Friday, May 17, 2013

National's "innovation" agenda

The government has been trumpeting its support for science, claiming that it is investing $200 million of new funding over the next four years. Half of this is going on business R&D grants, but of the other half they're highlighting $73.5 million for their "National Science Challenges" and an extra $20 million for the Marsden Fund. But as usual for this government, its all spin and bullshit.

First, lets look at overall science funding, as laid out in the Estimate of Appropriations for Vote: Science and Innovation [PDF]. Core departmental funding? Cut from $33 to $29.6 million. Research funding (which includes both the Marsden Fund and various other specific categories of research, as well as core CRI funding)? Cut from $741.5 to $686.5 million. Overall they've sucked over $55 million out of science and innovation. They've introduced some new categories of funding - the "National Science Challenges" - and boosted the Marsden Fund. But those have come at the expense of much deeper cuts elsewhere.

And as for those "National Science Challenges": $73.5 million over 4 years equals $18.375 million a year. And there are ten of them, so each of these "priority areas" gets a mere $1.84 million in funding a year. That doesn't buy a hell of a lot of scientists, or a hell of a lot of science. But announcing it does buy headlines, which is all National is after.

This government is not supporting science - it is cutting it (oh, except for "energy and minerals research" - the miners and oil drillers keep their hidden subsidy). And in the process, they are cutting the future of this country. And you do not need to be a scientist to figure that out.