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Aussie Scientists Breathe Sigh Of Relief, For Now

Vital science research funding brought back from the brink, but scientists are still worried for the future of their projects.

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Australian scientists have expressed their relief after the federal government backed down on its threat to cut $150m of science infrastructure funding.

Over the weekend, education minister Christopher Pyne was threatening that 1,700 researchers would lose their jobs if his higher education reforms were not passed through the senate. On Monday, he withdrew the threat, guaranteeing science funding for another year.

After being accused of holding scientists hostage, Mr Pyne announced that the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (NCRIS) would still receive $150 million in funding promised in last year's budget.

It's a close call for the NCRIS, which has been the centre of a funding battle that's been going on for more than ten years, when then science minister Julie Bishop announced a strategic investment program for scientific research infrastructure.

Trying to get my head around the #NCRIS funding.

Minister Pyne has now declared the problem solved, in this very strange and slightly flirtatious interview with David Speers.

Sky News

PYNE: I've fixed it. I'm a fixer.

SPEERS: How did you fix it?

PYNE: I've fixed it by funding it another way which you'll find out in the budget.

SPEERS: Why can't you tell us?

PYNE: I want it to be a surprise for you.


So, has he fixed it? The Australian Academy of Science has welcomed the announcement.

"This decision will mean researchers can get on with the job of developing the new technology and innovative ideas that Australia needs for the future," the Academy's president Professor Andrew Holmes said.

"It means they are back from the brink of closure. Now what we need to see is long-term funding for this essential infrastructure that gives researchers and industry in Australia the certainty they need."

But many scientists still have concerns about the future of Australian research.

Before Monday's announcement, Australian Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt said that Australia risked becoming the laughing stock of the scientific world if it lost the NCRIS.

He warned of a brain drain as scientists fled overseas to find a work and a "wholesale winding down of the nation's scientific infrastructure capability" with some facilities contemplating sacking their employees at the end of the month.

Australian scientists were staring down the barrel of massive job losses and facility shutdowns, so the decision to fund NCRIS for a year is more of a stay of execution rather than a complete fix.

And it's a feeling echoed by other prominent scientists.

Guys. 1 year of funding is cause for relief, not celebration. Perspective. #NCRIS


Now that #NCRIS is safe for another year let's move to longterm planned and bipartisan support for research and development funding

Good Government should provide long-term support for scientists and world-class research facilities - not a Groundhog Day of Funding Crisis.

Here are some of the NCRIS research projects that will live to see another day, thanks to Monday's decision.


As well as being important, ground-breaking studies with internationally significance, they're also cool as hell.

A revolutionary needle-less vaccination patch.

Kendall/D2G2 group

Imagine getting your vaccinations without having to go to the doctor or get a painful needle. Plus, the fact that they don't need to be refrigerated means vaccinations can be delivered to remote areas.


These massive fields of telescopes in the desert, used by astronomers from all over the world to survey the entire southern hemisphere sky.

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And turning elephant seals into unicorns!