The role of Australia's Chief Scientist

Australia’s Chief Scientist provides authoritative and independent science advice on whole-of-Government science and technology priorities, to ensure the best evidence informs Government decision-making. The Chief Scientist works with the scientific community, research sector, government and industry, both in Australia and internationally, to provide this advice.

As Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Foley opens the front door for the Prime Minister and Ministers across Government to access a network of Australian and international science leaders through her membership of the chief scientists community.

Dr Foley is also focussing on improving the science and research system so that it:

  • Provides more equitable access to research funding, for example through examining alternative approaches to measuring research performance
  • Provides robust advice to inform policy development and decision making
  • Provides free or low cost access to research publications (‘open access’), which will provide greater opportunities for Australian researchers to access the best and latest science
  • Is better placed to translate research discoveries into commercialisation outcomes.

Australia’s Chief Scientist is the Executive Officer of the National Science and Technology Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. The Minister for Science is the deputy chair. The Council is the pre-eminent forum for providing scientific and technological advice for government policy and priorities, including through provision of Rapid Response Information Reports. 

How is the Chief Scientist appointed?

Australia’s Chief Scientist is appointed by the Prime Minister and engaged to provide independent science advice to government.

The Chief Scientist’s workplan is developed in consultation with the Minister for Science.

The Chief Scientist offers independent evidence-based advice through various avenues: directly to Government, through the National Science and Technology Council, and through other boards and committees of which the Chief Scientist is a member.

The Office of the Chief Scientist is hosted in the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. Staff of the Office of the Chief Scientist are members of the Australian Public Service.

The Chief Scientist's work plan

As Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Foley is focused on addressing important science and technology challenges and seizing significant opportunities for Australia, by delivering independent and timely advice to the Australian Government. She is dedicated to providing her scientific expertise and experience to improving Australia’s social and economic wellbeing. Her current areas of focus include: 

  • Leading a national conversation to support the refresh of the National Science and Research Priorities and the National Science Statement, intended to provide critical signals for attracting investment and skills into Australia’s research sector. 
  • Continuing to position Australia’s world-leading science and research capabilities through commissioning work into modernising research assessments and STEM career pathways
  • Undertaking a functional review of the National Science and Technology Council (the Council), to ensure the Council continues to provide high quality, targeted advice on emerging science and technology issues across the breadth of government.
  • Enhancing the effectiveness of science advice to government through appointments to important advisory bodies and boards, including: Industry Innovation and Science Australia, the Australian Universities Accord Ministerial Reference Group, the Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group, the National Research Infrastructure Advisory Board, the Office of National Assessments Council, and the Climate Change Authority Board.
  • Strengthening Australia’s dialogue and cooperation with priority countries on research collaboration and skills for critical and emerging technologies. This includes co-chairing the QUAD Investors Network Center of Excellence on Quantum.
  • Mapping the Australian Government’s current and potential science and research engagement in the Pacific, to inform the government’s science and research priorities in the region.
  • Convening the Forum of Australian Chief Scientists and Government Scientists Group to draw together the science community and share information about national issues and challenges related to science, technology and innovation.