National Science and Technology Council: Fifth Meeting

Thursday, 16 April 2020

The fifth meeting of the National Science and Technology Council, and first meeting of 2020, was held via videoconference on 8 April 2020. The meeting was called by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, to specifically discuss science and technology aspects of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Minister Andrews reflected on the important role of science and technology in contributing to Australia’s response and rebuilding efforts after the crisis.   

Newly appointed member Professor Fiona Wood AM was welcomed to her first meeting of the Council. Mr David Fredericks was also welcomed by Minister Andrews to his first meeting as the Secretary of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. Additionally, the meeting was attended by Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM, Chair of the Health Industry Coordination Group (HICG), and Mr David Thodey AO, Deputy Chair of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC).

Ms Beauchamp briefed the Council on the important role of the HICG in coordinating the private sector, departments, states and territories to facilitate the procurement, production and delivery of vital medical resources around Australia. Both Ms Beauchamp and Minister Andrews reflected positively on the extensive level of translation and collaboration activity already underway between the scientific community and industry.

Dr Marshall briefed the Council on the significant work being undertaken across Australia on various COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. Work to date has been very promising, with CSIRO quickly establishing a reliable biological model. Research organisations across Australia are also undertaking a range of clinical trials. Dr Marshall noted Australia’s strong position, particularly through work to ensure production of a successful vaccine can be scaled quickly.

Dr Finkel spoke to his regular and constructive engagement with other Chief Scientific Advisers nationally and internationally. Both domestic and international advisers are actively and openly sharing vital information about their challenges and responses to key issues. A notable success has been the scholarly publishers’ response to the group’s call to make COVID-19 related publications and data immediately accessible in machine-readable format.  

The Council was briefed by Mr Thodey on his role, and the purpose of the NCCC. Mr Thodey sought the Council’s views on how science and technology can best help Australia to recover from the wide range of effects of COVID-19. Members discussed the many impacts of the pandemic on education and research, but also highlighted the opportunities for these sectors to contribute to the recovery phase.

Throughout the meeting, Council members reflected on the significant challenges facing all Australians, but also agreed that there had been major successes to date. Science, research and technology are delivering the solutions needed to navigate a path forward.

The Council will meet again in May.

Last updated: Friday, 17 April 2020