Science lovers

19 April 2015

The latest ANUpoll has found strong public backing of government supported innovation.

Government spending on R&D per GDP figure: Australian Bureau of Statistics

The latest report in the quarterly ANUpoll series examined Australian attitudes towards innovation, science and business.

It was done against the backdrop investment in R&D in Australia, which relative to GDP is at 2.1% below the OECD average of 2.4% (2013-14).

Government spending on R&D per GDP figure: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Business contributes most of the spending, but the share of business expenditure on R&D (BERD) in Australia's total investment is still low by OECD standards.

Recent Australian governments have been pushing business to invest more in R&D and to increase their share in total expenditure.

And prior to the global financial crisis, and amid of the mining boom, BERD indeed rose strongly in Australia. As a result, Australia closed in to the average total investment in the OECD.

However, BERD relative to GDP is now again in steep decline - at less than 1.2% it was already well below the OECD average of around 1.6% in 2013.

At the same time, Government spending relative to GDP has been continuously falling over the past decade, and is now also below that of the OECD average.

But ANU's survey suggests that the trend is not reflecting a declining regard of public science by Australia's general population.

According to the survey, 67% of respondents believe science is best funded by government rather than private business.

And 82% of respondents thought that politicians should rely more on expert scientific advice.

The widespread support for science and its funding through government was also indicated by other key findings:

However, while less than half (45%) of respondents thought that technological change is too fast, this view was shared by 74% of those with a year 10 education or less.

And according to 60% of respondents, farmers are more worthy of government assistance than technology entrepreneurs.

More information: www.anu.edu.au