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Critical concerns emerge as Australia’s research priorities consultation takes centre stage

Health Industry Hub | September 8, 2023 |

Australia’s scientific landscape is undergoing a significant transformation with the revival of the National Science and Research Priorities and the National Science Statement. Building on prior public engagement, the government is now inviting stakeholders to contribute feedback to refine the draft priorities and shape the future of Australian science.

Professor Chennupati Jagadish, President of the Australian Academy of Science, hailed the draft priorities as a pivotal moment in shaping the country’s scientific destiny. He passionately stressed the importance of strategic investments in sovereign science capabilities, emphasising the need for unity among Australian scientists to tackle ambitious missions and grand challenges.

“These priorities align perfectly with Australia’s most pressing challenges,” Professor Jagadish declared. “From achieving a net-zero future and combating climate change to fostering innovation and building healthier communities, these priorities transcend traditional boundaries.”

However, Professor Jagadish also underscored the necessity of a robust implementation plan to ensure the priorities’ effective execution. Past shortcomings in previous initiatives were attributed to a lack of comprehensive implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

Anand Gautam, Executive Director & Emerging Science Lead (Asia & Asia Pacific) at Pfizer, expressed optimism about the potential for these priorities to accelerate medical discoveries and drive innovation in healthcare. He said “Translation of medical discoveries into new medicines is an important sector. So far Australia has lagged behind despite great science. Looking into current system, that is operating for 10-15 years, it has yet to deliver the breakthrough medicine. I hope we can change that. A serious overhaul is needed across the whole sector with real experience and expertise across the entire value chain.”

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson echoed the sentiment of unity and purpose, emphasising the pivotal role of research and education institutions in shaping the nation’s future. She stressed that the answers to Australia’s toughest challenges and greatest opportunities lie in science and research.

“We’re thrilled to see these key issues reflected in the draft priorities,” Jackson noted. “However, for these priorities to have a real and lasting impact, they must be supported by concrete implementation measures and adequate investment.”

Ms Jackson also raised concerns about declining investment in research and development, highlighting the potential for increased investment in higher education research to drive economic growth and productivity.

Submission to the consultation close on 29 September 2023.

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