National Science and Technology Council Terms of Reference

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Purpose

The National Science and Technology Council is responsible for providing advice to the Prime Minister and other ministers on important science and technology issues facing Australia.

Functions

The Council is to tangible and timely advice to the Government on:

  • long term and emerging scientific and technological developments;
  • scientific and technological issues of relevance to Government policy or priorities;
  • Australia’s science system, including issues relating to science engagement, research capability and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce skills;
  • achieving the Government’s objectives as set out in the National Science Statement; and
  • other matters requested by the Prime Minister, other ministers, or considered important by the Council.

Membership

The Council’s membership is:

  • the Prime Minister (Chair);
  • the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology (Deputy Chair);
  • Australia's Chief Scientist (Executive Officer);
  • the Chief Executive of the CSIRO; and
  • up to six scientific expert members.

Expert members will normally be appointed for three year terms, and will not be appointed for more than two terms.

Ministers and experts from a wide range of other portfolios will attend meetings as relevant to the agenda.

Meetings

The Council will meet up to four times per year.

In the absence of the Chair, the Deputy Chair will chair meetings. Up to two meetings per year may be chaired by the Chief Scientist, if the Chair and Deputy Chair are unable to attend. The quorum for a meeting will be the Chair, Deputy Chair or Executive Officer and two thirds of the appointed expert members.

The chair of each meeting will issue invitations to other ministers and experts based on the subject matter under consideration. Ministers receiving such an invitation may delegate their departmental Secretary to attend on their behalf.

Where appropriate, some activities of the Council may be undertaken through out-of-session correspondence.

Work Plan 

The Chief Scientist, in consultation with the Chair and the Deputy Chair, other Ministers and Council members will coordinate an annual work plan for the Council’s agreement. 

The work plan will accommodate relevant science and research system policy issues for discussion and outline advice to Government on fit-for-purpose reports.

  • long-term advice (6-12 months; 30,000 words) to advise on issues that demand a considered public policy response over the longer-term to minimise risk and maximise economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits in Australia. They are in-depth, multidisciplinary analyses of emerging global issues in science and technology.
  • medium-term advice (3-6 months; 10,000 words) to Government on issues that are well considered and focused on tangible and concrete findings to inform policy development where there is less urgency.  
  • Rapid Response Information (short-term) advice (14-30 days turnaround; 1500 words) to Government on key issues, either before or as they emerge. This could potentially be undertaken through a problem and solution based approach – with a focus on options to inform Government decision making.  This advice could be confidential when necessary.

It will set some topics for the science and technology reports in advance, with a focus on long and medium-term reports. 

Resources will be left unallocated to allow emerging issues, particularly for Rapid Response Information (short-term) advice, to be added in response to emerging priorities throughout the year.

The Council will agree the work plan topics, select the format of each topic (long-term advice, medium-term advice, Rapid Response Information (short-term) advice), and identify a member of Council to sponsor the work and an appropriate delivery partner.

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources will lead an annual meeting of relevant departments and agencies to support the Council secretariat in the development of the work plan.

Agenda

The Agenda for each meeting will be approved by the relevant chair of the meeting. The Agenda will be developed by the Chief Scientist in consultation with relevant Ministers and Council members.

Administrative Arrangements

The Office of the Chief Scientist will provide secretariat support for the Council.

Actions arising from meetings will be progressed by relevant ministers, the Chief Scientist or expert members, as agreed by the Council. In undertaking its work, the Council may establish short-term expert working groups to assist with specific tasks, in consultation with the relevant ministers.
 

Last updated: Tuesday, 31 August 2021