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Simon Birmingham’s intervention in research funding is not unprecedented, but dangerous

Jon Piccini and Dirk Moses write in The Conversation (26.10.18) about former education minister Simon Birmingham's worrying, but not unprecedented, personal intervention into a number of research funding decisions by the Australian Research Council.

'Senator Simon Birmingham’s personal intervention during his time as education minister in 2017 and 2018 to deny funding to 11 Australian Research Council (ARC) grants, all in the humanities and worth a combined total of A$4.2 million, has sparked outrage.

'Revealed in Senate estimates on Thursday, the vetoed projects included $926,372 for a La Trobe University project titled “Writing the struggle for Sioux and US modernity”, $764,744 for a Macquarie University project on “the music of nature and the nature of music”, and $391,574 for an ANU project called “Price, metals and materials in the global exchange”.

'On Friday, Birmingham defended his intervention, suggesting most Australian taxpayers would prefer their funding be directed to other research.

'In a statement, Ian Jacobs, the vice chancellor and president at UNSW, from which three grants were vetoed, said “the unjustified and unexplained decision to solely deny funding for research that contributes to scholarship in arts and humanities is deeply troubling”.'

 

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