About the Academy
- Adolph Basser Library
- International Scientific Collaborations Program
- Interaction with international bodies
- National Committees for Science
- Past Presidents
- Science education and publishing
- Science policy
- Sectional Committees
- Standing Committees
- Structure of the Academy
- Support us
- The Academy’s coat of arms
- The Fellowship
- The objectives of the Academy
The objectives of the Academy are to promote science through a range of activities. It has defined four major program areas:
- recognition of outstanding contributions to science
- education and public awareness
- science policy
- international relations
The Academy was founded on 16 February 1954 by Australian Fellows of the Royal Society of London with the distinguished physicist Sir Mark Oliphant as founding President. It was granted a Royal Charter establishing the Academy as an independent body but with government endorsement.
The Academy's Constitution was modeled on that of the Royal Society of London. It receives government grants towards its activities but has no statutory obligation to government.
Open your eyes - the Academy is launching a major new philanthropic campaign to elevate science in public debate, ensure quality science education, and invigorate scientific understanding, enquiry and enthusiasm nationwide.
Azure a representation of the building of the Australian Academy of Science at Canberra ensigned of a Mullet of seven points Argent on a Canton Argent a representation of the Royal Crown proper And for the Crest On a Wreath of the Colours a demi Swan rousant Sable Ducally gorged Or the wings charged with a conventional representation of the nucleus of an Atom with three Particles in orbit Or as the same are in the margin hereof more plainly depicted. On the dexter side a Kangaroo and on the sinister side a Talbot both proper and Ducally gorged Or as the same are also in the margin hereof more plainly depicted the whole to be borne and used for ever hereafter by the Australian Academy of Science on Seals or otherwise according to the Laws of Arms.
The Academy Council had certain allusions in mind when choosing elements of the arms.
On the shield there are three charges. The seven-pointed silver star represents the Commonwealth of Australia. The representation of the Academy building was used because of its unique and simple design; its use conforms to ancient heraldic practice when it was common for the bearer of arms to include a conventionalised representation of his own castle. The third charge, a royal crown on a silver canton, was included by special permission of The Queen in recognition of the royal foundation of the Academy in 1954 when the Charter was presented by hand of the Sovereign in Canberra.
In the crest biological science is represented by the swan and physical science by the conventional symbol on its wing. Moreover the black swan is uniquely Australian. The use of the ducal coronet might be regarded as a symbol of the Academy’s status.
The dexter supporter is taken from the Australian arms, but with the heraldic ‘differencing’ of the coronet. The sinister supporter is identical with the supporters of the arms of the Royal Society of London and was included, with the permission of the Council of the Society, to signify the close relations of the two bodies and, in particular, the fact that Fellows of the Royal Society resident in Australia made the first moves to establish the Academy.
The Shine Dome was purpose-built during 1958–59 to house the Australian Academy of Science. The building was designed by Sir Roy Grounds of Grounds, Romberg and Boyd.
The Dome contains a central lecture theatre surrounded by meeting rooms on the ground floor, an upper level with gallery seating and specialised library, and a basement area.
The Dome is one of the two culturally significant buildings owned by the Australian Academy of Science. Ian Potter House, the other building, houses the Academy secretariat.
Ian Potter House was built as part of the Federal Capital Commissions building program in 1927, the building represents an early phase in Canberra’s developing social and cultural history. It was the winning design by Melbourne architects, Anketell and Kingsley Henderson, in a competition held by the Federal Capital Commission.
The Australian Academy of Science took possession of the site in 1985 and, following refurbishment during 1986–87, gave the building its current name in recognition of philanthropist and Academy Fellow, Sir Ian Potter.
The Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science is made up of around 450 of Australia's top scientists, distinguished in the physical and biological sciences and their applications. From 2012, twenty scientists, judged by their peers to have made an exceptional contribution to knowledge in their field, are elected to Fellowship of the Academy. Election is subject to a searching appraisal of the candidate's published works, including reference to leading scientific researchers around the world. Fellows are employed by universities, CSIRO, government and private research organisations. They contribute to the Academy in an honorary capacity by serving on Council, committees and as advisers.
No more than two Fellows may be elected every three years on the basis of distinguished contributions to science by means other than personal research. A small number of distinguished foreign scientists with substantial connections to Australian science are elected as Corresponding Members.
The Fellows of the Academy elect the Council which manages the business of the Academy. The decisions of the Council are carried out by the secretariat in Canberra, supervised by the Executive Committee.
The Academy has published many reports on public issues such as national research policy setting, stem cell research, human cloning, pesticides, ecological reserves, food quality, genetic engineering, space science and climate change.
The Academy also makes submissions to government ministers and parliamentary inquiries. The President of the Academy is, by virtue of that position, a member of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council. The Council advises the Prime Minister on important scientific issues.
