Flinders urges a better deal for researchers

Australia must overhaul the career paths for researchers or risk losing the country’s ‘best and brightest’ overseas through a lack of job security and relatively low salaries, according to Flinders Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Chris Marlin [pictured].

Professor Marlin will today (Wednesday 6 August) tell a Federal Parliamentary Inquiry that a 50 per cent lift in income for research students and enhancing employment prospects was likely to boost the numbers of home-grown researchers and keep Australia at the leading edge of research and development required for future economic prosperity.

In a submission to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation Inquiry into research training and workforce issues, Professor Marlin says it “is already clear that a number of areas, such as mathematics and languages, face a future crisis in terms of national capacity and this needs to be addressed”.

“lncreasing the overall number of higher degree scholarships, and specifically increasing the number of ‘targeted’ higher degree scholarships, will help sustain and develop tertiary-qualified professionals to meet Australia’s needs,” Professor Marlin says.

Addressing the challenges facing universities, Professor Marlin notes: “The job prospects for higher degree graduates choosing to focus on a research career are among the most insecure in the country – living from three or five year contract to three or five year contract and having to effectively apply for their jobs again one or two years before the contract ends, and so on.”

“Some of our best and brightest have among the worst job prospects, making a research career unattractive in relation to other options. It is time to rethink this whole system and assist universities to give job security to those pursuing a research career,” Professor Marlin says.

In addition, Professor Marlin says that “current Commonwealth research training schemes produce high quality researchers in all fields; however, inadequate stipend support may well be linked to the observed decline in demand from Australian domestic applicants. lncreasing the scholarship value by around 50 per cent while maintaining tax-free status, is very likely to have a significant influence on demand from Australian students.”

The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation, which is conducting its Adelaide hearing at the Flinders University campus, will also hear from four Flinders postgraduate students and inspect Flinders research activities in medical devices and nanotechnology.

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