Soil and Water – Capability Statement

Printer friendly version

Focusing on Australia’s critical soil and water assets, build capacity for improved accuracy and precision in predicting change to inform better decision making.


Key facts for the Soil and Water Priority

  • It is estimated that approximately $440 million of the $2.65 billion supporting national priorities is allocated directly to the Soil and Water Priority area.*
  • In terms of citation impact, an indicator of research quality, Australian research on this Priority ranks:
    • 2nd out of 10 when compared against selected Asia Pacific countries**
    • 8th out of 14 when compared to selected European countries, Canada and New Zealand.***
  • 53 per cent of Australian publications are produced with an international co-author.

*  Data on two key initiatives – university research block grants and the R&D taxincentive – are not collected in a way that supports analysis against priorities.
** Selected Asia Pacific countries: India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
*** Selected European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
China and the United States were not included for the Soil and Water Priority due to database constraints on publication numbers.

Current research strengths

Australia has a strong scientific and technical capability in soil and water research, with many individuals and institutions considered world leaders in their field. Australia’s existing research strengths include:

  • physical and chemical oceanography
  • marine geology
  • ocean climate
  • water engineering
  • large-scale basin studies
  • ground water studies
  • earth observation (terrestrial and water quality)
  • agricultural production in dry conditions and low nutrient soils.


Practical challenges

  1. New and integrated national observing systems, technologies and modelling frameworks across the soil-atmosphere-water- marine systems.
  2. Better understanding of sustainable limits for productive use of soil, freshwater, river flows and water rights, terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
  3. Minimising damage to, and developing solutions for restoration and remediation of soil, fresh and potable water, urban catchments and marine systems.


Action within this Priority will enable a strategic and coordinated approach to supporting soil and water R&D. It will assist Australia to overcome current research weaknesses and take advantage of strengths by:

  • encouraging a shift towards interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary research that couples social and economic sciences with biophysical processes
  • developing capabilities in critical and emerging areas, such as groundwater systems, hydrogeology, greenwater, terrestrial and ocean acidification and impacts of development (urban, industrial and agricultural) and climate change
  • providing resources and infrastructure to upscale Australia’s research networks in vital areas, such as digital soil mapping
  • supporting a critical mass of researchers to develop research capacity and ensure a pipeline of researchers for the future
  • developing tools for primary producers to integrate and understand data and information on soil and water from a variety of sources.

International Citation Comparison, 2010 to 2014


For this Priority, each circle represents one of the comparator countries, grouped into region by colour: circle size represents number of publications, while circle placement indicates the country’s weighted citations relative to Australia. Data are from Thomson Reuters InCites, with the Priority identified by a keyword search.

Australian Government Expenditure on Science and Research Priorities


The Australian Government invests $9.7 billion in science, research and innovation. Approximately $2.65 billion of this investment can be attributed to research aligned to the nine Science and Research priorities. Data on university block grants and the R&D tax incentive – two key initiatives that have critical roles in supporting strategic, mission-directed research - are not collected in a way that supports analysis against the priorities.

Sources: 2015-16 Science, Research and Innovation Budget Tables; Research Strategies Australia, Science and Research Priorities and Practical Challenges, May 2015.

Australia Science and Research Priorities

Australia’s Science and Research Priorities identify areas that are of immediate and critical importance to the nation and its place in the world. They help align our research to industry and will make sure that we capitalise on our comparative advantages and address challenges.

The Australian Government will use the Priorities to guide a proportion of its research investment to areas of critical need and national importance. This capability snapshot is a vital step to make sure that we get this strategic investment right – it is about understanding what we spend now, what we are good at and where we need to improve.

Share this Page