The role of the 22 national committees of the Academy is to foster a designated branch of natural science in Australia, to serve as an effective link between Australian scientists and overseas scientists in the same field, and to advise Council on relevant matters.
National committees are frequently called on to advise on science policy matters, on proposals for Academy sponsorship of scientific conferences and on proposals for grants from special purpose funds. They are also encouraged to prepare occasional reports and other documents on the state and outlook of their respective disciplines. National committees maintain active links with relevant scientific societies and international organisations.
The Academy is Australia's representative on the International Council for Science (ICSU) and many of its constituent organisations. The Academy has taken a leading role in Australia in some international programs, for example the International Geosphere Biosphere Program.
The Academy supports delegates to business meetings and provides information about ICSU within Australia. At any time about 300 Australians hold honorary offices in ICSU organisations.
The Academy operates an international scientific collaborations program to improve Australian access to global science and technology with North America, France, the European Union, Japan and India. The program gives Australian researchers the opportunity to collaborate with foreign colleagues, widen research perspectives and experience, to exchange ideas, to be recognised in the international arena, to gain information and knowledge of techniques that will stimulate and advance Australian research, and to be involved in large international projects. The project is supported by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
The Academy produces an on-line educational website (Nova: Science in the news) for schools, reference books, works on the history of science in Australia and a variety of reports and conference proceedings. It also produces a Newsletter four times a year and an Annual Report. The Academy also shares editorial responsibility with CSIRO for the twelve Australian Journals of Scientific Research.
The Academy has interviewed some of Australia's greatest scientists for the Interviews with Australian scientists program. Scientists talk about their research and scientific achievements, as well as their early life, role models and how they became interested in science. Videos of the interviews can be purchased from the Academy, and the transcripts and teachers notes are available online.
The Academy’s journal, Historical Records of Australian Science, is published twice each year. Its focus is the history of science and its contents include high-quality articles and reviews, biographical memoirs of deceased Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science commissioned by the Council of the Academy, and an annual bibliography of the history of Australian science.
The Academy sponsors awards for a teacher from each State and Territory to attend its annual Science at the Shine Dome event in Canberra. The awards are open to primary and secondary teachers.
Primary Connections is an innovative program that links the teaching of science with literacy in the primary years of schooling. It is an exciting and rewarding approach for teachers and students and includes two components: a professional learning program and supporting curriculum resources.
Primary Investigations, a previous Academy science program for primary schools, is still available.
The Academy is currently managing a pilot of the Science by Doing program which is seeking to increase the engagement of secondary school students in their science studies.
The Academy advises governments on science education and supports professional development for science teachers.
The encouragement and reward of excellence in science is at the heart of the ethos of the Academy. Each year the Academy awards a series of medals, lectures or prizes to early-career and career scientists in all fields of science They include the Pawsey Medal awarded to a young physicist, the Gottschalk Medal to a young medical researcher, and the Fenner Medal to a young biologist.
In alternate years the Academy awards the Matthew Flinders Medal and Lecture and the Macfarlane Burnet Medal and Lecture to distinguished physical and biological career scientists. The Ian William Wark Medal and Lecture and the Lloyd Rees Lecture were established to encourage those whose research bridges science and industry. The Frederick White Prize is awarded to scientists who have significantly contributed to our understanding and progress in a range of physical sciences.
There are other medals, lectures or prizes in chemistry (David Craig Medal, Le Fèvre Memorial Prize), in mathematics or physics (Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal), in the Earth sciences (Mawson Medal and Lecture, Jaeger Medal, Haddon Forrester King Medal, Anton Hales Medal, Dorothy Hill Award), in human genetics (Ruth Stephens Gani Medal), and in the mathematical or statistical sciences (Moran Medal, Hannan Medal).
Support for research is provided for research conferences that focus on rapidly developing fields of study (Boden Research Conferences, Fenner Conferences on the Environment, and the Elizabeth and Frederick White Research Conferences), and travelling fellowships are awarded for the exchange of scientific ideas (Rudi Lemberg Travelling Fellowship, Selby Fellowship, and the Graeme Caughley Travelling Fellowship). Other grants to support research are the Conservation of endangered Australian species Awards, the J G Russell Awards, and the Douglas and Lola Douglas Scholarships in Medical Research.
The Academy holds a collection of medals awarded by various organisations in Australia for distinguished contributions to science and technology.
The Adolph Basser Library was established in 1962, by a gift from Sir Adolph Basser, to document the history of science in Australia and to support related research. Housed in the Shine Dome, the library contains printed and manuscript material, the latter providing a unique source for historical research. Each year the Library offers a fellowship of $2,500 to encourage use of the collections by postgraduate students and other independent researchers.