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Stopped the Funds

An Australian minister used his position to halt funding for projects that had been selected by a review panel, Nature News reports, adding that academics are worried about how this undercuts the peer-review system.

Simon Birmingham, who at the time was the minister for education, used his power in June 2018 and November 2017 to hold up AUS$4.2 millions (US$3 million) in funding for 11 humanities projects, according to Nature News, which says this contravened the decision of independent peer-review panels. This move came to light last week, it notes.

Though the affected projects were all in the humanities, science researchers also tell Nature News they are concerned about how this could affect funding at large as well as the reputation of scholarship in Australia. It is also undermining trust in the funding process, it adds.

"Through his actions, the Minister has opened the doors for political influence to affect funding outcomes," Emma Johnston, president of Science & Technology Australia, says in a statement. "When the very best research is no longer the research that gets funded, it threatens our ability to compete on the global stage as an innovation nation."