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Researchers riled by ARC funding delay

The Australian Research Council (ARC) funding announcement delay is increasingly raising concerns among researchers.

ARC-funded projects are required to begin research on 1 January 2019. As the date draws closer, researchers are complaining that adequate preparation time is being compromised by the funding hold-up.

Science & Technology Australia (STA) says that the deferral doesn’t only tarnish the reputation of the the ARC, but it poses a risk to the national interest in that Australian researchers might opt to secure job offers overseas instead of waiting for a potential funding offer.

“If we want to attract the best staff to keep Australian research ahead of the curve, we cannot treat them this way,” said STA president, Professor Emma Johnston. Ironically, she advised that the hold-up is due to the imposition of Dan Tehan’s new ‘national interest test’ on grant submissions.

The test was announced last month, despite there already being a ‘national interest’ criterion in ARC grant application documents. And, though delays have occurred previously, according to Johnson, these are the “worst on record”.

An ARC spokesperson confirmed that it is “currently working with the Minister for Education to implement the national interest test, which will apply for all future rounds of ARC grants not yet open”. The intended announcement date for this year’s funding round is listed as simply ‘Fourth Quarter 2018’.

Researchers have taken to Twitter to express their frustration.

Politicians, too, have weighed in. “The number one export industry for Australia is suddenly vulnerable,” Labor Senator Kim Carr tweeted.

In the face of this, Johnson and her STEM leader peers support the government creating their own delay – a deferral of the new national interest test until next year’s ARC funding round.

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