Review of Australia’s research training system

The minerals industry is concerned that current policy and funding arrangements may (inadvertently) work against the most effective deployment of Australia’s innovation efforts and steer researchers away from more industry-relevant research and training.  With Government funding for university research directly linked to the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) through the Sustainable Research Excellence scheme, academics in core mining disciplines of mining engineering, minerals geoscience and metallurgy have little choice but to prioritise their career prospects to the detriment of applied innovative research. 

Rewarding universities for applied research and experimental development will encourage greater collaboration with industry and provide researchers with opportunities to obtain more relevant industry research training.  Renewed policy focus thus needs to be given to the impact of research as a measure of research quality in Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) if better industry-prepared research graduates are to be produced. 

To be a successful researcher in Australia’s minerals industry, researchers must employ technical and scientific rigour, possess a track record of passionately chasing breakthroughs and be cognisant of the cyclical nature of commodity prices.  Researchers must understand the forces that influence the minerals value chain and look to add value to the industry through their research, as opposed to seeking short term commercial gain.  Successful researchers should be encouraged to engage and spend meaningful time with HDR candidates, as is already common practice in many leading universities around the world.

We note that government backed research centres such as the CSIRO and Cooperative Research Centres provide good exposure to the skills required by the minerals industry and are an important provider of HDR training.  Ensuring the future pipeline of highly skilled research graduates will require continued commitment by the minerals industry and stronger, more consistent investment by the Australian Government.

A supplementary submission to the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) Review of Australia’s Research Training System looks at current professional (career) development opportunities for research students in Australia, and discusses how higher degree research training can be enhanced to produce early-career researchers who have the skills, knowledge, and experience required for a career outside of academia.

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