Supporting Long-Term Research

Our ecosystems are vital national assets, and can only be effectively managed if their long-term dynamics are appropriately understood. Many ecosystem processes operate over decades to centuries, yet so far the nature of ecosystem research in Australia has been overwhelmingly short-term and focused on questions that can be answered by single projects in the context of 3-5 year or shorter funding cycles.

Long-term studies can be particularly important for distinguishing impacts of human activities from the impacts of natural variability. This is especially important for Australia, given that our climate is so highly variable. There is a pressing need for dedicated funding for ongoing, long-term (with decadal or longer appropriation cycles) ecosystem research, complementing existing support for short-term research.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

The priority action for this Key Direction is to promote and entrench dedicated funding for long-term (decade or longer) ecosystem research, complementing existing support for short-term research.  There are two components to this as identified in Foundations for the future:

  • Review funding models from around the world, alongside current Australian arrangements, and develop recommendations about how selected long-term ecosystem research can be dependably supported in Australia; and
  • Develop a plan for advocating recommendations to government and other appropriate and relevant organisations

But first, a statement about the value of long-term research was developed. The business case features four case studies that demonstrates both the benefits provided by long-term research, and the costs when such research is lacking.


Working group

In early 2016, a new working group was formed to work with the Ecosystem Science Council and ecosystem science community in advancing this Key Direction. The Working Group will promote, coordinate and participate in activities to achieve the priority for this Key Direction as noted above.

There was an open invitation distributed throughout the ecosystem science and management communities for expressions of interest to join the Working Group, to ensure that the group includes people with experience and/or influence in designing and implementing long-term research (in any area of ecosystem science); experience in sourcing long-term funding for research; and knowledge of governance structures and funding mechanisms within government and non-government agencies domestically and internationally.

The final Working Group membership is:

The Council is grateful to the Working Group for volunteering to be involved in this way to advance Foundations for the future.

Information about the responsibilities, roles, tasks, membership criteria and the selection process for the Working Group are detailed in the Terms of Reference available here. For more information about activities to support this Key Direction, please contact Alan Andersen.