Posted: 6:11 pm on 18th September 2013

books.previewThe Australian Research Council has been getting some attention recently. Days before the election, the Coalition announced it would redirect some $900 million worth of funds from some weird and wonderful research projects, “to deliver funds to where they’re really needed.”

WasteWatch is no stranger to the joys of reading through the ARC grants list (which can be found here and here). We have previously brought you news of one project’s tax-payer funded South Pacific trip, and also a handy $300 000 spent on ‘enhancing the Australian theme park experience‘.

Philippa Martyr over at Quadrant recently ran through a further list of interesting ARC grants from last year.

WasteWatch is pleased to be able to add a few more examples from this year to the list.

A personal favourite is the $750 000 of your money given to UNSW for “the Australian naturalistic driving study.” Apparently:

This revolutionary new approach will investigate what people actually do when they drive…It will provide Australia with answers to some intractable, high priority, road safety problems that cannot be answered using current methods.

What people ACTUALLY do when they drive? Phew. WasteWatch wonders what the current methods are of investigating how people drive.

Another good one is the nearly $140 000 given to Deakin University to investigate “the legacy of Tim Winton.” Mr Winton, who was alive and well last time WasteWatch checked, may feel this is slightly premature, but academia and their pursuit of knowledge must not be constrained by simple good manners.

Finally, WasteWatch enjoyed the nearly $240 000 given to RMIT University for an investigation entitled “Agile opera,” which opens up all sorts of great ‘fat lady’ puns.

However, concerns over the politicisation of the ARC process are fair enough. ‘Re-prioritisation’ ought not to become short-hand for targeting investigations into Immanuel Kant, for the benefit of incomprehensible projects like Sydney University’s “Asymptotics in non-linear cointegrating regression: theory and applications”, or UNSW’s “How symbiotic bacteria manipulate the phagocytic behaviour of their eukaryotic host.”

While Joe Hockey may feel more comfortable judging philosophy than phosphorylation, all projects ought to be assessed by whether they meet the ARC’s guidelines of “delivering cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits to all Australians.

William Shrubb, WasteWatch Intern

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