Australia and Strategic Priorities for Research

14 February 2013

Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb says a proportion of government support for research should be directed to areas of most pressing concern.

“There are many important areas of research pursued in Australia,’’ he said.  “But amongst all those, we have to be sure that those that are the most pressing, the most critical for us right now, are identified and supported.  In a system where the capacity to support research is, effectively, rationed, we need to know that the ranking systems we use are not letting slip the most important areas.’’

“High quality research is essential, and it is probable that we will never have enough funding to support every research project that people would like to do, I can’t think of a time when we did,’’ Professor Chubb said.

“We need to understand the societal challenges we face right now and be able to say that we are addressing them through research of adequate scale and quality.’’

The process for identifying strategic research priorities has been presented to the Prime Minister’s Science Engineering and Innovation Council.

Professor Chubb said the process is expected to lead to written advice to government departments and agencies, directing them to spend a proportion of their budget, consistent with their mission, on the priorities identified.

Setting the research priorities would be a rolling process, requiring evaluation and potential adjustment every two years. “Not an out with the old and in with the new each two years, but an opportunity to review and ensure that the most critical areas were receiving attention as the needs evolve over time,’’ he said.

Professor Chubb said the new strategic approach would not result in all funding being directed to the priority areas; it would be balanced with continued investment in quality research outside the priorities, adding to the knowledge Australia will need to face future unpredictable challenges.

“Similar strategic priority setting for research is already taking place in the U.S., U.K. and the E.U and other countries. It is imperative to Australia’s productivity, innovation, national well-being and place in the world that we do the same,’’ he said.

You can download the paper delivered to PMSEIC on Setting Strategic Research Priorities here and you can view the slideshow presentation Professor Chubb delivered here.

Media enquiries: Mick Bunworth  02 6102 8179 or 0410 029 407 or Mick.Bunworth@chiefscientist.gov.au