Monday, March 5th 2012, 7:23 AM EST
MILLIONS of dollars in government research funding is being ploughed into studies of emotion in climate change messages, ancient economic life in Italy and the history of the moon.
Studies of sleeping snails and determining if Australian birds are getting smaller because of climate change have also been allocated funding in the latest round of grants totalling $300 million by the Australian Research Council.
A study of "an ignored credit instrument in Florentine economic, social and religious life from 1570 to 1790" secured $578,792 for a researcher from the University of Western Australia.
The council insists the study was approved because it had modern day relevance to the global financial crisis as it shows how Florence in ancient times recovered from an economic downturn and because no one had studied that element of history before.
Another project titled "Sending and responding to messages about climate change: the role of emotion and morality" by a Queensland university secured $197,302. The council said it was an important psychology project.
The study to determine if birds are shrinking was awarded $314,000 and another of sleeping snails to determine "factors that aid life extension" was given $145,000. Studying the early history of the moon will cost taxpayers $210,000 and another study looking at "William Blake in the 21st century" comes with a $636,904 bill.
"At a time when every available dollar could be put to backing innovation and research and development to make us more competitive, we have seen a growth in support for some real eyebrow-raising activities," opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said.
"Australian Research Council criteria has been extended beyond the scientific, the innovative and the practical to include some real airy-fairy stuff.
"Which means less money for more worthwhile research."
Research Council CEO Professor Margaret Sheil said granting research funding was a way of ensuring universities keep the best researchers to teach students across a broad range of subjects.