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Alan Finkel to be Australia’s new Chief Scientist

16  November 2015

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Engineer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr Alan Finkel, is to be  Australia’s new Chief Scientist. He will take over the role once the sitting Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, finishes his five-year stint in the job on December 31 this year..

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Alan Finkel

Finkel was most recently Chancellor of Monash University, a post he has held since 2008. He is also the President of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).

Finkel is an outspoken advocate for science awareness and popularisation. He is a patron of the Australian Science Media Centre and has helped launch popular science magazine, Cosmos.

He is also an advocate for nuclear power, arguing that “nuclear electricity should be considered as a zero-emissions contributor to the energy mix” in Australia.

In the 1980s, he established Axon Instruments, a company which supplies tools for cellular neuroscience and drug discovery which was later bought by a US firm and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

In stark contrast to the climate-denialist image that plagued the Abbott government, Dr Finkel has publicly advocated for nuclear power and electric cars to help reduce Australia’s carbon emissions in the fight against global warming.

In an essay this year in Cosmos,  Dr Finkel revealed that the electricity in his home was  “100 per cent … green”.

Electric cars were the “transport technology of the future”, the engineer and entrepreneur wrote.

“One day, everyone’s driving could be close to emissions-free, like mine is. The more of us who buy electric cars and power them with green electricity the faster that day will come.”

His successor as Chancellor of Monash University, Simon McKeon said that one notable failure among Dr Finkel’s CV of successes, his time as chief technology officer at Better Place, would one day be viewed more favourably.

“Better Place will just be shown as a company that was ahead of its time. Science is all about risk,” he said.

Better Place, which aimed to supply battery-switching services for electric vehicles, filed for bankruptcy in Israel in 2013 after burning through $US850 million (then worth about $885 million) in private funds.

The Australian Academy of Science (AAS) President, Professor Andrew Holmes, has welcomed the expected appointment of Alan Finkel to the Chief Scientist’s role.

“The Academy is looking forward to the government’s announcement, but Professor Finkel would be an excellent choice for this position. I’m confident he would speak strongly and passionately on behalf of Australian science, particularly in his advice to government,” he said.

“The AAS and ATSE have never been closer; we have worked together well on important issues facing Australia’s research community, including our recent partnership on the Science in Australia Gender Equity initiative.”

Professor Holmes also thanked outgoing Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, for his strong leadership for science in Australia, including establishing ACOLA as a trusted source of expert, interdisciplinary advice to the Commonwealth Science Council.

“Since his appointment, Professor Chubb has been a tireless advocate of the fundamental importance of science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills as the key to the country’s future prosperity, and a driving force behind the identification of strategic research priorities for the nation,” Holmes said.


The ConversationTim Dean, Editor, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

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Alan Finkel appointed Australia’s next Chief Scientist
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