Dr Foley hosts 'super forum' of science advisers

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, has hosted a “super forum” of government science advisers to discuss science and technology priorities.

This event brought together the collective expertise of leading science advisers, including members of the Prime Minister’s National Science and Technology Council, the Forum of Australian Chief Scientists, comprising the state and territory and New Zealand chief scientists; and the chief scientists across the Australian Government and publicly funded research agencies. 

Dr Foley’s approach as the Chief Scientist of Australia is to collaborate to leverage the combined expertise across government, industry, academia and the broader science and innovation community.

She welcomed the participants, saying the super forum was an opportunity to “fan the flame of what we have been doing in individual groups and do it collectively”.

Discussion was broad-ranging. Topics of interest included critical technologies; supply chains and sovereign manufacturing; and climate resilience and adaptation.

A central issue was the need for a skilled workforce for the emerging industries, with each session giving consideration to skills development. Dr Foley pointed to the need for multidisciplinary skills in the future workforce, as we move to a more complex economy and a focus on sectors such as clean energy, low-emissions manufacturing, space, medical manufacturing and high-tech defence capabilities. 

The forum touched on ways to better define science as a profession and provide clarity on pathways for careers in science and related disciplines. It raised the importance of retaining scientists, including through supportive conditions for women, and options such as micro-credentialing for existing workers. Attracting people from all walks of life and deploying robust new coursework to meet industrial needs were also canvassed. 

The super forum, held on Wednesday 8 December, helped Dr Foley gather insights as she develops her work plan for 2022. She thanked the group for providing a rich set of ideas for consideration.

“Bringing these groups together has been a powerful experience, allowing us to lean in to the challenges we face as a nation,” she said.