Australia's Chief Scientist

COMMONWEALTH SCIENCE COUNCIL: SECOND MEETING

The Commonwealth Science Council held its second meeting in Canberra on 13 April 2015. The Prime Minister chaired the meeting, acknowledging significant progress on key science and technology issues. Members commended new activities the Government has initiated to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) since the release of the Chief Scientist’s report. Members recommended further policy options and actions to enhance Australian competitiveness, support high quality education and training, maximise research potential and strengthen international engagement through STEM. Members noted the Minister for Industry and Science, working with other Ministers, particularly the Minister for Education and Training, and the Chief Scientist, will lead further consultation and subsequent work on government STEM policy.

Members recommended that the Government adopt the science and research priorities to ensure publicly-funded research addresses the most important and timely questions facing Australia. The Chief Scientist presented practical challenges identified for each science and research priority by expert working groups. Members requested the National Science, Technology and Research Committee oversee capability mapping for each practical challenge. The Government will finalise the Priorities shortly.

The Minister for Education and Training and the Minister for Industry and Science updated Council members on the progress of:

  • implementing the Government’s plan to boost commercial returns from research, as part of the Government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, including release of the draft intellectual property toolkit;
  • the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering’s work on testing data for research engagement metrics;
  • outcomes of the Review of the Australian Curriculum to further strengthen the science curriculum and the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group recommendation that every new primary teacher will graduate with a subject specialisation, prioritising science, mathematics or a language; and
  • work identifying opportunities to strengthen recognition of industry relevant expertise or research in Commonwealth competitive research funding programmes.

The Minister for Education and Training led a discussion on the review of research infrastructure and the review panel Chair, Mr Philip Clark AM, presented an interim report. The review panel will provide a final report to the Government in the middle of the year on options for a new research infrastructure funding model for Australia. The Minister for Industry and Science invited a discussion on the findings of the review of the Cooperative Research Centres Programme to inform the Government’s consideration of the review report.

The Council agreed on a forward work programme, with key items to include:

  • the Government’s response to the Chief Scientist’s report: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future;
  • adoption of science and research priorities, and capability mapping for each of the practical challenges;
  • implementation of the Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research strategy;
  • implementation of the Industry Growth Centres initiative; and
  • the final report of the Research Infrastructure Review.

The Council will next meet in the second half of 2015.

13 April 2015 – Record of second Commonwealth Science Council meeting