Neil deGrasse Tyson: 'it would be disastrous' if Australia cuts long-term funding in science

Astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a panelist on ABC’s Q&A last night, said funding for scientific research is crucial to Australia’s future, and if the government turns a blind eye we risk slipping behind the rest of the world.

Focusing on long-term investment in fields like physics, Tyson said a lack of priority would be “disastrous in ways that you cannot even measure”.

“Are you saying ‘no, I don’t know how you would ever use this research, so let’s not do it because I have to know right now what the eternal application of this discovery will be?’ That is short-sighted,” he said.

“What you are doing is you are burying, you are destroying the seed corn or truly revolutionary science and technology that could take this country into the next century and lead the world.

“Without it you will dance the tune played by others who have the insight of how to make those kinds of investments.”

Last year Australia’s investment in science dropped to its lowest level in 30 years.

To combat this, the government invested almost $70 million in additional funding for Australia’s leading scientific research organisations this year, dedicating $20 million to the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne.

Following the budget, minister for industry and science Ian Macfarlane said: “The Government is making strategic, targeted and smart investments in Australia’s science and research capacity,” adding there was a push to create stronger connections between industry and science.

“Industry growth centres in food and agribusiness; advanced manufacturing; mining equipment, technology and services; oil, gas and energy resources; and medical technologies and pharmaceuticals will help drive the transformation of Australian industry,” Macfarlane said.

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