Workshop for National Committee chairs – summary of proceedings
28 April 2004
Bruce McKellar FAA, Secretary (Physical Sciences)
Two years ago we had a very useful meeting of Chairs of National Committees (NCs), and one of the recommendations was that we should have such a meeting every two years to allow Chairs to compare notes and to learn from each other, and to tell us how we can better support you. So here we are again.
To focus the discussions we have structured the sessions around two points:
- What can the National Committees do on the national scale
- What can the National Committees do on the international scale
A subtext is how can the aims we set be achieved economically and achievably.
The need for economy becomes obvious when you realise that the Academy receives about $400K from the government, of which we expect to spend about $350K on the NCs, and about $50K in indirect support of the NCs. Of the $350K direct expenditure, $270K goes on subscriptions to international scientific unions, $30K for delegates expenses, and $50K for NC activities, principally meetings.
You will have seen a number of cris de coeur for conference support from the Academy. We have nothing left in our general funds for this purpose. However, there are a number of conference funds administered by the Academy – Boden, Elizabeth & Frederick White and Fenner conferences (see http://www.science.org.au/awards/index.htm), and we can facilitate access to Oliphant conference money and conferences supported by the National Academies Forum. We have undoubtedly looked at requests for conference funds too narrowly – we will try to remember to suggest ways in which we can help you to a 'yes' as we say 'no' to direct funds. We will also support bids for International Union congresses, short of actual money and subject to guidelines (see http://www.science.org.au/internat).
What the Academy hopes to get from today's workshop:
A. The national role: We hope NCs will take up the challenge of guiding the development of their disciplines in Australia. The NC for astronomy has a proven record in this respect, and others have been involved from time to time. Our first session will be about the 'National Role of National Committees'.
B. The international role: The Academy is conducting a project with support from the ARC on 'Maximising the Benefits from International Scientific Linkages'. In carrying out this project we will be relying heavily on input from you, in ways that I will explain in more detail this afternoon.
Session 1: National role and responsibilities of National Committees
Bruce McKellar asked the NC chairs to undertake a scoping study, described below:
A national role for National Committees
The evolving structure of support for scientific research in Australia is placing even more emphasis on planning the future of the scientific disciplines — identifying areas of major activity internationally, seeing how Australia can and should contribute to these areas, and identifying the personnel and infrastructure resources necessary for that contribution. This process will identify a number of demands on funding and other resources that will compete with one another, and someone will determine priorities for them, both within the discipline and between disciplines.
National Committees have, in the past, undertaken these tasks for their disciplines. But it has seldom been an ongoing process, monitoring the outcomes of recommendations, and reviewing and revising plans.
The Academy of Science believes it is important and appropriate for national committees to undertake the task of planning the development of their disciplines. As a first step, we ask you to undertake a scoping study, using your present resources. This scoping study should provide answers to the following questions:
1. Is the National Committee indeed the appropriate body for the task of developing a strategic plan for the personnel and infrastructure needs of its discipline? In particular:
a) Is the discipline it represents too broad or too
limited for sensible planning?
b) Is the membership appropriate?
2. Is a statement of major international directions for the discipline available (for example, the 10 major questions likely to be at least partially answered in this decade), or does it need to be constructed? If the latter is the case, how can it be done efficiently?
3. What is an appropriate time frame for the planning process?
4. Is a statement of the major facilities and personnel in Australia available? If not how can it be efficiently constructed.
5. Can the Committee determine the likely infrastructure requirements of the discipline over that timeframe?
6. Can the Committee determine the likely personnel requirements of the discipline over that timeframe?
7. How is it appropriate to validate the plan with the scientific community of the discipline, and with others with key interests?
8. What are other disciplines on which the plan will impact, and how should the interaction with those disciplines be managed?
9. How much of the work can be done with existing resources, and what additional resources are required to complete the task?
Phil McFadden FAA (Earth Sciences)
From his experience in sitting on the National Infrastructure Taskforce in 2003, Dr McFadden became aware of several perceptions about National Committees and the Academy, held in government circles. These perceptions were also held by many of the younger researchers in the scientific community:
- That National Committees were largely inactive and this promoted a negative view of the Australian Academy of Science.
