COMMONWEALTH SCIENCE COUNCIL: FIFTH MEETING

The Commonwealth Science Council held its fifth meeting in Canberra on 17 August 2017. The Prime Minister thanked the members for their input and highlighted the key role played by the Council in providing strategic advice to government on the vital role science plays in public discussion and policy development to deliver economic, environmental and social benefit for Australia.

Members provided their insights on potential next directions for Defence engagement with the Australian Innovation, Science and Research (ISR) system. The Chief Defence Scientist, Dr Alex Zelinsky, presented to the Council on the Grand Challenges program, Defence Cooperative Research Centres, and future pathways for Defence to collaborate with the ISR community. Council members also noted the potential for Defence initiatives – such as the Grand Challenges program – to provide a model for other science and innovation collaborations.

The Council members discussed the findings of the upcoming Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) Horizon Scanning report on Electrical Energy Storage Technologies. The Chair of the expert working group leading the report, Dr Bruce Godfrey, presented to the Council on opportunities for Australia to contribute to the knowledge base for battery and other storage products (e.g. renewable hydrogen) and to participate in the global supply chain for battery manufacture. Key findings related to the use of pumped hydro and batteries for the management of electricity security, reliability and affordability were presented together with the opportunity for Australia to play a leading role in product stewardship throughout the
battery supply chains.

The Council members provided their insights into the direction of the Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) 2030 Strategic Plan, which was outlined by the ISA Chair, Mr Bill Ferris. The ISA Chair discussed outcomes from the recent ISA Board meeting on the draft 2030 Strategic Plan, including their exploration of National Missions. This plan aims to drive and support innovation throughout Australian society.

The Chief Scientist presented a proposal to undertake a three-year pilot of an Australian science policy fellowship program, which was endorsed by the Council members. The Australian pilot program aims to strengthen the science-policy interface by producing both a scientifically-informed policy workforce and a policy-literate academic community, and to increase the diversity of expertise held by the APS workforce by providing a pathway for experienced scientists to become skilled policy practitioners.

Members received an update on the STEM Partnerships Forum, and discussed the forward agenda for this meeting, which is chaired by the Chief Scientist. Members also noted an update on National Research Infrastructure.

The Council members discussed ongoing and future projects under the ACOLA Horizon Scanning initiative. Members received an update on projects currently being undertaken on Precision Medicine and Synthetic Biology. Members endorsed proposed topics for future Horizon Scanning reports. The complete list of topics endorsed by the Council will be published on the Chief Scientist’s website. The Council noted that the Medical Research Future Fund investment in antimicrobial resistance research is proceeding and will build on domestic and global efforts already in play on this topic.