Politics: Research Funding in the cross-hairs again…

So apparently the government is worried about not getting into surplus in time for next year, and one of their bright ideas is delaying funding of successful NHMRC and ARC grants by six months or a year.

This may sound good in theory, but the thing is, people live grant to grant for their salaries – if you delay funding for a year or even six months, when you do finally get around to funding people a lot of them won’t be around to fund, because they will have gone and found jobs which they might actually get paid for.  And no, Universities and Research Institutes do not have huge sums of money lying around just waiting to be used on salaries – most of the money they get is already being used for infrastructure (not much science gets done without electricity – or without mouse technicians – or even without admin people like me, though in all honesty, I suspect I’m only really useful because the paperwork from everything else is insane), or has restrictions on how it can be spent.

So yeah.  This would be very bad for medical research, much as we all explained last year when the government suggested cutting NHMRC funding entirely.  You can’t do good research on stop-start funding – you need continuity of people and of projects, and three years (the usual length of a grant) is not, in general, going to get a project from concept to in vitro studies to mouse studies to clinical trials.  Usually, you are looking at decades for that progression.  And you need at least some of the same people around for most of that time.

Anyway, please consider signing the petition below.  And maybe writing to an MP or two.  It’s bad enough having everyone needing to re-apply for funding every couple of years, having to campaign against silly policy on an annual basis is really not helpful.  And, oddly enough, my colleagues would much rather be doing science.


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