Questions and answers

Why are specific disciplines not identified as part of the priority setting?

Addressing the Priorities and Practical Research Challenges will require effort from across the full spectrum of research disciplines, including the physical and life sciences, engineering, information and communications technology and the humanities and social sciences.

Concerted effort, greater collaboration across disciplines and sectors and strong national research capability are all required if Australia is to respond effectively to current and emerging challenges.

What will happen to research in areas not covered by the Science and Research Priorities?

The Australian Government will continue to provide a broad base of support for research through existing mechanisms. The nation’s broad research capacity will continue to be supported by the Australian Government.

How will the Science and Research Priorities affect research in universities?

The Priorities provide a framework for the Australian Government, through its departments and agencies, to coordinate research investment and encourage the development of ‘critical mass’ in areas of competitive advantage and national importance.

Universities will not be expected to align their research profiles with the Priorities. However, the Priorities provide an indication of the kind of goals public investment in Australia is trying to achieve. It is important that the Australian Government articulate and communicate these outcomes in order to foster collaboration across the Australian research sector, between researchers and industry, and internationally.

Will all Australian Government research funding be tied to the Science and Research Priorities?

No. The Australian Government will continue to provide support for research through a variety of targeted and untargeted funding mechanisms, including research block funding to universities, competitive research grants, infrastructure support and resourcing for the distinctive mission and core activities of publicly funded research agencies.

What proportion of funding will be allocated to the Science and Research Priorities?

It is important that the overall scale of public and private investment in research is sufficient to ensure that Australia has the capacity and capability to deliver results in priority areas.

At this early stage, the Australian Government has not mandated that a specific proportion of government funding be directed to the priority areas. However, to make sure that we have the require capacity and capabilities, we need to develop a better understanding of Australia’s existing capacity and capability in priority areas, where current investment is currently directed and the probable impact over time.

The National Science, Technology and Research Committee (NSTRC) – which reports directly to the Commonwealth Science Council – will commission an analysis of current capacity and capability and develop a framework for whole-of-government reporting on investment and activities. Analysis of this ‘mapping exercise’, which will be completed in late 2015, will inform future advice on policy decisions to support the Priorities, including whether there is a need to change the level and balance of investment in priority areas.

How will the Science and Research Priorities be implemented?

At present, almost all portfolios provide some funding for scientific and other research in their areas of responsibility. The Chief Scientist will write to all relevant Australian Government departments and agencies to provide information on the Priorities and the Practical Research Challenges, and recommend that proportion of their overall science and research effort be focused on the priority areas relevant to their missions. This proportion will be determined, in part, by the mapping exercise.

Departments and agencies will be asked to develop a plan for implementing the Priorities within their organisation. Each department or agency will also be expected to provide and annual report on policy, funding and other activities directed at the Priorities.

What is the timeline for implementation?

The Priorities take effect immediately, with a transition period from 2015-16 to give departments and agencies time to align their science and research activities with the new Priorities. The Priorities will be fully implemented by 1 July 2016.

How will the Science and Research Priorities be evaluated?

The Science and Research Priorities and Practical Research Challenges will be reviewed after the first two years to allow for new initiatives to take effect. Data collected through the process will be used to monitor performance and assess activity against the Priorities. These measures will include a requirement for all departments and agencies to report research activity against the Priorities.

The NSTRC will continue to be responsible for coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Priorities and preparing advice to the Australian Government on possible actions to address gaps or barriers in Australia’s current research capacity.

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