OPINION: The poor state of science and research in Australia.

The threats to the future of research in Australia are becoming a reality. Surfacing news about proposed budget cuts of up to 20% or $150 million of Government funding to CSIRO have enraged the research community.

It appears that some in a higher position believe that simply cutting back funding is no big deal. The reality is that research is a long and continuous process. It requires years and sometimes even decades of planning and research to reach a goal. You simply cannot stop and start research; it must be sustained. By introducing budget cuts, you push back efforts to potential discoveries and halt future advances. It’s starting back at square one, regardless of the prior research already conducted. How does one even plan research when the uncertainty of whether or not it will be possible to see a result at the end of the day?

Scientists and researchers are not asking for limitless amounts of money. What they are asking for is that decisions surrounding budget spending in research are thoroughly thought out. We want smarter spending.

For current research that may not continue in the future due to the lack of funding available, it could mean the end of years of research in that area. How is that a smart idea to waste years of money and time and effort in a pre-existing project to save money?

Without a federal minister for science, it is already evident that the current government do not have science on their agendas. We are lumped under Industry and a bit of Education. Without a clear direction, our nation simply cannot maintain our involvement at a competent international research level.

Some have suggested that these continuous cuts will deter young people from being involved in research and who would blame them?

As a young researcher, I am worried. And angry.

These budget cuts mean that there will be more unemployed researchers. Massive job cuts within CSIRO last year resulted in 400 job losses. In pre-empting these new budget cuts, it has been announced that another 300 CSIRO jobs will be lost in the next financial year. 700 jobs, about 10% of CSIRO, let go within a year.

More unemployed researchers looking for an even smaller number of available positions. This will cause a surge in job market saturation as well as the obvious – less research being conducted. Research that improves our lives, research that will ensure a future for our children.

There will be less interest in science and research. Who wants to enter an industry in which your prospects are so small? Yet, in our ever-evolving society, we need science and research more than ever. We need our future generation to maintain the research, to develop new ideas, to create ways to advance our society. The contributions from CSIRO have benefited the whole world – from wifi to polymer bank notes.

With many industries also relying upon research conducted CSIRO, it won’t be just science that suffers. The mining, climate and agriculture industry heavily rely upon the research conducted by CSIRO. These flow-on effects would reduce efficiency and innovation in these sectors, setting back some of our nation’s strongest industries.

Currently, the nation’s largest scientific and technology body receives about 60% of funding through federal government. Although some predict the changes will be cuts of 10 to 15%, these cuts will still dramatically affect Australian research. Tens of millions of dollars will still be cut. This impact is phenomenal and it is not acceptable.

With so much of our nation relying upon the CSIRO, how much more can our government afford to show such disregard for our research bodies whilst saying that we are a nation that supports and wants to be world leaders? How can the government plan to be a world leader in innovation yet continue to cut funding in science and research?

I am worried and angry that our future is so bleak.

Hug a scientist. You can sign the Respect Research petition here. http://www.respectresearch.com.au/

Article by KELLY WONG. Brisbane city explorer, scientist, Masters student, eater, Twitter-obsessed, serial multi-tasker. Discover where she eats here and follow her on Twitter.

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