EXPERT REACTION: Government's Research Infrastructure Plan
The Federal Government is set to invest billions in research infrastructure to ensure that Australia stays at the forefront of science. Genomics, nanotechnology, astronomy, imaging and supercomputing are all set to benefit along with a new building to house CSIRO's National Collection of insects, wildlife and plants. The Research Infrastructure and Investment Plan is the Government response to the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap developed by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO. The plan includes $1.5 billion for equipment and capabilities to ensure researchers have access to the most advanced infrastructure and around $400 million to support critical operating funding for facilities, and scoping of potential new cutting‑edge capabilities.
Organisation/s: Australian Science Media Centre
These comments have been collated by the Science Media Centre to provide a variety of expert perspectives on this issue. Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. Views expressed are the personal opinions of the experts named. They do not represent the views of the SMC or any other organisation unless specifically stated.
The STEM sector will be pleased to see the government’s commitment to sustained operational funding beyond the next ten years.
Regularly refreshing and renewing the research infrastructure Roadmap and Investment Plan will also ensure that our facilities remain relevant to our requirements.
Science & Technology Australia has been asking for long-term investment and certainty for research infrastructure for some time, and in the lead up to the 2016 Roadmap, we called for stable operational funding and investment in staff to maintain and run the crucial kit that powers the nation’s knowledge production.
Today’s announcement has given us a first crucial step towards long-term stability for research facilities to put Australia on a strong footing for the future.
We are, however surprised that there is no clear plan to provide training and a stable career trajectory for this highly skilled technical workforce, to ensure that these critical research facilities run at their highest capacity.
We’re pleased that the government has taken a long-term view, and hope to see a consultative and proactive approach when renewing the Roadmap and Investment Plan in the years to come.
The Australian Academy of Science welcomes the Research Infrastructure Investment Plan and its response to the Chief Scientist’s National Research Infrastructure Roadmap.
The Academy also welcomes the $393m budget allocation to national research infrastructure over the five-year period (2017/18 – 2021/22) of which $199m was allocated in the 2017/18 FY [Budget paper 2, page 92], however remains concerned that critical infrastructure investment may still be some years away.
“New investment in national research infrastructure is welcome however we remain concerned about the lack of detail as to when funding will be allocated. The Academy notes that many of the priorities for new infrastructure outlined in the Research Infrastructure Roadmap will be addressed through funded scoping studies, and will be incorporated in future (two-yearly) iterations of the Investment Plan along with five-yearly reviews of the Research Infrastructure Roadmap.
The Academy looks forward to receiving further detail and certainty. Upgrading, expanding and connecting many of Australia’s research facilities remains critical to allow the research community to continue seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges in industry, agriculture, health and environment
The Investment Plan recognises an important fact - that we can only do world class research when we have access to world class research infrastructure. The commitment of new funding will ensure that over the next decade, our researchers will have the tools they need to make new discoveries in medical research.
This is how we can deliver the best health and economic benefits to the nation.”
The National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) announced by the Federal Government in 2015 was a major shot-in-the-arm for Australian science. It outlined an investment in national research capabilities, infrastructure and opportunities that puts Australian science in a world-leading position across many frontline research challenges. The capital investments to date have secured Australian membership and access to the European Southern Observatory, will enable the construction of a major piece on the Square Kilometre Array in Western Australia and will upgrade the national supercomputing infrastructure to world-class performance.
This investment will ensure Australian astronomy is a world leading activity for the next 10 years. The announcement today goes further. It will provided 10 years of access and operational cost for these, and many other facilities, via $1.5B under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). Building and upgrading facilities is one thing, but maintaining them operationally and securing access over a long period is critical to gaining the maximum scientific advantage and delivering breakthrough science for Australia. That’s why NCRIS is the critical additional element to ensuring the success of the major capital investments contained within the NISA vision.
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