Australia's Chief Scientist

National Science and Technology Council: Third Meeting

The third meeting of the National Science and Technology Council was held in Brisbane on 26 August 2019, chaired by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, and joined by the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP.

Minister Andrews reflected on the Council’s work program to date, and the importance of focussing on clear outcomes to address the critical science and technology issues for productivity, jobs and Australia’s economic growth.

The Council was briefed on the development of an Australian Artificial Intelligence (AI) Ethics Framework, and discussed the strong engagement from stakeholders in the consultation process. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science will continue to refine the ethics principles and will engage with the Council as this work progresses. The Council also considered the draft analysis of the opportunities for Australia in pursuing an AI for Manufacturing research challenge, and provided feedback to inform its further development. It was agreed that the final analysis would be considered at the Council’s fourth meeting for 2019, including a case study from CSIRO on the potential for assuring the provenance of Australian manufactured food.

Lifelong learning and STEM skills are critical to securing meaningful jobs for Australians in the face of new and increasingly sophisticated technologies in our workplaces. The Council considered current policy work across government related to these issues and agreed that they would stay engaged to ensure there is a strong focus on science and technology relevant training.

Council Member Professor Debra Henly outlined the further work she has led on STEM student engagement, and the need to keep developing the national evidence base and building capacity in the teacher workforce. Minister Tehan highlighted the ongoing work by the Department of Education in these areas and offered to engage further with the COAG Education Council on the Council’s findings, which was agreed. Beyond the education system, the Council will consider what else can be done to engage parents and industry in this national conversation about the importance of keeping students interested in STEM study.

The Council considered the related but distinct issues of research integrity, quality and transparency, and the need to ensure ongoing public trust. It was agreed that Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel would continue to engage with members as well as stakeholders on these issues and report back at the next meeting.

The Council will meet again in November in Canberra.

L-R: Dr Larry Marshall, Professor Deborah Henley, Professor Genevieve Bell, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, Professor Geordie Williamson, Professor Barbara Howlett, Ms Elizabeth Kelly, Professor Brian Schmidt,  Dr Alan Finkel