Chief Scientist On Getting Our Research Priorities Right

Chief Scientist On Getting Our Research Priorities Right

This is the first part of our series on Science and Research Priorities, which was recently announce by Federal Government. Keep checking back for expert roundups of each priority in the coming days. The Australian Council of Learned Academies conducted a survey of 1,200 researchers at all stages of their careers, from graduate to retiree, in 2012.

Three out of four people said that the best part about their job was being able to work on important and interesting issues. People drawn to the job because of their passion for improving the world. This kept them motivated and allowed them to reflect on their lives with satisfaction.

It’s good that it happened because they also shared their frustrations. Many people, especially in their early careers, felt the most frustrated by the uncertainty of job prospects and the time spent on grant applications. It was also difficult to determine where opportunities might be. It was difficult to see something important and have no way to get there.

The Case Research

According to my knowledge, there has never an era of golden age in which every project that could funded was funded and every person who is talented got tenured. We have limited resources, just like all countries in history, to help with important and worthwhile things.

We know science is amazing and important. Therefore, we are oblige to present the case for Australian investment. We must give them the assurance that the investments they make will be in line with their aspirations, no matter how difficult or winding the road.

We must also put all ministers, vice-chancellors and business investors, as well as students, in a position where they can make informed decisions with the resources available.

Today’s system is based on the assumption that market signals and dumb luck will provide enough capacity in all areas. We often look back at the past and assume that the future will be like it was

Although the market can be a useful way to allocate private capital to promising ideas, it is only if the necessary legwork has done in order to bring the ideas to fruition. Investors will only know where to find the best ideas.

Researchers may have good instincts about what is important. How often do researchers agree on what’s important and work together?

Establishing Priorities

We have people who make difficult decisions based on limited information, often with restricted funds. Similar challenges have been faced by other countries, who have respond intelligently. They have set national priorities for science research.

In order to learn from the successes of others, I organized a series roundtables that began in late 2014. In May, the Prime Minister announced that nine science and research priorities were selected. Each priority was accompanied by three to four practical research challenges. This is a major step forward. It is crucial that you fully understand the implications.

This isn’t, and has never been, an agenda for applied research. It is possible to frame priorities so that you exclude basic research. But, we haven’t done that for all the reasons the advocates of basic research made: it is essential; it is integral; and it must be supported in order to find breakthrough solutions to many of our challenges.

As in other countries, the priorities should cover all aspects of science from basic to applied, just as they do in the United States. Second, I have never suggested spending all our research budget on the priorities. This is enough to ensure that we feel prepared.

These priorities are neither exhaustive nor exclusive. The priorities of government departments and agencies will not change. However, they will have their own priorities with a portion of their efforts focusing on national priorities that are relevant to their mission.