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Australia unveils research investment plan

Universities Australia has welcomed the Australian federal government’s National Research Investment Plan, but says questions remain over funding.

“Like all good investments, generating the best returns means careful planning and stable management, including funding for the indirect costs of research,” it said in a statement.

The plan was launched by Ian Chubb, the government’s chief scientist, on 28 November. It is the first whole-of-government approach to how research is funded and carried out in Australia.

The aim is that the plan will replace one-off policy decisions by the federal government on research investments until 2016.

The plan identifies 11 “actions” aimed at improving public investment in research. These include making a career in research more attractive and easier to pursue. The government also wants to increase the effectiveness of Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Research Council grant allocation processes.

The councils “will be asked to consider options for the more widespread use of research grants of longer duration directed to individuals and teams”, the plan says.

Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, the peak body representing Australia’s universities, gave the plan a positive reception. but said there are niggles to work out.

Earlier this year, the government failed to fund the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy programme, which supported research infrastructure, and the new plan does not address this, said Robinson.

“The absence of a replacement program for NCRIS is of great concern and has the potential to leave hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of research facilities stranded, hundreds of our best and brightest researchers without jobs and the abandonment of very substantial investments in world-class research facilities, networks and infrastructure,” she said.

More detail of the government’s plans, including specific research priorities and objectives, will be released next spring.