For those readers outside of Australia, the big news this week has been a rumored $400 million (about 20%) cut in medical research funding from the government. This has obviously worried most people involved in medical research, including patient groups. While it has been a treat to see the research and medical community come together in protest against the proposed budget changes – through letter-writing to politicians, online petitions, and a protest rally in the capital cities – I have taken the opportunity to reflect on where the research funding actually goes.
While I don’t claim to be an expert in money matters (or grant writing for that matter), I can’t help but think that there may be ways to reduce the cost of performing research, or at least make it more efficient and sustainable. Where does all of the money go? Does most of it go to clinicians and patients in an effort to convince them to participate in the research? To research assistants who do the work academics don’t have time for? Towards the printing of questionnaires and information booklets?
It seems as though there isn’t much discussion in the research community about sustainability (of funding and resources) or even the impact of our industry on the environment. We demand these discourses and transparency from other industries (manufacturing, agriculture etc) – but should academia be held separate to other sectors? I’d love to strike up a bit of discussion around this topic, to hear the experiences of others – especially those in more “resource-depleted” institutes. I know every researcher wants brand new equipment, state-of-the-art computers, and attractively designed, professional looking questionnaire booklets. But can’t we use the equipment we just bought with the last lot of grant money, revamp an old computer, and recycle most of the paper we use (don’t even get me started on the amount of paper we use…)?
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