from the World-Watch dept.
A pair of reports in the Canberra Times cover a minor flap that developed when Australian Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson departed from normal practice by directing the Australian Research Council (ARC), the nation's top research body, how to spend a third of its 2003 budget. Making the announcement on 28 January ("Nelson sets priority for research funds" by C. Jackson, 30 January 2002), Nelson said 33 per cent of ARC funding would go to four priority areas of cutting-edge scientific research such as nanotechnology, genomics, complex and intelligent systems and photonics. About A$170 million (about US$86.4 million) would support projects and centres for up to five years; Nelson said that research proposals in the areas of nanotechnology and biomaterials, photon science, genomics and phenomics, and complex and intelligent systems should share one-third of ARC grants allocated in the current application round for 2003. According to the second report ("Minister's decision means some research grants doubled" by C. Jackson S. Grose, 31 January 2002), the result of the reallocation of funds to those four specific areas will result in funds to those areas almost doubling. In the 2002 round, genomic and phenomics received the largest amount of the four, 6.4 per cent. Nanotech and biomaterial work received 5.9 per cent, photon science 2.9 per cent, and 2.8 per cent went to complex and intelligent systems research.
According to the reports, the announcement has thrown the ARC's grants system into turmoil.