Stuart Robert University vetoes sparked an uproar


Stuart Robert blocked six research projects he said were not in the national interest. Alex ellinghausen

However, Professor Glover said the blockade of the Sixth which sought to understand the mass mobilization of school students in climate action and how this relates to their commitment to democracy “goes beyond belief.”

WSU researcher Phillipa Collin’s grant application said: “It is in Australia’s national interest to better understand the motivations, forms of organization and participation, and responses to student climate activism that underlies citizens’ current and future expectations of democracy ”.

Professor Glover wondered how this research could “not be in the national interest at a time of so much turmoil in the world”.

“We certainly want our best social and political scientists to explore the phenomenon. And what could the minister possibly find reprehensible in a liberal democracy supporting free speech and extolling the virtues of academic freedom, ”said Professor Glover.

The subsidy veto, which is only the third time, has sparked tangible anger on social media.

An anonymous researcher who follows the Australian Research Council closely described Robert’s decision to block grants on Christmas Eve as “a shameful, childish and simple election campaign.”

“It is not ministerial discretion; it’s politics, nothing more, ”said the researcher @ARC_Tracker.

“It undermines, insults and wastes the precious time and thoughtful considerations of 200 members of the College of Experts assembled by an independent CRA.”

Australian National University vice-chancellor Professor Schmidt said undermining the independence of the ARC was a risky decision.

“[The ARC’s independence] allows long-term advancement of knowledge without being hampered by the politics of the day. A key advantage of Western democracies over other systems is that they seek answers across the range of possibilities, rather than simply following government agendas, ”said Professor Schmidt.

Christina Parolin, executive director of the Australian Academy of Humanities, agreed that it is impossible to maintain other nations at a high level of academic independence if we do not demonstrate the same values ​​here.

“Asking researchers to guess whether their work will be rejected by the minister of the day after going through a rigorous peer review process, is not a way to support a research system in a liberal democracy,” said the Dr Parolin.

The research grants process had already attracted much criticism with the 2022 funding announcements, the most recent in the 30-year history of the Australian Research Council.

At the same time, ARC director Sue Thomas has come under pressure from both the research community and its political masters. On December 14, she announced her premature retirement a week after having received instructions from Mr. Robert overhaul the governance of the CRA and give industry a role in the assessment of grant applications.

Mr Robert has only been acting minister since December 6, when Alan Tudge was forced to step down following allegations of abuse by former staff member Rochelle Miller.

Government ministers have only vetoed ARC grants twice in the past. The last time was in 2018, when Education Minister Simon Birmingham blocked 11 research projects. The previous event was in 2006 under the Howard government when Brendan Nelson vetoed seven grants.

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