Medical research community alarmed at political interference in research funding decisions

Medical research community alarmed at political interference in research funding decisions

29th October, 2018

The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) condemns the secret Ministerial decision to strip 11 world class research projects of Australian Research Council funding and says there is no place for government interference in our world-class expert peer review process.

Professor Tony Cunningham AO, President of AAMRI, said the actions taken by the previous Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, risk leaving Australia looking like a laughing stock amongst the international research community.

“I am surprised and extremely disappointed at the news that the previous Education Minister had intervened to prevent research projects, which were judged to be amongst the best in the country, from going ahead,” said Professor Cunningham.

“These researchers have followed all the government funding rules and their projects were judged by experts in a highly competitive process to be amongst the very best. These projects appear to have been cancelled simply because the Minister didn’t like them. This is no way to run a world-class research system.”

Professor Cunningham said actions like this have the potential to undermine Australia’s reputation as a leading research nation.

“I’m concerned research careers could be ended because of what the Minister of the day likes or dislikes, and this could lead to our best talent looking overseas where they could find greater stability and respect for their hard work.”, said Professor Cunningham.

Professor Cunningham also said he was concerned that humanities research projects had been singled out for cancellation and said Australia can only be a strong science nation, and a strong medical research nation, if it is also strong in the humanities and social sciences.

“It is disappointing to see these outstanding research projects in the humanities become the target of political interference. We can’t solve the world’s great challenges with science alone. We need to understand people and the decisions they make and that’s why the humanities and social sciences are so important.”

Professor Cunningham called on the new Education Minister to rule out any further political interference in the Australian Research Council to help restore confidence in Australia’s research system.

ENDS

Media Contact: Aimee Sanderson, 0414 611 334, aimee.sanderson@aamri.org.au.