- The National committees structure was ineffective in terms of providing advice to government. What structure would best serve Australian science?
- There is a need to re-structure the National Committees – to build priorities and ensure that the scientific community has been involved in making science work.
- National Committees have to be active, positive and visible in the scientific and governmental communities; involving younger people and engaged in doing work that will benefit science.
- The role of National Committees involved working in national science and in the International Unions where interactions should happen within the context of what is best for Australia.
- National Committees active in the international arena have had strong concepts of what they are doing here in Australia.
- An inactive National Committee is worse than having no National Committee.
David Gillieson (Geography)
David Gillieson gave an overview of the national activities of the National Committee for Geography, summarised below:
- Acting as a gateway to the international organisations
- Coordinating role in research activities of national and state bodies
- Initiative for national reviews of discipline
- Encouraging the discipline in Schools and Universities
- Enhancing the profile of the discipline in an era
As a gateway to the International Geographic Union (IGU):
The NC Geography coordinates the activities of the IGU Commissions in Australia. Australian geographers are members of 27 of the 32 IGU Commissions, and hold office in 7 of those. This provides Australian geographers with timely access to the latest developments in their chosen sub-disciplines of Geography, as well as creating opportunities for international publications and conference attendance. The NC Geography also coordinates the financial support for early career researchers attending IGU congresses.
Coordinating role for national and state bodies:
Relevant corresponding societies/ organisations (numbers in brackets) for the National Committee for Geography are:
- Institute of Australian Geographers Inc. (450)
- Australian Geography Teachers Association Inc. (1100)
- Geographical Society of New South Wales Inc. (600)
- Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Inc. (350)
- Royal Geographical Society of South Australia Inc. (270)
- Spatial Sciences Institute Inc. (3500)
- Heads of University Geography Departments Committee (IAG) (24)
The NC Geography provides an essential role in providing a forum for interaction between these diverse and dispersed organisations, as well as permitting the development of strategic plans for the Geography discipline. No single national or state organisation could represent the diversity of interests therein.
Reviews of discipline:
The National Committee instigated a survey of Geography's cross-disciplinary links published in the journal Australian Geographical Studies in March 2002: Geography's Emerging Cross-disciplinary Links, Geography and Environmental Studies and Australian Geography and Geographic Information Systems. The Committee has produced monographs that emphasize the role of the geographical sciences in integrating and synthesizing issues of concern to Australian society:
Heathcote, R.L. & Thom, B.G. (1979) Natural
Hazards in Australia, Australian Academy of Sciences, Canberra.
Heathcote, R.L., ed. (1994) Building Bridges: Geography in Australia, Australian Academy of Sciences, Canberra.
In 2003 the Committee and its constituent societies has undertaken the task of producing a new edition of the latter volume in preparation for the 2006 IGU in Brisbane. The Committee has also been pivotal in the production of a series of texts on aspects of Geography central to Australian society. Published by Blackwells as the Meridian series, eleven volumes have so far been produced. These are low cost (average price $30), with high quality text, and several have been reprinted.
Encouraging Geography in Schools:
The annual Australian Geography Competition has attracted up to 78,000 entries from all States and Territories and is organised by the Australian Geography Teachers Association, a member of the National Committee. The National Committee also supports the International Geography Olympiad, held every four years at the IGU Congress. A proposed National Mapping Project is being developed by the Institute of Australian Geographers and the Australian Geography Teachers Association, with support from the National Committee. This has the aim of enhancing geographical skills and knowledge amongst secondary students.
Enhancing the disciplinary profile:
In an era of widespread departmental mergers in tertiary institutions, and some loss of identity, we need a strong national committee to maintain the visibility of the discipline and encourage students. National Committees that have clear links to both tertiary and secondary education should be actively encouraged in that role, given the national decline in Science enrolments and the emergence of secondary teacher education 'siloized' within Faculties and Schools of Education. NC Geography has lobbied Minister Nelson over status of Geography in Schools, and also ABS and DEST over definitions of Geography currently used.
