Goofy grants taxpayers are shelling out
DOG diets for podgy pets, a sexual conflict in spiders study and maths lessons for babies too young to count have shared in taxpayer handouts over the past year.
A $100,000 project to develop a weight-loss app for dogs was one of $8.3 million of innovation grants issued by the State Government this week.
A $432,000 grant to study "sexual conflict'' among spiders is one of 6771 Federal Government handouts that cost taxpayers more than $2 billion in 2017-18.
Queensland's Chief Entrepreneur, Shark Tank judge Steve Baxter, slammed some of the academic grants as "ridiculous''.
"I struggle to understand the value,'' he said.
"The spending seems to be surreal... I can't immediately understand why some of these things need to be researched.
"Dollars are scarce and my preference is that we should be spending money on encouraging people to enter start-ups and build business infrastructure.''
The University of Queensland received $339,683 to "investigate the cultivation of musical canons by early 17th-century Roman composers and assess how the spirit of experimentation in these compositions relates to contemporary scientific thought''.
Another university has pocketed more than $1 million to study teenage migrant accents and slang, in an Australian Research Council grant.
Western Sydney University will spend $432,608 researching spiders' sex lives, by studying how male spiders give "gifts'' of crickets to the females when they mate.
"This project aims to understand how sexual conflict drives the evolution of 'manipulative' nuptial gifts in male arthropods and how females respond to ingesting these gifts,'' the study synopsis states.
Another $850,525 of taxpayers' money will be spent on an academic study of a German philosopher who died two centuries ago.
"This project aims to show how key ethical ideals from philosopher Immanuel Kant, such as human dignity, autonomy, cosmopolitanism, and good will, emerged from ancient Stoic ethics,'' the University of NSW grant summary states. "This project will provide a better understanding of contemporary ethical values."
Macquarie University will spend more than $1 million to "establish how adolescents from different ethnicities use speech patterns to symbolically express their diverse sociocultural identities''.
A university spokeswoman said "meticulous phonetic and acoustic analysis'' of the speech patterns of 200 teenagers would benefit speech pathology, robotic speech recognition systems and teaching.
"Our current understanding of the Australian English accent is Anglo-centric and doesn't represent the community in which we live today,'' she said.
Taxpayers will bankroll a $3.3 million Monash University study to "research concept formation in infants, toddler and preschoolers by examining imagination in play-based settings and homes''.
Charles Sturt University received $367,996 to "investigate mathematics education for babies and toddlers''.
State Innovation Minister Kate Jones handed $8.3 million in Ignite Ideas grants to more than 70 companies this week, including $100,000 for a Cairns vet to build a canine weight-loss app for use worldwide.
K9 Weight Challenge chief executive Charlotte Williamson said she hoped to create 20 jobs through her WAGSTA app, which is being developed in Cairns.
"It provides dog owners with an individual calorie and portion plan, as well as an action plan for the dogs,'' she said yesterday. "It's similar to a Weight Watchers model.''
The State Government has pulled the plug on a $750,000 grant scheme that gave cash to young YouTube creators - including $10,000 to Brisbane woman Alysse Paris to parody a fictional beauty guru calling herself SexybubbleGumBritneySpearsStar49.
Brisbane makeup artist Stephanie Hames, whose SasEffects channel on YouTube shows how to fake a chopped-off finger, also received a $10,000 CQ Series grant.
Ms Jones said yesterday she had decided "not to extend the program''.
The application form for CQ grants was taken down from the Government website after inquiries from The Courier-Mail on Thursday.
ARC chief executive Sue Thomas said rigorous grant assessments considered value for money and whether projects would produce new knowledge or bring economic, environmental, social or cultural benefit.
"While publicly funded research must benefit the community, not all research will initially receive public support because not all research is easily translatable to predictable outcomes,'' she said.
Professor Thomas said the research that led to discoveries of lasers, the internet, antibiotics and microwaves "was often thought of as fanciful back then too''.