Who will pay for it?

In The Conversation today, there’s a conversation between Douglas Hilton of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and shadow finance minister Andrew Robb. They talk about the general research environment in Australia and about some of the problems with the current funding regime.

Douglas Hilton proposes something along the lines that a few people have recently:

Perhaps you give your young investigators five years’ worth of funding to make a mark. You know people that we know are highly educated, that have served their research apprenticeship, who are passionate and articulate about what they do. Give them five years to get going.

And then after five years ask them, have they come up with the goods, assess them absolutely rigorously, make them responsible for their own destiny and having reviewed them and put the flame to their bellies, then give them perhaps five or seven years in the next funding cycle.

From my point of view, that sounds great! But I don’t think that really recognises how research works and how research is done. The current super-competetive (<20% success rate!) DECRA scheme ties salary and a pretty small budget to a single early-caree research for three years. I can’t see a scenario where a five year window is going to be less competitive.

As Zen Faulkes recently noted, you can’t say that you support funding for more young scientists if you won’t pony up the money to pay it.

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