The main matters discussed were:
- The way forward has to be different for each NC.
- Links between the NCs and the corresponding scientific societies are vital. By involving the professional bodies, the NCs can provide credible and unbiased advice to governments on priorities in particular areas.
- In some cases, discipline boundaries need to be made more obscure to facilitate appropriate planning.
- Activities of interest are taking place between the disciplinary borders in some areas.
- The Academy is seen as the top body giving advice to governments nationally and internationally.
- Internationally in the last 10 years, there has been a much greater emphasis given to ensuring that recommendations have been arrived at in a transparent way – a “bottom up” process. This needs to be taken on board.
Session 2: International role and responsibilities of National Committees
Ray Norris (Member: Radio Science)
Ray Norris gave an overview of the role of the National Committee for Radio Science, summarised below:
- For national committees (such as the NC Radio Scince) that span several specialist discipline areas, a key role is to provide linkages and cross-fertilisation between these areas. This role is critical to Australian science, and serves to bring critical mass and a breadth of expertise across Australia to bear on common goals. E.g.
Conducting cross-disciplinary workshops (e.g. Workshop on Applications of Radio Science –'WARS')
Building linkages between Universities/research organisations and industry
Building linkages between different specialist groups (e.g. bringing together radio-astronomers, ionospheric scientists, antenna manufacturers, spectrum managers, DSTO, in the billion-dollar international 'Square Kilometre Array' project).
- It brings together people working in different disciplines into a national forum to discuss issues of common interest (e.g. innovative antenna designs, Radio-Quiet Reserve).
- It provides a national focus for radio science activities (e.g. directory, other web pages).
- Provides a conduit of information to/from the Scientific Union (e.g. seeking Australian views on a proposed ICSU resolution).
- Maximises Australian input and influence on international decisions (e.g. Australian input on international intellectual property legislation).
- Provides Australian access to international forums on international megascience projects (such as the Square Kilometre Array ).
- Provides national coordination of representation in Scientific Unions.
- Provides conduit for international awards (Australia does very well in this in radio science – Young Scientist awards to Australians roughly equals our national subscription!).
Allan Canty FAA (Chemistry)
Allan Canty gave an overview of the International role that the National Committee for Chemistry performs, as summarised below:
Relevant ICSU organisation:
- IUPAC: International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
Major national organisation:
- RACI: Royal Australian Chemical Institute, and the International Relations Committee of the RAC
Interaction between NC Chemistry and RACI in international matters:
- Chair of International Relations Committee of RACI is a member of NC Chemistry: Prof Tom Spurling
Interaction between NC Chemistry and IUPAC:
- Vice President of IUPAC attended a full meeting of the NC Chemistry during 2003
- IUPAC Secretary General is a member of the NC Chemistry: Prof David Black
- Australia's representative to the IUPAC Union Advisory Committee is a member of the NC Chemistry: Prof John Ralston
- Four members of the NC Chemistry attended the IUPAC Congress in 2003, and participated as voting members
Preliminary plans for 2004:
Re-examine interaction between NC Chemistry and RACI
- both committees have new Chairs in 2004
- The NC Chemistry is the main interaction with IUPAC, but the RACI Inter Committee also promotes interaction of RACI members with IUPAC and has a regular column on IUPAC matters in Chemistry in Australia
- RACI Inter Committee has major roles interacting with the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies, promoting joint activities
- Explore opportunities for liaison with IUPAC via Secretary General and member of Union Advisory Committee
- Explore possible NC Chemistry role in facilitating initiatives of IUPAC, e.g. Company Associates Program, Young Observers Program, roles of NC Chemistry members and Australian scientists at IUPAC Congress in 2005 and in specialist committees of IUPAC
Participation by Australian scientists in IUPAC in 2004:
- Secretary General
- Member of Bureau
- Member of Union Advisory Committee
- 28 Australians are members of 38 committees of IUPAC
The main points that emerged in the discussions were:
- How do we measure the effectiveness of international work? Governments look at these expenditures as an investment. We should outline the benefits of this activity – putting up a measure, doing it and achieving the outcomes. Then we can say to government that they made an effective investment here.
