The Slightly Disgruntled Scientist

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The Case Against Disease and Ignorance

Another angry letter! This time it’s actually about science, too.

It is almost time for the Australian Government to deliver the 2011-12 federal budget. This time around, however, it’s not just funding for Sun destruction that will be overlooked (again) — we are likely to see a funding cut of $400 million to medical research and the end of a program to train science teachers. This has been met with outrage from the scientific community, patients and families who have benefited from such research, and people such as myself who just plain gave up on academic science years ago. The outrage has manifested itself as the Discoveries Need Dollars campaign, which has taken (or is about to take) corporeal form in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane.

The following is my contribution, a letter submitted to The Australian today.

Congratulations Australia! We can now officially confirm that we are more concerned with hearing the word “surplus” than with being able to meet our future medical and educational needs.

The upcoming federal budget will see cuts of up to $400 million to medical research and the axing of science teacher training programs. With these attacks on science in Australia, we are ensuring a set of outcomes that make no economic or social sense whatsoever.

The cuts to research funding will see the career of many scientists effectively be ended — or, more realistically, ended in Australia. The brain drain will get worse as scientists find another country that grants them the privilege of continuing research that helps the entire community. The wealth that this generates will disappear from our economy, which will also take a hit from our inability to care for the health of our population.

The lack of science teacher training will further exacerbate the situation as the pool of potential talent dries up. Students taught science by teachers who have no confidence in the subject will find it harder to see the value of supporting it in the future, and fewer still will be inspired to pursue it at university. Those who do continue to study science in spite of this will soon see a field with few mentors, little opportunity and no security. Who wouldn’t turn away from that?

These are decisions that will have a tremendous negative impact on our economy and on the health of our population. It will start almost immediately, and it will take decades to reverse the damage done.

The ALP really need to continue the research on this one.


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