Leaders of all 39 universities yesterday urged Education Minister Dan Tehan to follow expert advice and not exercise such a veto in future – and to report to the public about such cases.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said while the Minister’s announcement did not include a pledge to remove Ministerial veto, he has vowed to make such decisions public.
“While it doesn’t abolish the Ministerial veto power, the public and the researchers should know if a Minister has rejected expert advice – so a commitment to public reporting is important,” she said.
“It’s also critical to enable the Australian Research Council to tell applicants their grant was recommended by experts but vetoed by a Minister.”
“That’s important so public servants aren’t put in an impossible position and so researchers know that their proposed research had expert endorsement.”
On the proposal to introduce a ‘national interest’ test on all research funding applicants, Ms Jackson said the major ARC grants schemes already had a ‘national benefit’ test.
The current application forms for the major ARC grants all ask applicants to outline the benefit to the Australian and international community of the research.
Ms Jackson said the sector would discuss with the Minister what he has in mind given the existing requirement to outline the proposed advances of knowledge to the benefit to the nation.
“It is squarely in Australia’s national interest that our researchers are able to push the boundaries of new knowledge and inquire into what makes the world work,” she said.
“We have a research funding system based on merit with several layers of expert review that already asks how research will extend benefits to Australia.”