Funding makes waves

The Gravity Discovery Centre in Gingin.
The Gravity Discovery Centre in Gingin.

UWA Professor David Blair said while politicians worldwide welcomed the February 12 announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves, locally researchers faced funding cuts.

“It’s disappointing how low the level of scientific literacy is among our political people,” Prof Blair said.

A WA Labor statement said State Government funding for the centre would end in June, leaving it to get by with the help of volunteers, private sector support and Federal grants.

Opposition Science spokesman Peter Tinley said the gravitational waves detection was a momentous achievement by the international scientific community.

“Researchers at UWA and the GDC should be justifiably proud of their significant contribution that opens up an entirely new field of astronomy,” he said.

“The GDC has had its funding whittled away over recent years, then had funding cut completely.

“Science and innovation are crucial to underpinning WA’s economy, and importantly, job creation.”

Responding to questions from the Weekender, Premier Colin Barnett congratulated the UWA team on its role in the discovery.

“The recent detection of gravitational waves will enhance the state’s growing role in scientific research,” he said. “The State Government has been a major contributor to advancing understanding of our universe, including through previous support for gravitational wave research.

“The state is now focusing its efforts on radio astronomy, one of the science priority areas identified in A Science Statement for WA.

“The State already hosts two world-leading radio telescopes in the Murchison region and is preparing to co-host the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.”

A spokesman for the Premier said the State Government had previously funded research and infrastructure at the Australian International Gravitational Research Centre, including to establish the Gingin facility.