Inquiry into political interference in research will consider stripping ministers of the power to reverse decisions on peer-assessed projects.
Researchers in Australia have endorsed a proposal to remove government ministers’ power to veto grant-funding decisions made by expert science committees. They say this veto ability is just one example of Australia’s political overreach in research, and is a threat to academic freedom.
The current situation where politicians can override academic freedom and peer review, because of ideology and whim is simply unacceptable. What should purely be a scientific decision to one based on political ideology and whim.
Acting education minister Stuart Robert vetoed six ARC projects in December, sparking outrage in the research community and prompting the inquiry.
Brian Schmidt, a Nobel laureate and Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University in Canberra, told the inquiry on 9 March that the “independence of the research grant process is a core part of how liberal democracies work”. He said the veto was affecting universities’ ability to attract overseas talent and was damaging to the national interest.