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New consultation to set nation’s science and research priorities

Health Industry Hub | February 24, 2023 |

Medical: A national conversation to guide the direction of Australia’s science priorities has been launched by Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic.

On 27 September 2022, the Government announced it would revitalise Australia’s Science and Research Priorities and the National Science Statement to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits.

Minister Husic has appointed Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, to lead the revitalisation of Australia’s science priorities.

“With our scientific knowledge constantly evolving and improving, a science system geared to our future is essential for our national prosperity and the well-being of the Australian people. We want to hear the views of a wide range of Australians on the issues they are facing that require a solution drawing on the breadth of our science and research communities

“A discussion paper to guide the conversation has now been released, and Dr Foley is perfectly placed to engage people from across Australia over the coming months,” Minister Husic said.

He added “Investing in science is investing in our future. Engaging with Australians is key to refreshing Australia’s National Science and Research Priorities and our National Science Statement.”

Dr Foley said she wanted to see input from as wide a cross-section of the community as possible, including the research and business communities, people at the cutting edge of innovation and commercialisation and Indigenous Australians.

She said “This is about coming up with a set of priorities that will guide science and research in the years to come, ensuring we are all pulling in the same direction. We want to ensure we can tackle the big challenges – and that means supporting a strong and energetic research sector and a real sense of collective focus.”

Kylie Walker, CEO of the Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering (ATSE), said “We agree there’s a need to refresh the priorities, to define and develop Australian research strengths in crucial areas for our resilient future – such as low-emissions technologies and modern manufacturing.

“Australia’s facing complex challenges now, and in the future – and it’s vital that we understand our nation’s opportunities and strengths, and focus STEM research and translation to best build resilience, meet these challenges, and take advantage of the opportunities they present.

“Australia’s research impact is bigger than our population size might suggest: this strength is dependent on our international collaborations. Our national priorities must recognise these connections, and be established alongside global issues including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Simultaneously, we must recognise and foster collaborative research within Australia, including respectful partnership with Traditional Knowledge systems.

“ATSE also strongly supports the inclusion of fundamental research in the National Conversation Starter. Curiosity-driven research is crucial to Australia’s wellbeing and wealth – and innovation is not possible without it. As a strong advocate of research translation and application, ATSE recognises that a well-supported fundamental research sector lays the groundwork for future industries and national capacity and capability.”

Dr Tom Carruthers, co-president of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC), stated “It is the right time for the national priorities to be readdressed, and an exciting opportunity for us as a community to consider what areas we want to see Australia lead the world in. All Australians should feel empowered to engage in this process.

“But whichever ideas or problems we collectively decide should make the list, it is vital for quality communication to be embedded as core to the whole of scientific endeavour, not just as a ‘nice to have’ at the end of the process.

“Our science priorities need to recognise evidence-based communication as an essential part of the process. It saves lives. It’s what tells us how to best share crucial public health information that is clear and accurate. It builds social licence for progress, helps us make better decisions and it inspires us to envision a better future. But the evidence-base can only exist through a strong social science sector and appropriate acknowledgement of the critical role of science communication academics and practitioners.”

The first phase of the consultation closes on 31 March 2023. Feedback on draft priorities will be sought in June 2023, with the National Science and Research Priorities and a new National Science Statement due to be finalised in September 2023. 

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