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Group of Eight calls for national research strategy


Research-intensive universities say current approach in Australia is fragmented and incoherent

Australia’s Group of Eight research-intensive universities has called for the creation of a national research strategy, saying the existing system is too fragmented.

In a policy brief released on 27 March, the Go8 says the current “portfolio-by-portfolio” approach, relying on numerous “initiatives” and targets, is not coherent.

It wants a “strategy that sets a dedicated framework to support research in Australia for generations to come”. The country has a choice of continuing down the same path or becoming “far less beholden and more sovereign” in its use of knowledge.

The paper repeats earlier calls for more support for basic research and collaboration, as well as an increase in R&D spending as a percentage of GDP.

Productivity requires research

It says the only way to achieve the required growth in productivity is to innovate, and that innovation requires a strong research system.

“Australia is going in the wrong direction as it relates to commitment to R&D and productivity,” it says. The country is using the ability to “tap into global knowledge” to compensate for being underpowered in its own R&D.

The Go8 says it accounts for about 70 per cent of research spending at universities, funded by a mix of government and other sources. Its proposed national strategy would put universities at the centre of research funding, would give them greater stability, would “be discipline agnostic” and would develop the research workforce. Industry-university collaboration would be better supported, and changed migration “settings” would “attract and retain world-leading university researchers and educators”.

The government should also pursue free trade agreements and gain access to funding sources such as Horizon Europe, the Go8 said. Early talks on Horizon affiliation have not led to any announcements, whereas New Zealand has recently become affiliated to some parts of the programme, unlocking potentially millions of dollars of funding.