity

Clinical trials of an experimental cancer drug being undertaken by the University of New South Wales were suspended this week, after questions about the accuracy of some preliminary results were made public…
Tony Abbott has a history of supporting medical research since his time as health minister under John Howard. Paul Miller/AAP

Coalition policy aims to protect and streamline medical research

The Coalition’s Policy to Protect and Streamline Health and Medical Research Funding is one of the first documents off the blocks this election. Short and sweet, it is designed to appeal to medical researchers…
Universities Australia Chair Sandra Harding looks at the future of universities. University image from www.shutterstock.com

National Press Club address: Sandra Harding on the future of universities

Professor Sandra Harding, the Universities Australia chair and Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University addressed the National Press Club in Canberra today. Here is a copy of her speech. In his novel set…
It would be a mistake to assume that any private money funding research creates a conflict of interest. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Conflicting research: ARC linkages and the tightrope of academia

The research funding world is not often filled with controversy, but the story of indigenous academic Marcia Langton’s research funding has recently garnered a lot of attention. Langton, who in her recent…
Adam Bandt celebrating his 2010 election success as the federal member for Melbourne. Julian Smith/AAP

In Conversation: Douglas Hilton and Adam Bandt MP

Adam Bandt is the first Australian Greens MP to win a seat in the House of Representatives at a federal election. And while the seat of Melbourne, which takes in the inner suburbs and CBD of the nation’s…
Adam Bandt is the first Australian Greens MP to win a seat in the House of Representatives at a federal election. Alan Porritt/AAP

Adam Bandt and Doug Hilton In Conversation - full transcript

Doug Hilton: I’m the director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and I have with me today Adam Bandt, the Greens' member for Melbourne. Why don’t you start by outlining your background…
Tony Abbott at a press conference after the prime minister announced the election will be held on September 14. AAP/Alan Porritt

Coalition commitment to medical research funding is welcome

It was a big day in political circles yesterday, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard announcing an election date and launching her priorities for the nation. Among the hubbub that followed, an important…
An In Conversation between federal coalition MP Andrew Robb and the director of the Waler and Eliza Hall Institute, Doug Hilton. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

In Conversation Andrew Robb: full transcript

Doug Hilton: Welcome Andrew to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. This conversation between me, Doug Hilton, and Andrew Robb is part of The Conversation. So Andrew, it’s been really exciting in the last…
The research funding system needs to be changed to make it more efficient says coalition member Andrew Robb. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

In Conversation with Andrew Robb: research must ‘back our strengths’

It’s hard to argue with the importance of research, particularly medical research. It leads to breakthroughs and can change people’s lives for the better. But there are some crucial questions about how…
Researchers have invested hundreds of hours to enhance their applications, only to miss out. Paperwork image from Shutterstock.com

A better way to award NHMRC’s medical research grants

Last Friday, the results for this year’s round of applications for National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) grants were released. Because headlines focus on success and rankings, universities and medical…
Researchers who have sometimes been waiting years for funding have been left in the lurch by government. Research image from www.shutterstock.com

Time to thaw: the human side of the research funding freeze

The Australian Research Council’s confirmation that all funding awards and rounds are currently frozen has caused major concern, if not panic, in academic circles. The Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook…
Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans says it’s a “ridiculous proposition” to suggest funding freezes are driving research overseas. AAP

Research funding falls victim to short-term politics

The Federal Government’s freeze on research grants is damaging investment and recruitment by universities, and is part of a broader trend making funding predictability a thing of the past says Universities…
Industry partnerships can be critical to research outcomes and a country’s productivity. Flickr/RMTip21

Research funding uncertainty hurting industry partnerships

Uncertainty over research funding will cost jobs, hurt productivity and threaten the government’s plans to promote better linkages between industry and research, say sector leaders. The Australian Research…
Ranking universities is useful for only understanding the bigger picture. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Limited numbers: what university rankings can (and can’t) tell us

The release of The Times Higher Education World University Rankings will be welcomed by many people in the Australian university sector. See the full list of The Times Higher Education World University…
An experienced lab technician is one of the most readily employable people in the R&D-intensive industries. fungiman_MD

