Australian researchers push to end politicians’ power to veto grants

From Nature, 10 March 2022:

Researchers in Australia have endorsed a proposal to remove government ministers’ power to veto grant-funding decisions made by expert science committees. They say this veto ability is just one example of Australia’s political overreach in research, and is a threat to academic freedom.

Legislators in Australia are considering whether to amend a law to remove the minister for education’s right to veto projects recommended for grants by one of the country’s major research-funding agencies, the Australian Research Council (ARC). The proposed amendment is part of a Parliamentary inquiry into political interference in research funding.

Acting education minister Stuart Robert vetoed six ARC projects in December, sparking outrage in the research community and prompting the inquiry.

Brian Schmidt, a Nobel laureate and Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University in Canberra, told the inquiry on 9 March that the “independence of the research grant process is a core part of how liberal democracies work”. He said the veto was affecting universities’ ability to attract overseas talent and was damaging to the national interest. Read more.

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