- There is some discussion in Astronomy on planning of major global facilities involving the concept of countries getting together and planning how funding could be better organised on an international basis. The transfer of this decision-making is still a subject of this dialogue.
- From the Academy's perspective, there is a need to see that contributions to international discussions are properly based and are of sufficient standard.
- In some areas there is strength in having more than one avenue for professionals the NCs represent, to approach government. However, there needs to be a single view presented.
- The need for unity and collaboration was contrasted with the importance of diversity. It was suggested that some sort of commonality needs to come through in the diversity.
Session 3: International role and responsibilities of International Unions
Ian Allison (Antarctic Research)
Ian Allison gave an overview of the role of International Unions in international Antarctic research, as summarised below:
In my own field (Antarctic Research) the International Geophysical Year of 1957-1958, sponsored by ICSU and WMO (on the 75th and 125th anniversaries of the first and second international polar years) was fundamental in setting research directions for many decades. The IGY brought together 67 nations around the idea that many technologies developed during World War II could be focused to the benefit of science. The accomplishments of IGY include the first estimates of the size of Antarctica's ice mass, discovery of the Van Allen Radiation Belt, launch of the first artificial earth-orbiting satellite, and confirmation of the theory of continental drift. Even more importantly, IGY left a lasting legacy, in Antarctica in particular, of new research directions, a new generation of inspired and trained scientists, and an observational network which continues (albeit somewhat degraded) today. IGY spawned the creation of the ICSU interdisciplinary body, SCAR. It led to geopolitical outcomes as well, including negotiation and ultimately the ratification of, the Antarctic Treaty. Several other important international treaties have evolved from the continuing scientific work of ICSU bodies in Antarctica. The IGY conclusively demonstrated that scientists from around the world can work together, even in tense political and economic times such as the height of the cold war, for the betterment of humankind.
Today's relevance of ICSU international initiatives:
In much of Earth System Science international (and multi-disciplinary) collaboration is critical. Australia has strategic national research priorities that cannot be addressed by studying only what happens in the Australian region. We need international collaborators to study our planet as a whole. The major international efforts that address this include ICSU Joint Initiatives such as:
- WCRP, IGBP, IHDP, Diversitas
- The new ICSU initiative (co-sponsored by WMO) of International
Polar Year 2007-08.
Should these large-scale international programs have governmental or non-governmental sponsorship?
- The IGY, at the height of the cold war, succeeded largely because of the ICSU NGO lead. But it was also co-sponsored by the (largely apolitical) governmental organisation, WMO.
- Today these initiatives are increasingly NGO-GO co-sponsored
Are ICSU bodies properly structured and managed to deliver on programs that contribute to our national research priorities?
- Some yes/ some evolving (e.g. see IUGS Strategic Action Plan)/ some no
- What role do Australian representatives have to turn around those that aren't performing?
Do ICSU bodies provide an appropriate framework for Australian research priorities?
- Does internationally directed research fit with Australian National Research Priorities [An environmentally sustainable Australia; Safeguarding Australia; Frontier technologies for building and transforming Australian industries; Promoting and maintaining good health]
- Does it need to?
An important footnote
Not all Australian participation in international research initiatives is coordinated through the Academy or its NCs.
Some other questions for workshop
- How does involvement in international research initiatives leverage domestic research?
- What value do we get from subscriptions to ICSU bodies?
- How can we best structure Australian input to and involvement in international initiatives (eg IGBP, WCRP, IPY, etc.)?
- How does this link represent the Academy as the non-governmental adhering body to ICSU?
Formal program specific National Committee
Ad-hoc committee reporting through a relevant NC
'Point of contact' representative
- What is the involvement of the wider body of Fellows in this link and in Australian participation in international initiatives?
- How does involvement in international research initiatives leverage domestic research?
