Australia's Chief Scientist

New competition challenges Australia to take a closer look

Speaking at the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in Canberra, Professor Ian Chubb announced he would be judging a nation-wide critical thinking competition.

Australians of all ages are invited to create 3-5 minute videos presenting an argument on one of four topics:

  • Considering the stated benefits and risks, should farmers be allowed to grow Genetically Modified crops?
  • In order to reduce our carbon emissions, should Australia replace our coal-fired power stations with nuclear power generation?
  • Geoengineering is being considered as a valid technology to slow or stop climate change, other scientists warn that the full effects of the technology is unknown. Should we use geoengineering to stop or limit climate change?
  • Nanoparticles are being used to enhance many existing products. While this happens research into the effects of nanoparticles on the human body and environment is ongoing. Should the inclusion of nanoparticles in products be stopped until the safety of nanoparticles is assured?  

The competition aims to improve the critical thinking skills of Australians and encourage people to delve deeper into arguments they may hear in the media, from friends of family, or even politicians.

“People of all levels of education and power are susceptible to wearing blinkers sometimes, so it’s vital that we learn how to spot flawed logic or bad argument techniques,” Professor Chubb said to the NYSF students.

“The competition topics are complex and often difficult to understand, but they are those which will answer the questions of today for the benefit of tomorrow. We need to encourage people to analyse what they see, read and hear.”

The National Youth Science Forum brings together high performing senior science students from across Australia every year, exposing them to leading scientists, laboratories and potential careers.

“One of the great things about speaking to NYSF students (and I’d say this is close to my 20th) is that I have come away 20 or so times convinced that the world has a chance; because if you look closely you can see that the world, or parts of it, is in good hands,” Professor Chubb told the students.

“I see students with the hopes and the aims and the freshness to do good things. Students willing to take us to new levels, as we search out what we are, why we are what we are, and how we got to be where we are.”

The critical thinking competition is a collaboration of the Department of Innovation’s Enabling Technologies Strategy, the TechNyou Science Outreach Program and the Office of the Chief Scientist. Educational materials for teachers are also available.

Entries close May 1, 2012 and will be judged by a panel of leading science communicators including:

  • Australian Chief Scientist – Professor Ian Chubb
  • Centre for the Public Awareness of Science – Dr Will Grant
  • CSIRO Education – Ross Kingsland
  • Science and Technology Australia– Anna-Maria Arabia

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