Australia’s scientists say the “innovation nation” is crumbling with a study revealing more scientists are considering leaving the profession because of limited career prospects.
New research by the Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) revealed almost one in four scientists were “uncertain” about whether they would be employed next year because it was so difficult to get research funding.
“Despite science and innovation being the platform for Australia’s future economic strategy, Australia faces an imminent brain drain,” the report found.
ASMR president Dr Sarah Meachem said more than 80 per cent of those surveyed were considering leaving scientific research for another career.
“The majority of the researchers [considering leaving] are mid-career scientists,” she said.
The report said five years of static National Health and Medical Research Council funding had led to falling grant rates and a decline in the scientific workforce.
It found lack of career opportunities and job security were the primary areas of concern.
Dr Meacham said the fact that so many mid-career scientists are thinking of leaving science was particularly worrying.
“What’s really important to say is these people are 10, 20, 30 years into their careers and are highly skilled and talented,” she said.
“If we lose them, we lose them forever and we won’t have the next generation of leaders for our health and medical researchers.”
The report found 15 per cent of Australia’s scientific workforce had already left, which was “the tip of the iceberg”.
Federal initiatives such as the Medical Research Future Fund will deliver returns of up to $1 billion per annum.
But Dr Meachem said that money would not be delivered until at least 2018.
“That means the sector will have received no real increase in funding for a total of almost 8 years,” she said.
Some scientists in the survey had already moved overseas because of a lack of scientific funding in Australia.
“Sixty-three per cent said better funding for their research had a strong influence on their reasons for leaving Australia,” the report said.
A second research paper by Deloitte Access Economics reveals since 2013, the number of scientists funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council grants has fallen by 16 per cent.
In addition, it found more scientists were only able to get part time, rather than full time employment in medical research.