Million-dollar wait over for Australian researchers

No explanation for delay that kept 15 academics on tenterhooks for months

May 28, 2021
Pedestrian and cyclist traffic ‘Go’ signal representing approval of ARC grant funding
Source: iStock

Months of potentially career-jeopardising limbo has ended for more than a dozen Australian researchers, after federal education minister Alan Tudge signed off on almost A$1.2 million (£650,000) of funding that had been given a green light by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

A summary posted on the ARC website on 28 May reveals that Mr Tudge has now approved two humanities research grants endorsed by the council some four months ago.

They were among 67 ARC Linkage Projects grant recommendations communicated to Mr Tudge’s office on 1 February. The minister approved funding for 65 proposals on 24 March but deferred his decision on projects led by the universities of Sydney and Queensland.

The delay fanned fears of more political interference in the research funding process, after Mr Tudge’s predecessors Dan Tehan and Simon Birmingham vetoed grant recommendations from the ARC. The minister’s office has shrugged off questions about the delay from Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi and the media.

The University of Sydney project, run by indigenous researchers, will develop an “imagination education pedagogical framework” for use by teachers in underprivileged areas. The Queensland team will develop best practice guidelines to help humanitarian organisations marshal interest in foreign aid without relying on “dehumanising” images of victims of violence.

Research transparency campaigner “ARC Tracker” tweeted that the grants’ approval was pleasing, but that the reasons for the delay would probably never be revealed, with the minister not obliged to reveal them even to the applicants.

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