Friday, August 23, 2013

pre-election science hick-ups

In most societies politicians or the people in the background of politics have a great influence on science. How much funding will go into science, what kind of research will be funded, how stressful and competitive it is to get funding, ... . Often enough these things might change when a new government is elected and the new responsible people have a different opinion about this topic than the former responsible people.
Struggling towards the election with all the more or less usual campaigning and political sandbox fights (see: Rudd vs. Gillard) Australia could be in such an "unstable" funding situation, but universities and research and science is actually not on their agenda. And even though it seems likely that we will get a change in government, nobody really expects great changes for the research funding.
However, the political situation still takes its toll on researchers. Endless amounts of hours have been sunk into writing grant applications at the beginning of the year. Usually the outcomes are announced in July or August. But for some reason the political situation hold up this process and right now nobody knows when the outcomes of the fellowship and grant applications will be made public - some time after the election, when the new government has warmed up their seats in the parliament. I'm sure all the reviewers and all the panel members already did their job and the decisions about who gets how much are already made. So why holding up the announcement? Because some not-yet-elected Minister of Science wants to give a press conference on that? Do politicians understand that other people's professional and to some extend personal lives depend on these outcomes? That they want to know if they still have a job at the beginning of next year or if they still can fund their post-docs?
I do think that Australia fosters scientific research very well and gives a lot of opportunities to get funding. But I really dislike the attitude of Australian politics to sometimes forget that their decisions have impact on people's lives and that giving them sufficient time to adapt to changes instead of changing the rules from one day to the other would create much more trust in the abilities of the government.

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