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Research infrastructure roadmap released


Expert group recommends creation of Australian advisory body to help address data and workforce issues

Australia should set up a national advisory body to guide research infrastructure spending, according to an infrastructure roadmap put together by an expert group.

The group, chaired by Ziggy Switkowski, a former chief executive of the telecommunications company Telstra, recommends that a body be set up to find ways to develop the workforce, review research facilities and advise government.

The roadmap was released on 7 April after a year-long consultation process, replacing the last five-year roadmap. It says that the current national infrastructure portfolio “positions Australia well in its research effort”, supporting wider strategies such as the national science and research priorities.

Growth in data sets is a key challenge, along with promoting cross-disciplinary cooperation. The government “should maintain or increase current funding levels for national research infrastructure beyond 2028-29,” it says.

It proposes a “challenge” structure for research infrastructure, aligned with the national manufacturing priorities: resources, food and beverages, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence, space, environment and climate, and “frontier technologies and modern manufacturing”. Success would be measured in research investment levels and commercialisation, it says.

Industry awareness of research infrastructure must be improved, the roadmap says, and the country needs a strategy to develop better digital skills among researchers.

Long-term thinking

Acting education minister Stuart Robert said the roadmap showed that “further investment is essential for our universities and research institutions to continue delivering world-class outcomes, retain their research staff [and] recruit talent”.

He said the government had A$900 million set aside for research infrastructure spending as part of its National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

A full investment plan is due later in 2022. Final implementation of the roadmap will be in the hands of the next government, with an election due on 21 May.

Universities Australia said in a statement that the roadmap “encourages long-term, strategic thinking to maximise the contribution of Australia’s research and innovation system to social, environmental and economic outcomes”, and that it was looking forward to a detailed response from government.