ScienceNetwork WA | 23 May 2013
Chief Scientist Ian Chubb has called for a national strategy to support Australian science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and research. He says that, while our science system in general may be pretty good, serious shortcomings remain for Australia to be above average across all fields of science on the world stage, like the US, Canada and some European countries.
Speaking at the 2013 Inaugural Rio Tinto-UWA Education Partnership lecture, at the University of Western Australia, Chubb detailed the importance of fostering a science literate nation for a better and prosperous future.
Almost two years in the job, he has released a report on the health of Australian science, followed by a more recent paper, in which Australia’s science performance was benchmarked.
Our best scientists are up there with the best, but we drop away and have a long tail. This tail has implications for the weight and balance of our research efforts.
He concludes that Australia punches above its weight in research but that “we have to go beyond accepting our own rhetoric about our excellence”.
One problem is the persistent decline in university enrolments in the STEM-disciplines over the last decade.
A shortfall in undergraduates has influenced funding in STEM areas leading to fewer staff, less research and a deficiency in innovation, which Australia needs to have an impact internationally.
Most nations that outperform us have a National Science & Technology Strategy— a whole of government coherent vision with concrete directions to support research within STEM disciplines, argues Chubb. “
We don’t, but we should. We need to prepare ourselves so that we can face up to whatever happens in the future, solve it, manage it, mitigate it and adapt to it, whatever it may be.
Chubb is developing a proposal for Australia’s National Science & Technology Strategy, which meets the need for basic science to generate new ideas, innovation to harness technology and to be globally competitive, and science to be embedded in our society to remain a nation of influence.
Without an overarching plan, Chubb wonders whether Australia can sustain a productive and effective setting for STEM-training, and ensure research and innovation continues contributing to global solutions for the future of our climate, environment and economy.
Universities Australia has backed the call with chief executive, Belinda Robinson saying:
The nation needs a coherent national strategy to ensure the enormous benefits of cutting edge science and technology underpin efforts to produce a more diverse, productive and innovative economy and improve the lives of all Australians.
A broad range of ideas to shape the National Science & Technology Strategy is being sought and proposals can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.