Beware: research technicians need more than just a pulse

Earlier this year the American journalist David Plotz wrote in Slate that: America needs a lot more good engineers and scientists, more competent scientists, even more mediocre scientists. I agree that…
Cuts to the R&D tax incentives for Australian businesses - as proposed by the Business Tax Working Group - have significant implications for our future economic wellbeing. Image from www.shutterstock.com

Scrapping the R&D tax incentive is hardly a smart idea for economic policy

The Business Tax Working Group discussion paper’s suggestion to reduce the R&D tax incentive reveals a clear-cut attitude to policy aimed at Australia’s economic development: “It’s all about the tax…
Australian health policy and public health campaigns – and the research that underpins them – leading the world in achievements. Penny Clay/AAP

Health research: making the dollars count

This week’s release of the NSW Health and Medical Research Strategic Review identifies many opportunities to strengthen research and ensure the community extracts the maximum possible benefit from its…
Real impact is important when considering how to fund research. Flickr/Mozzer502

High impact: how the story of research can be told better

When it comes to engaging with industry, government and the broader community, there is one secret weapon that is often overlooked in the university sector – the humble story. The art of storytelling is…

Scientific research spending lags behind smaller countries

Nations half the size of Australia spend more on scientific research, have higher employment levels for scientists, and greater appeal to foreign investors, according to a report on Australia’s global…
Congratulations class of 2011, you’ve been given the opportunity to have real-life professors – future classes might not. Flickr/Pauls Creative Cakes

Lost professors: we won’t need academics in 60 years

The University of Melbourne was founded in 1885 with five professors teaching 15 students. In 1952, at the start of the post-war tertiary boom, there were around 3,000 Australian academics teaching 30,000…
A rally of white-coated scientists and lab technicians rally against cuts to research funding in Perth, April 14, 2011. AAP Image/Lloyd Jones

Taking to the streets to protect medical research funding

Australia’s usually mild-mannered medical researchers marched in the streets a year ago to protest mooted government budget cuts. In the face of widespread outcry, the government chose to maintain the…
If Australia wants to be a leading force in the knowledge economy, strategic investment in university research and infrastructure will be essential. Novartis AG

A smart strategy to drive Australia’s knowledge economy

At a time when unprecedented levels of investment are being made in university infrastructure in nations such as China and India, it is worth reflecting on how Australia has built its notable areas of…
Universities are centres of research… but what kind of research? flickr/pcgn

A question universities need to answer: why do we research?

Fundamentally, there are two big motives for research. On the on hand there is intellectual ambition: the desire to know and understand the word, to appreciate the best that has been said and thought on…
Australian universities must raise their game to compete in the global education market. Flickr/Reality-check

Sink or swim? Australian universities in the next decade

The world is in a state of transition. The Indian and Chinese economies continue to grow at around 9 and 10 per cent respectively each year, while the North Atlantic economies - the 20th century epicentre…
Working to improve the performance of the resources sector is a challenging, yet important research focus. AFP/Christian Sprogoe/Rio Tinto

Research funding does not have to equal industry bias

There is common assumption that those of us who undertake applied research with the commercial world must be biased. This month the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI), which…
In 2009, 180 years worth of time was used up preparing grant applications instead of doing research. US Army

Fingers crossed: the role of randomness in medical research funding

Chance is something researchers feel could be important when their applications for scientific research funding are assessed and discussed in peer review. Now this hunch has been supported by an analysis…
When is comes to research, it seems quantity has become much more important than quality. Flickr/Iscan

How ‘publish or perish’ is ruining finance education

Imagine the following conversation between a finance academic and his or her supervisor during an annual performance review: Academic: So, do you think I am ready for a promotion? Supervisor: Well, I see…
Why is writing grant proposals the bane of scientists' lives? Fotolia

Putting the fun back into research funding

Getting research money, especially the no-strings-attached kind that government agencies give out, is difficult. Researchers spend months on each proposal with only a small chance of getting funded. Winning…

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