Third intake of scientists join the Australian Public Service

Tuesday, 13 October 2020
SPF fellows 2020


Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, welcomed 13 scientists into the Australian Public Service last week, telling them that the events of this year had highlighted the increasing importance of science and research in policymaking.

The scientists come from a broad range of backgrounds in science, technology, medicine and computing, with experience in the research and private sectors.

They have been appointed as Science Policy Fellows and for the next 12 months will be working as policy officers in one of nine Commonwealth Government departments. They are the third and final intake in the pilot program.

Dr Finkel told the group that in responding to the Black Summer bushfires, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government had been well-advised by experts. Evidence-based science had been at the forefront.

He advised the fellows to remember that politicians want to hear solutions, especially in health, education and jobs. Their task was to help deliver real solutions – and not only to the big problems, but to the important small problems as well.

They would be working with “fabulously capable” people, Dr Finkel said. Before being appointed as Chief Scientist five years ago, he had had little engagement with the public service, and his impressions had been largely from television shows such as Yes, Minister.

“But fundamentally what I find in the Australian Public Service are … hardworking, intelligent, capable people who actually want to collectively make a difference and do good things for Australia,” he told the incoming Science Policy Fellows.

“There’s something remarkably professional in the way the Australian Public Service recruits and the way they operate. They actually operate on a corporate model where things get done on a clear decision making process.”

The incoming fellows are the third and final intake of the Australian Science Policy Fellowship pilot program. The program, an initiative of the Office of the Chief Scientist, is designed to better connect science into policy.

It is modelled on the highly successful American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science and Technology Policy Fellowships program. The first two years have seen 18 scientists complete the fellowship, with the vast majority continuing to work in the Australian Public Service.

The new Science Policy Fellows have appointments in the Attorney General’s Department and the departments of Agriculture, Water and Environment; Defence; Education, Skills and Employment; Finance; Health; Home Affairs; Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications; and Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

Dr Finkel said he hopes to see the program continue beyond the pilot, as an ongoing pathway for scientists to enter the Australian Public Service.


Last updated: Thursday, 18 February 2021