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Curiosity matters

1 April 2019
The importance of research funding
The Dean of Science, Professor Iain Young, outlines his hopes for the 2019 Budget.
Portrait photo of Professor Iain Young

Professor Iain Young, Dean of the Faculty of Science

Australia has been falling behind other OECD countries in basic science funding and in our commitment to research and development.

In 2008, Australian outlay on R&D matched the OECD average of about 2.3% of GDP.

Since then it has fallen, hitting just 1.88% in 2016.

In last year’s Budget there was a welcome increase in expenditure through initiatives such as the Research Infrastructure Investment Strategy and funding for the Australian Research Council kept pace with inflation.

I hope this trend continues in the 2019 Budget.

To answer the big questions and address the grand challenges, we need to be able to go small – very small – in our observations.

And we need investment to take results from this fundamental science to scales where they are useful and practical.

All this requires a better balance between basic and applied research. Long-term scientific achievement takes long-term investment.

Long-term scientific achievement takes long-term investment
Professor Iain Young

Finding answers to fundamental problems in science takes time; sometimes even finding the right questions can be elusive.

But when we do, extraordinary things can happen: new ways to treat cancer, better crops that need less water and provide more food, the ability to talk around the world in an instant.

It is estimated that for every dollar we spend on curiosity-driven science we reap gains between one and two orders of magnitude greater. 

So, curiosity matters.