October 3, 2023

Australia’s draft National Science and Research Priorities – IRU Response

The Innovative Research Universities (IRU) supports the development and refinement of Australia’s draft National Science and Research Priorities (the “Priorities”) and the National Science Statement. The draft Priorities aim to embed First Nations knowledge systems into research areas of national importance, and leverage Australia’s research strengths towards areas of critical need. The Priorities serve a legitimate purpose for guiding new public investment, when paired with a strong system of investigator-led “bottom-up” programs guided by peer-review.

The draft Priorities cut across traditional discipline and sector boundaries, and effectively set out the “what” and “why” for Australia’s science and research efforts over the next decade. However, the Priorities are less clear regarding “how” they will be implemented, how they will engage with First Nations and interdisciplinary knowledge, and how they will complement the broader system of government support for research. The contribution of Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS), particularly towards enacting behavioural change, could be strengthened. The foundational role of the school and continuing education sectors could also be better emphasised.

The IRU response outlines six main areas for refining the Priorities:

  1. Emphasising how the Priorities will achieve behavioural change and community acceptance;
  2. Promoting science at all levels of education to ensure all Australians understand and support the Priorities;
  3. Better supporting Indigenous (and non-Indigenous) academics to engage with Indigenous communities and share the workload of embedding First Nations knowledge systems into the Priorities;
  4. Collaboratively developing critical research questions to guide immediate action in the Priorities’ critical research areas;
  5. Considering mission-based compacts (or similar) to guide new public investments in Priorities;
  6. Re-stating the purposes of the Priorities and ongoing support for basic research in the National Science Statement.

IRU feedback on each of the consultation questions is outlined here.