Chief Scientist reports on health of Australian science
The Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb has released his Health of Australian Science report, providing an overview of Australia's science system in schools and universities, through to research sectors and industry.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, Professor Chubb said that said that overall, ours was a healthy and robust system, but that some identified challenges would lead to long term issues for Australia if no action is taken.
“We should be proud of what our scientists, our engineers and our mathematicians achieve. We are well represented in the international arena; our researchers are some of the most productive in the world,” Professor Chubb said.
“But the future prosperity of Australia is dependent on having a strong supply of graduates in the right areas coming through the education system. There are some areas of expertise that are crucial to our national interest which are lacking what they need to prosper,” he said.
Agricultural sciences, physics, mathematics and chemistry are highlighted in the report as being vulnerable and all are crucial forAustralia’s future. The total numbers in Engineering don’t meet demand and there are shifts between disciplines.
Professor Chubb noted areas of concern in his Foreword to the report.
“Much of our discipline profile is heavily dependent on undergraduate study choices—more students mean more funding, more staff and a greater mass in a discipline. Whether this outcome is in our medium- to long-term strategic interest as a nation is debatable. The options available to address the issue may well be the focus of future work. Indeed, I hope that this report will encourage more specific analysis and recommendations for Government in such areas.”
Opportunities outlined in the report include developing a more strategic funding system and improving the relationships between science and industry.
The Chief Scientist also remarked that we need to develop a culture that appreciates a science education, both the students and the teachers of it.
“The science degree prepares students for a lifetime of critical thinking, a drive to find evidence and an understanding of how our society fits into the broader picture of the world, all of which are invaluable for the development of a prosperousAustralia,” he said.
Professor Chubb said the release of the report provides the trigger for careful preparation and planning.
“The report should lead us to a position where any gaps in our capability will be by design and not the unintended consequence of a failure to notice. “
“The Health of Australian Science Report is not a story about rebuilding after a train wreck. We do not have a train wreck. But the Report is a signal: it encourages us to be alert; to be prudent while willing to take bold action when we need to.”
The Health of Australian Science Report is here.