The APSA Executive Committee condemns the decision of acting Education Minister Stuart Robert to veto 6 Discovery Projects that had been recommended for funding by the Australian Research Council.
A lengthy, rigorous and highly competitive process had been used to decide which projects ought to be funded. Proposals are judged by panels of independent, eminent experts in each field of research, and are funded with the expectation that the projects are significant, innovative, and will transform knowledge in the field. We support expert review as the cornerstone of research project funding systems around the world. A choice to exercise Ministerial veto in the research grants system tarnishes international confidence in Australian research and our reputation for research excellence.
The use of a Ministerial veto also undermines academic freedom. As it allows a Minister to decide they simply don’t like or object to a research topic, irrespective of the merits of the project. In this round it is particularly disappointing to note that all 6 vetoed projects are in the humanities and social sciences.
We especially condemn the veto of the project “New Possibilities: Student climate action and democratic renewal”. This project is led by long-term APSA member, Associate Professor Philippa Collin of Western Sydney University. The project was recommended for funding and sought to understand the role of Australian students in the global School Strike for Climate movement, and how their actions are changing representative democracy. It was purposefully designed to document and understand how young people are successfully encouraging reluctant elders, including politicians, to ‘listen to the science’ and avert a global warming catastrophe. The transformation of democracy, inclusion and representation of the views of young people, and creation of citizen-centric policy to avert climate change, are all core social science research topics for our times.
We urge the Government to mitigate the damage to the careers of all these researchers and Australia’s research integrity by reversing the veto on all 6 grants. And to publicly commit to supporting rigorous, expert funding decisions.