In research, maths does not count

Government backing research that will make it to market is not a new funding trend, according to the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI).

AMSI reports that the maths-specific share of higher education expenditure (HERD) allocations fell from 1.86 per cent of the total in 2018 to 1.26 per cent in 2022.

And maths does not rate any more favourably in ARC allocating fundamental research focused Discovery Grants. From a 35 plus per cent success rate in 2012 (15 per cent higher on all other STEM), maths dropped to the same 18 per cent or so figure for all STEM in 2017 where it  pretty much remains.

The success rates for maths and other STEM in Discovery Early Career awards are much the same; just on 20 per cent this year. These are tiny numbers, but they are better than Linkage grants, with one new award for maths, compared to 96 for other STEM areas.

The industry-focused Linkage programme “is not well set up” to support maths research, AMSI laments. But it’s a bonanza compared to the NCRIS research infrastructure programme, which is “completely silent” on maths.

It is part of a pattern, with just one Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant awarded to maths between 2011 and 2023 (in 2022).

Nor is there much maths in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council. AMSI checked NHJMRC grants over a decade for seven maths keywords and found less than ten references across all programs per year, (excepting 28 Investigator Grants in 2019 and 14 last year).

As for research and development, government R&D on maths has ranged from 0.92 per cent in 2014-15 to 4.5 per cent in  2020-21, around half of engineering. Business R&D spending in maths has flat-lined at next to nothing for a decade. Higher ed R&D (block grants and the like) spending on maths is also close to zero, compared to 15 per cent in 2023 for engineering and 30 per cent for other STEM.



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