National Science and Technology Council: Ninth meeting

The ninth meeting of the National Science and Technology Council was held via videoconference on 21 April 2021. The meeting was chaired by the recently appointed Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Christian Porter MP, and was also the first meeting for Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, as Executive Officer.

Minister Porter opened the meeting, acknowledging the breadth and depth of Council members’ expertise. He shared his enthusiasm for science and evidence-based advice to support government decision-making, particularly as part of the post-COVID-19 recovery.

Minister Porter and Dr Foley invited members to provide insights from their networks as an information sharing opportunity. Members raised areas of interest including increased automation in agriculture, preventative health measures, and maintaining research capacity as a nation.

Dr Foley led a discussion with members on the opportunity to examine the delivery of science advice to government through the Council. Members recognised there is a role for both short, sharp, and focussed responses, as well as for more extensive advice. There was also shared enthusiasm for a more flexible and agile Council function that draws on Council members’ expertise to support consideration of government policy priorities.

Minister Porter invited Dr Foley to present her work to date on Open Access. Dr Foley outlined that the events of 2020 have shown that rapid, coordinated Open Access to research is vital to improve access to knowledge and provide opportunities for innovation. Council members broadly expressed their support for Dr Foley’s pursuit of an Open Access model for Australia, but recognised the complexities of this work, and the need to explore various business models. Potential models were discussed, and views will be considered in further work by Dr Foley during her term.