A Critical Vote Down Under

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Science  21 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5845, pp. 1649
DOI: 10.1126/science.1148839


An election will be held in Australia later this year. The conservative government of John Howard has been in power for 11 years--bad years for basic science. Although medical research has done well, overall public funding of science has declined from 0.77 to 0.59% of gross domestic product, placing Australia among the bottom countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in science investment. Public policies have also caused a decline in commercial research and innovation. Whereas previous governments had encouraged private-sector R&D with a 150% tax concession, the first Howard budget cut that program, doubling the cost of research for profitable private companies. Commercial research spending fell dramatically and has only just returned to the 1996 level.