Science and Technology Australia

2 October 2014. A plan at last: Chief Scientist launches STEM strategy

Australia’s scientists have warmly welcomed today’s release of a plan for the use of science, technology, engineering and maths as the foundation of a competitive knowledge-based economy and society.
Authored by Chief Scientist for Australia, Professor Ian Chubb, ‘Science Technology, Engineering and Maths: Australia’s Future’ is a call to action to harness national talent in a strategic way from the early years of schooling through to higher education, and into the workforce in research and industry.
Launching the plan Professor Chubb said: “Our top researchers are very good, but … our average is middling. We could be better, we should be better.”
He described the plan as a recipe book about the long haul, to build a stronger and better Australia. The plan is focused on four areas:
• Building competitiveness
• Supporting high quality education training
• Maximising research potential
• Strengthening international engagement
STA CEO Catriona Jackson said: “Australia is the only OECD nation without a national strategy for science and technology, and this is simply not good enough. A plan is critical if we are to make the most of the wealth of scientific expertise we already have and encourage growth, for the benefit of the entire nation.”
STA President Dr Ross Smith said: “Scientists are heartened by the fact that Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane showed Government support for the plan by attending the launch and speaking at it.”
Minister Macfarlane said that he looked forward to working with the science community to strengthen the nation through science.
He called on scientists to make their voices louder in order to help the community understand the centrality of science to national life and competitiveness.
Dr Smith said: “We eagerly await a more detailed response from Government and urge Minister Macfarlane and the whole government, to adopt the plan, and to embrace the many opportunities outlined in it.”
STA is the peak group for the nation’s 68,000 scientists and those working in technology. STA’s mission is to bring together scientists, governments, industry and the broader community to advance the role, reputation and impact of science and technology in Australia.
For more information see the plan here.
Media comment: STA President Dr Ross Smith, 0405 151 824 STA CEO Catriona Jackson, 0417 142 238

2 October 2014: Research infrastructure and future science stars in doubt

The future of world-leading research infrastructure and of the best and brightest mid-career researchers has been cast into doubt today after comments in Federal Parliamentary Question Time from Education Minister Christopher Pyne.
He said if the higher education reforms are not passed: “the national collaborative research infrastructure scheme [NCRIS] and the future fellows [scholarship program] will end.”
STA CEO Catriona Jackson said: “The science community and the general public have had enough of the nation’s knowledge future being tossed about like a political football.
Just 2 days ago the Government was hailing what they described as the “crucially important work of NCRIS-funded researchers.”
Speaking at the NCRIS showcase in the Great Hall of Parliament House Parliamentary Secretary Scott Ryan, representing the Minister for Education Christopher Pyne, said:
“Given the importance and cost of research infrastructure, there is a strong rationale for the Government to invest in this area. We know that no single education institution, research institute or industry is able to fund the large scale infrastructure needed to ensure Australian research is competitive and is not left behind by ever increasing global competition.
“This Government supports a world-leading research system. As part of the Government’s 2014-15 Budget, we will invest $11 billion over four years in research in Australian universities, including $139.5 million for the Future Fellowships Scheme and $150 million in 2015-16 to continue NCRIS.” Mr Ryan said.
Ms Jackson said:
“Australian scientists simply cannot keep pace with the rest of the world without top rank infrastructure – the equipment, the buildings and technical experts to keep the facilities operating.
“Very significant sums have already been invested on behalf of the taxpayer as part of the NCRIS scheme, a scheme that started under the Howard Government. To ditch this vital scheme now would be a terrible waste of taxpayers’ money and of opportunity.
“The Future Fellows scheme stems the drain of our best and brightest researchers to better resourced nations. Losing the talent – the future science technology engineering and maths superstars – that we have nurtured and resourced, just doesn't make sense,” she said.
STA is the peak group for the nation’s 68,000 scientists and those working in technology. STA’s mission is to bring together scientists, governments, industry and the broader community to advance the role, reputation and impact of science and technology in Australia.
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Media comment: STA CEO Catriona Jackson – 0417 142 238.