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Are ARC grants for science or a form of government advertising disguised as research?

government funded science becomes advertising for government policies

ARC Grants have just been announced for 2013

Let’s look at what won a grant in light of the fact that nearly 80% of all the applications for ARC funding fail. (Indeed Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt wonders if our best scientists are hobbled by an arduous waste-of-time process where they spend up to 30% – 50% of their working life applying for grants.)

Looking at the current round of successful grants. How do you beat four out of five candidates for funding? Here’s one successful method:

Step One: Use statistically insignificant results obtained by dubious techniques to generate a paper with conclusions that grab headlines.

Step Two: Make sure these “results” support contentious Labor Party policies, and actively promote the spurious conclusions in the media prior to publication.

Step Three (optional): Possibly go on to publish the paper, then again, maybe not.

Step Four: Apply for more money.

Apparently the ALP need to find budget savings from the science program to deliver their promised “surplus”. They are thinking of a grants freeze — which is a good way to create uncertainty and encourage the best researchers to leave the country. Here’s another idea, they could stop funding inept activists and just use science grants for scientists.

The man ultimately responsible for the use or misuse of taxpayer dollars through the Australian Research Council is The Hon Chris Evans. It is time he explained how research by scientists who break laws of reason, and have a record of producing unscientific, illogical, and  incompetent research get funding, when most researchers miss out and when the ALP is supposedly cutting wasteful spending.

Could ARC grants sometimes be used as a soft form of government advertising, disguised as research?

Case I: Define scientists who oppose a government policy as “pseudoscientists”, research ways to discredit them

Lewandowsky and Oberauer’s last joint effort took two years to analyze an internet survey which asked questions of the wrong crowd, had almost no relevant responses most of which were likely faked, was ethically dubious, yet scored headlines in the press to denigrate scientists, was delayed and remains still unpublished three months later. Stephan Lewandowsky, who  had his name on $1.7 million in government grants now has his name attached to $2m in grants since 2007.

 DP130101735  Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Brown

Information seeking, cognition, and individual differences

$138,000  for 2013
$100,000  for 2014
$100,000  for 2015

Total $338,000.00

The public now has access to vast amounts of scientific knowledge and information on the internet and in other new media. Paradoxically, this increasing availability of knowledge has been accompanied by the increasing traction of pseudoscientific misinformation. This project explores the reasons underlying those trends and seeks solutions.

Define pseudoscience: Is it the unscientific pronouncements of activists who think that computer models and internet polls are scientific “evidence” about our atmosphere? Is pseudoscience the practice of claiming that there is overwhelming evidence, but being unable to name any? Is it science to call other scientists names? Can Lewandowsky define his use of the word “denier” in any scientific sense, and with accurate English?

Case II: Provide good marketing opportunities for government policies

How do you beat four out of five applicants for funding? Is it by announcing results loudly in press releases which promote government policies, but which turn out to be based on a tiny sample, with non-statistically significant results, using a technique that was not as described and embarrassingly having to withdraw the paper? Is your work of such a high standard that unfunded volunteers took only three weeks to spot holes in it, holes that $300,000 and three years of study by expert peer review didn’t notice? Tick, Yes.

 DE130100668  Gergis, Dr Joelle

The University of Melbourne

The further back we look, the further forward we can see: 1,000 years of past climate to help predict future climate change in Australia.

Reconstructing 1,000 years of Australia’s past climate will greatly extend our understanding of natural climate variability currently estimated from weather observations. For the first time, Australian climate variations over the last millennium will be used to assess the accuracy of climate model simulations for our region.

2013 $118,785.00
2014 $115,920.00
2015 $117,100.00
Total $351,805.00

Thanks to Roberto Soria for heads up and help.

I repeat: The man ultimately responsible for the use or misuse of taxpayer dollars through the Australian Research Council is The Hon Chris Evans. Will the Coalition produce a science policy that aims for rigorous science, and prevents any dubious use of highly contested research funds? Is it possible to FOI the reasons these projects were selected over so many others? Someone, somewhere is responsible.

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