Scientific research can provide innovative solutions to societal problems and improve the quality of people’s lives. To a great extent, it defines the future of nations and determines their capacity to handle current and future challenges and problems.
It creates opportunities for development, offering additional competence and increased added value. It also contributes to economic prosperity through the exploitation of the research outputs.
Research must be organised and supported by governments and scientific authorities.
Well-designed and properly implemented priorities are an essential tool to coordinate and connect the potential and effort of national research. It will also help to proactively target the problems and avoid costly and inefficient reactive policies.
Definition and identification of research priorities are a demanding scientific and political exercise. They should be based on well-documented scientific knowledge, an objective forecast of future needs and conditions, on the concrete assessment of current and future research potential and should consider international trends and priorities.
Political interventions out of this frame – denying real research needs or promoting low priority activities for political or other reasons – will result in development deficiencies and unnecessary waste of resources.
Research priorities translated into research activities must inspire and mobilise academic and industrial research capacity and should be adequately supported. Properly and adequately financing agreed research priorities and activities is essential, but not enough.
In a highly competitive research environment, research policies should facilitate the recruitment of the best scientists without restrictions, should provide easy access to advanced infrastructures while enhancing and promoting the exchange and acquisition of knowledge from all the valuable sources.
Fair and efficient assessment procedures aiming to evaluate the performance of research activities should accompany the projects, while commercialisation and dissemination of the successful results should be highly coordinated and supported.
Research is not a profession, it is a passion – a passion to create, develop and advance knowledge. It is the driving force that fuels researchers to fight even under unfavourable conditions.
Research never stops. But it flourishes when it is well supported, not obstructed, properly coordinated and well respected and appraised.
This is all we need from the next government.
Scientia Professor Mat Santamouris is the Anita Lawrence Chair of High Performance Architecture at UNSW.