Week Eleven Activity: Research Support – *Issues Based Reflection*

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    • #2423
      Will Wood

      The field and focus of research support is prescribed by the subject matter of research grants which are in turn dictated by the whims and vested interests of funding bodies and bureaucratic panels. It falls to the Australian Research Council, an independent body who nevertheless report to an Australian Government minister, currently the Minister for Education who assess the vast majority of grant applications nationwide. While maintaining an air of neutrality this system can and has appeared to be influenced or at least motivated by the current political and economic climate. The review process used to analyse and assess potential grant applications has come under fire from researchers and academics in recent years due to an apparent bias that favors applications based in select scientific fields. Criticism of the lack of transparency and lengthy bureaucratic processes that are associated with these grant applications have left some academics such as geophysicist Geoff Davies disenfranchised and calling the current state of affairs a “third rate operation at every level”. This sentiment can be empathised with when confronted by the opinion of coalition MP Jamie Briggs who is quoted as claiming that:

      We want research with Australian taxpayers’ money to be about the better future for our country, not about funding some interesting thought bubble that some academic sitting away in a university somewhere has come up with and think they might be interested in looking at.

      This statement appears to be counter-intuitive as those “interesting thought bubbles” as Briggs so contemptuously labels them are the very thoughts that could lead to the “better future” he wishes for this nation. The fact of the matter is that due in part to opinions such as his these “thought bubbles” will not see the light of government funding and without research and development will be more easily dismissed in future. This has created a research environment where senior officials and government bodies dictate the focus of research in this country and by doing so narrow the scope of our development based on individual opinion of what is best for Australia. Just as we have missed the mark on the opportunities presented a number of years ago by solar and green alternatives for energy production, Australia could once again be left behind due to close minded and blinkered views of what constitutes a positive investment for the nation. This idea is explored in a number of articles such as “Show us the money” and “A farewell to arts: on philosophy, ARC funding and waste” that highlight the need for a less biased and more general approach to funding that includes grants for the humanities as well as scientific research. This balanced approach would allow developments in all fields not simply those that are currently deemed a priority by committees.

      This situation directly affects the service of research support in academic libraries in a number of ways. The first being that these applications as mentioned above often require a large amount of time to collate which in turn requires that library staff in research support programs assisting the development of these studies must provide assistance over a long period. If the application happens to focus on an area that is deemed by the council to be irrelevant to the “future of Australia” as is often the case then the time and resources spent are for naught. This is a feeling shared by palaeontologist Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich who is quoted as saying that “[Applying for a grant] takes a huge amount of time and the chances of success are so low that if you’re running a business you wouldn’t have your staff bothering.”

      Secondly, the narrow focus of selected grants has a similar effect on the scope of research support and limits its focus to those areas considered to be profitable. This appears to be in direct opposition to studies such as Library research support in Queensland : a survey whose opening paragraph states that “national prosperity is underpinned by knowledge innovation”. Knowledge innovation is a concept that requires an open mind and a creative approach to all issues in society not simply those that are selected by bureaucrats influenced by current political motivations.

      If this continues the focus of research support as a library service will become as limited as the grant application process that defines it.


      • This topic was modified 8 years, 8 months ago by Will Wood.
    • #2435
      Peldon P

      Hi Will,

      Yet to read your post, just wanted to let you know that you can use blockquote ” for your 2nd para..it’s usually used for definitions or direct-quotes. Now I’m going to read your post 🙂

    • #2878
      Samantha Maddox

      Hey Will, the hard work, sweat and tears that researchers put into their grants is unbelievable and to now have even more threats looming over them in regards to having the resources available is ridiculous. Having the availability of funds and support from our government is fundamental for our researchers to be recognised on an international platform. Removing this is just another way our government is holding us back 🙁

    • #2892
      Will Wood

      Hey Samantha,

      Thanks for your comment! It can be such a biased system when the few are able to dictate the study pursuits of the many. Perhaps a separation of politics and academia could go some ways to fixing this system but judging from how it works between church and state I don’t really think it  would. Unfortunately Australia doesn’t seem to really consider its international standing – we have Tony to thank for our current reputation.

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