Those of us in higher education know there is steadily increasing pressure to secure research grants. Ironically, at the same time access to funding is decreasing. In my own context, Canada, receiving a grant from our central funding agency, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), is getting more difficult. It is not just the increased competition but also, the pool of money seems to be shrinking. I (Clare) read with interest and some sadness about the challenges my colleagues in Australia are facing. The University World News reported:
· In his speech, Hockey [Australian Federal Treasurer] shocked the nation’s scientists by announcing that the key independent research granting body, the Australian Research Council or ARC, would lose A$61 million from its “discovery programme” and A$42 million from its “linkage programme”.
· Dr Ross Smith, president of Science and Technology Australia, which represents 68,000 scientists, said cutting A$103 million from the ARC’s budget would further limit its capacity to fund fundamental and applied research – at a time when the success rates for applications for world-class grants are already below 25%.
· “Australian scientists are afraid this will lead to fewer jobs and training opportunities for our best and brightest. We are also concerned about funding for important humanities and social science research, given the cuts,” Smith said.
My colleagues in the UK are facing untold difficulties securing research grants. It is ironic that federal governments fail to recognize that conducting quality research requires funding and that it is absolutely necessary. Many researchers are in a Catch 22 – show you are an active researcher but do not expect money to conduct research. The short-term effect of reduced research funding is being felt throughout universities world-wide. The long-term effect is yet to be tabulated but I suspect it will be significant. We need research to investigate issues/phenomena/topics because the findings deepen our knowledge on a vast range of topics (which in turn can guide policy decisions). Conducting research is hard work. (Not to mention the time involved in writing a grant proposal — usually 2-3 months.) Let’s not make it so difficult that our research base erodes. Clare