Comedy central in education

From the Hansard:

Senator KIM CARR: I have only limited time, Professor, so I will need to press on. The minister has also said that he wants to stop ridiculous grants within the Discovery or Linkage programs. Are you familiar with this?
Prof. Byrne : I am not familiar with that statement from the minister, particularly.
Senator KIM CARR: You are not familiar with that statement?
Ms Paul : I do not think the minister has said that.
Senator KIM CARR: He has not said that?
Prof. Byrne : I do not know which particular statement you are referring to.
Senator KIM CARR: That is obviously my next question: how do you identify a ridiculous grant?
Ms Paul : But I do not think he has said anything like that.
Senator KIM CARR: You say the minister has not said that?
Ms Paul : No.
Senator KIM CARR: I see. Bernard Lane’s piece in The Australian on 17 December states:
No mechanism for identifying “ridiculous” grants within the Discovery or Linkage programs has been announced.
That would obviously be a statement of fact, wouldn’t it?
Prof. Byrne : Is Bernard Lane quoting somebody?
Senator KIM CARR: Well, it is in quotation marks.
Prof. Byrne : But who is he quoting?
Senator KIM CARR: It appears to be based upon a press release. His source document is a press release from the—

Before proceeding with the Hansard exchange let’s have a look at (part of) the Australian article being referred to (emphasis added):

THE Discovery and Linkage programs will have funding “redirected” as the government targets “ridiculous” research grants.

Over four years, $61m in Australian Research Council Linkage money will be redirected, as well as $42m in Linkage funds, according to today’s mid-year economic statement.

In Opposition, the Coalition targeted as “ridiculous” a handful of grants in the humanities and social sciences, and said $103m in ARC funds would be redirected to medical research.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said it was good news for research into diabetes, dementia and tropical diseases.

“Diabetes and dementia in particular are among the biggest killers of Australians so we must continue to fight these looming public health challenges by bringing our brightest and best minds to bear,” he said.

“Medical research also has the power to significantly strengthen the economy and create thousands more jobs.”

No mechanism for identifying “ridiculous” grants within the Discovery or Linkage programs has been announced.

Today’s economic statement also contains a $10m cut over three years to the ARC centres of excellence program.

Looks to me that Bernard Lane was making a dry statement as what the government was or actually wasn’t doing rather than paraphrasing a press statement as Senator Carr alleged.

Then the Hansard records this witty exchange between like-minded people:

Prof. Byrne : I have got The Australian here, and I would not believe everything that I read in it.
Senator KIM CARR: You know that you can rely on everything in The Australian, I am sure!
Prof. Byrne : It is gospel truth!

The warning signs are in place – I reckon Christopher Pyne is going to regret not having a vetting process in place.

Senator KIM CARR: I am just wondering: have you been able to identify a way of removing ridiculous grants?
Prof. Byrne : I think we do, Senator, and that is the peer process that we use.
Senator KIM CARR: So you acknowledge that there are ridiculous grants?
Prof. Byrne : Yes, I do acknowledge, actually, that there—
Senator KIM CARR: Grants?
Prof. Byrne : No, sorry. There are ridiculous applications to us that get—
Senator KIM CARR: We would all agree with that. I would agree entirely with that! But the point is that ridiculous grants would be a discovery in its own right—that you have handed out money on a ridiculous basis. You are not conceding that?
Prof. Byrne : No, I do not think I am.
Senator KIM CARR: I am pleased to hear it. Are you having a working group to establish whether or not there have been ridiculous grants?
Prof. Byrne : No, we do not have a working group.
Senator KIM CARR: Have you got any mechanism to establish whether or not—
Prof. Byrne : Yes, I think we have a mechanism, and that is the process we have in the selection of those grants in the first place.

In short, the only thing standing between Christopher Pyne and some awesome research grants is the ARC peer review process. Given that exchange I suspect the Australian is going take special pleasure in reporting and highlighting the ridiculous grants that will be announced later in the year.

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19 Responses to Comedy central in education

  1. stackja

    Does ARC have a peer review process?

  2. Walter Plinge

    Does ARC have a peer review process?

    Does it matter. The peer review process is notorious for peer-picking to get the pre-ordained result.

  3. Sinclair Davidson

    The ARC “peer review” process is not double blind. So it passes the definition of being peer review on the basis that other academics are reviewing the applications but that doesn’t IMO constitute a what I understand to be a rigorous peer review process.

    In any event, peer review is a process usually used to evaluate outputs, while grant applications are, at best, an input.

  4. A peer review process rather constrains research to groupthink doesn’t it?

  5. cohenite

    What a pair of arrogant bastards; I have read peer reviewed pro-AGW papers that had considerable funding behind them which were not fit to feed my neighbour’s dog and it eats its own shit.

  6. Tel

    Personally I think government grants for “research” are quite the wrong way of doing things because “research” could mean whatever you want it to mean. Governments should offer prizes for achievement, open to anyone able to demonstrate the achievement. Read “The Story of Longitude” for an example.

  7. PEB

    In any event that sim was originally to get money away from the humanities and into medical research. I would rather have us cure cancer than understand poetry better.

  8. PEB

    In any event the AIM, not sim. Bloody keyboard.

  9. cohenite

    The opportunity cost of the funding for AGW ‘research’ is vast with $100′s of millions given to the usual shitheads to ‘research’ some vacuous aspect of AGW; full lists are here.

  10. Guilty – I just egged Bernard Lane on.

    I would love to be part of any working group to identify ridiculous grants.

    Especially ones involving climate change.

    But for some reason I haven’t been asked.

  11. Leo G

    Take ridiculous for granted when contemplating the Carr Byrne-out. The standard Labor show- pumping accelerator and brake simultaneously, a great noise, lots of free donuts going around, and a smoking economy.

  12. David

    Read “The Story of Longitude” for an example.

    And look at how long it took Harrison to get the prize for developing arguably the greatest aid to navigation, the chronometer, until the advent of satellite navigation. Longitude is a good read and I had the good fortune to see #1 and #2 on display at Greenwich.

  13. sabrina

    Did you ever get any ARC or similar funding? What was your view about the peer review then? Please ignore if you have not received any ARC/similar funding.

  14. Peter Whiteford

    Sinclair

    My experience of the ARC has involved two anonymous referees, so have you had a different experience?

  15. sabrina

    I wasn’t clear in my post, my question was directed at Sinc.

  16. Bribiejohn

    I always thought that Kim Carr WAS really a comedian pretending to be a politician. One never can tell these days!

  17. JohnA

    Bribiejohn #1211903, posted on March 4, 2014 at 8:17 am

    I always thought that Kim Carr WAS really a comedian pretending to be a politician. One never can tell these days!

    Then I am willing to predict a grim fuure for the Senator after his Parliamentary days are over.

  18. Sinclair Davidson

    Sinclair

    My experience of the ARC has involved two anonymous referees, so have you had a different experience?

    In my experience as an applicant the number of ARC reviewers has been a number between 1 and 4. I have never known their identities. As a reviewer I don’t know how many other reviewers have been assigned that project. I have always known the identity of the applicant(s) – and, indeed, the track record of the applicant(s) makes up a non-trivial component of the actual assessment. As such it is not a double blind peer review of the project itself.

    Did you ever get any ARC or similar funding? What was your view about the peer review then? Please ignore if you have not received any ARC/similar funding.

    I have held a linkage and two discoveries.

  19. Grigory M

    I always thought that Kim Carr WAS really a comedian pretending to be a politician.

    Jus a clown, I’ve always thought. Lots like him in the Liebor Party.

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