High-Level Australian Dialogue – Australia, April 2019

The Australian Academy of Science and the Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) brought together 50 experts for a high-level INGSA Australia Dialogue on 17th April 2019. Hosted at the iconic Shine Dome in Canberra, the workshop explored mechanisms for independent science advice to government and parliamentarians in Australia. Contributors came from across Australia, drawing insights from experience in academia, public policy and media.

Academy CEO Anna-Maria Arabia welcomed the gathering in the Shine Dome, before Sir Peter Gluckman, Chair of INGSA and President-Elect of the International Science Council, gave the keynote address. Other speakers included Will Grant, Christopher Cvitanovic, Sujatha Raman (all CPAS), Karen Hussey (University of Queensland) and Susannah Elliott (Science Media Centre). CPAS Director Joan Leach moderated a panel discussion with Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, Parliamentary Librarian Dianne Heriot and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) Executive Director Steve Hatfield-Dodds.

CPAS Research Director Sujatha Raman chaired the day’s wide-ranging discussions on how things work at present and issues for the future. Australia has a range of resources and mechanisms for scientists to engage with policymaking. To be effective, scientists should not underestimate the importance of knowing the policy process and its timescales, fostering personal connections or making submissions to public inquiries. But looking beyond individual influence to the complex ecosystem of science advice, new challenges emerged.

It was noted that a key challenge in science advice is not so much that people lack scientific information but that they are bombarded with it. Science advice is therefore really about making and communicating informed judgments rather than offering data in isolation from context or interpretation. The capacity to engage across disciplines and stakeholders is crucial for this purpose. It requires distinctive skills which need to be actively nurtured and valued especially at an early career stage.

At the meeting, the Academy also released it’s report Benefits of Australian membership of the International Science Council and international scientific unions which summarised the benefits returned to Australia through its membership of global science organisations such as the ISC, and the Australian Academy of Science’s strategy to enhance these benefits.

Report on the Benefits of Australian membership of the International Science Council and International Scientific Unions

In April 2019, the Australian Academy of Science released a report on the Benefits of Australian membership of the International Science Council and International Scientific Unions.

The report, launched in Canberra by Sir Peter Gluckman, outlines economic and scientific benefits to Australia’s membership of major global science organisations where the Academy is Australia’s representative member and highlights the important role that science has as a soft power asset in diplomacy.

The report shows that Australia benefits as a member of global science organisations by:

  • receiving a direct economic return—estimated at AUD$118 million from 2000 to 2017— through hosting scientific union meetings in Australia and other activities,
  • receiving indirect benefits such as the invaluable opportunities for Australian scientists, especially young scientists, to collaborate with international leaders in ways that greatly accelerate delivery of the long-term economic benefits of scientific progress for Australia,
  • providing opportunities for Australian perspectives to contribute efforts to use science to solve global challenges,
  • enhancing Australia’s international scientific profile and reputation.

The report and accompanying strategy document, which outlines the Academy’s plans to maximise engagement with international science organisations, may be downloaded from: www.science.org.au/isc-benefits

L to R: Prof John Shine, AAS President; Anna-Maria Arabia, AAS CE; Sir Peter Gluckman; Dr Helen Cleugh of CSIRO at the Australia Dialogue April 2019

Further Information

The Australian Academy of Science provides independent, authoritative and influential scientific advice, promotes international scientific engagement, builds public awareness and understanding of science, and champions, celebrates and supports excellence in Australian science.

At the ANU, the Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) is building a programme at the science/policy interface that addresses some of the challenges raised at the workshop. We are co-designing a space for Australian public servants to engage across government departments and with scientists on science issues; supporting early career international researchers and research networks for transdisciplinary science/policy work; and contributing to the research frontier on interdisciplinary knowledge for policy challenges. We welcome collaborations on these issues.