Mixed Bag for Science
14 May 2014 at 11:33 am
The Australian Academy of Science says the Federal Budget is mixed for science; investing in some areas while pulling funding from others.
“While the new Medical Research Future Fund provides a positive vision, the rest of Australian science is left substantially weakened,” Academy President Professor Suzanne Cory said.
Treasurer Joe Hockey announced in the Budget a commitment to build a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund linked to changes to Medicare.The Treasurer told Parliament that the fund will, within six years, be the biggest medical research endowment fund in the world.
He said its funding of research would be in addition to existing levels of funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council and will be funded from the introduction of a $7 Medicare co-contribution, changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and other changes in this Health Budget.
However, Prof Cory said the Budget cuts at least $420 million over the forward estimates to five vital science agencies — the Australian Research Council (ARC) ($74.9 million), the CSIRO ($111.4 million), the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) ($120 million), Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) ($27.6 million), and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) ($7.8 million) – as well as Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program ($80 million).
“These cuts come after an overall decline in the science budget of $470 million since 2011,” she said.
The Academy said it welcomed the target to double National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) spending by 2022, new spending on the Future Fellowships program for mid-career researchers, additional support for the Agricultural R&D Corporations, the continuation of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure (NCRIS), and a new commitment to the Academy’s education programs Primary Connections and Science by Doing.
“Funding for research infrastructure is vital and we hope this is just the first stage of a longer-term vision to support major infrastructure,” Prof Cory said.
“But the introduction of tuition fees for research students in PhD programs is of great concern as these students are the engine for our nation’s research.”
“We need to increase our science investment now and grow it for decades to come. The commitment to medical research needs to be matched in the rest of the science sector or we will not be able to meet Australia’s big challenges.”
Ticks and crosses for the 2014 science budget:
? Cuts to the CSIRO, ANSTO, DSTO, AIMS, and the CRCs program
? 3.25 per cent efficiency dividend cut to ARC grants
? No international research collaboration program
? Charging research students fees for their PhD and Masters programs
? Establishment of Medical Research Future Fund
? Interim funding for national research infrastructure funding
? New spending on Future Fellowships
? New support for Agriculture R&D Corporations
? New commitment for Academy education programs Primary Connections and Science by Doing
Alzheimer’s Australia (Vic) said it applauded the Government’s commitment in the 2014 Federal Budget to its pre-election pledge of investing $200 million to accelerate dementia research over the next five years.
Alzheimer’s Australia (Vic) CEO Maree McCabe said she congratulated the government on the reinforcement of their commitment to research through the announcement of the Medical Research Future Fund.
“The Federal Treasurer’s comments highlighting the importance of the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are to be commended,” McCabe said.
“We are deeply appreciative of the ongoing commitment of the government to dementia research and we look forward to working with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in rolling out the funding.”
The peak body said it strongly recommended the government formally consulted with a consortium of the country’s leading dementia researchers, consumers and key advocacy groups when it came to determining how the money should be distributed.
Alzheimer’s Australia (Vic) Chair Graeme Samuel said working alongside the NHMRC, such a consortium would ensure it was making the best use of funds in order to optimise the difference made to the lives of people living with dementia, their families and their carers.
This consortium, it is recommended, should draw on the expertise of representatives from Alzheimer’s Australia; the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Advisory Group; Austin Health; Australian National University; Dementia Research Network; Edith Cowan University; The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health; Neuroscience Research Australia; Queensland University of Technology; the University of Melbourne; University of NSW; and the University of Sydney.
“The group of experts would offer an independent strategic oversight to ensure that this policy commitment is delivered in a timely and highly effective manner,” Samuel said.
“Consortium members would advise on the development of a roadmap to ensure relevance, feasibility, capacity, timelines and outcomes whilst also assisting with the implementation of the research agenda.
“The funding provides a unique opportunity to build on Australia’s already strong research base and has the potential to place Australia at the forefront of such crucial research internationally.
“This commitment will significantly aid Australian scientists and researchers who are working on ways to prevent, cure and care for the 332,000 Australians living with dementia, their families and their carers,” Samuel said.
Treasurer’s Budget speech is HERE
The details of the Budget’s Social Services package can be found HERE
The Budget Papers can be found HERE