A final reminder
'The chief function of a national committee is to provide an effective link between Australian scientists and overseas scientists in the same field' Fenner, F. (1995)
Bob Williamson FAA (Medicine)
Bob Williamson spoke about the role of international bodies in medical research, as summarised below:
I am a new Chair, and hence do not have the experience of most of those who will be discussing these issues. My previous experience with WHO and OECD, however, leads me to believe that medicine poses somewhat different issues than other fields.
Most of the 'subject-based' International Unions 'within medical sub-specialties' are well organised and represent a mixture of 'high academic standard-setting', usually through conferences, and an attempt to act as an international 'trade union' defending 'craft rights'. The International Unions of dermatologists, allergists or paediatric surgeons function in this way, and I guess this is pretty much standard. For academic disciplines that cut across the medical specialties, (such as my own field, human genetics) there are similar International Unions, but with more emphasis on academic status and less on trade union aspects. Australia is well represented in many of the International Unions of both kinds, and we take advantage of our geographical distance and uniqueness to request and get more prominence than might be accorded on a population or publication basis. In general, basic medical science subjects are represented through the Biomedical Sciences National Committee.
There is an Inter-Academy Medical Panel (IAMP) with 43 national members that may play a role in advising and coordinating National Academy efforts in the field of 'mobilising medical science for improving global health'. This is a new initiative about which Kurt Lambeck, our Foreign Secretary, will speak.
For my part, I am very concerned that Australia should be represented effectively with organisations such as the WHO, OECD, UNESCO and so on. We are respected as a nation, often have the ability to speak as an independent force on ethical and super-national issues, and should play this role wherever the Academy has a view. In general, such a view will have to be coordinated with Government. I partly see our role as of value in its own right (as it was in relation to the Helsinki convention, and could be with respect to stem cell science, for instance). However, I also see this as a way to increase Government involvement and interest in international scientific issues, and to improve benchmarking against other nations (such as in areas of research funding for biomedical studies). For instance, AusAid devotes few resources to the Health and Medical Research area, something that could be changed.
The main points to emerge were:
- Regulatory activity was seen as one area where Australian scientists are respected internationally and where they can make a good contribution.
- What freedom does the NC have to pursue their publicity and project-seeking independently? There were many issues on which the NCs can act with some independence. On the other hand, if NCs may want endorsement of an activity by the Academy's Executive Committee (EXCOM), the sooner the Academy can get involved, the better.
- Some matters had been endorsed by the Academy's Council and this support had carried much weight.
- There is a need to have strong underpinning disciplines to underpin the integrated interdisciplinary approach, which is the trend in the sustainability area. The Joint Academies Committee on Sustainability (JACS) could investigate the issue of giving policy advice with real meaning in an area involving the energy cycle, physical sciences long term, inter-generational activity and interaction between climate variability and climate change.
- To raise the profile of the Academy with young scientists, government and the public, it was suggested that more glamour could be attached to the awards, to make heroes out of our top scientists.
Session 4: Maximising the benefits from international scientific linkages
Bruce McKellar FAA, Secretary (Physical Sciences)
The Academy is undertaking a study of the benefits generated by the formal scientific linkages that Australia has with international science. To study these we must know what they are.
The Academy itself links to the International Council for Science (ICSU), and the Inter-Academy Panel. We pay the subscriptions for an array of international scientific unions, ICSU scientific associates, interdisciplinary bodies and joint initiatives. Not all are subscribed to – sometimes for historical reasons and sometimes as a recent cost saving measure. There are many other international scientific bodies of which Australia is a member but the Academy does not administer the subscriptions – we need to identify and characterise these linkages too.
Having identified these present links, we need to identify what benefits are flowing from them. Your questionnaire answers are a first step to understanding these benefits. A quick reading of the responses suggests that there are significant differences in:
- The subscription levels for organisations ($1000 to 10,000's).
- The method by which these subscriptions are determined, eg capitation fees, tonnage of chemicals, some measure of activity in the field, what the national body thinks is an appropriate fee, etc.
- The level of Australian involvement at the international
level. Surprisingly, there are cases where the particular science requires
international collaboration for its pursuit that Australia does not
play a big role in the activities of the international body, nor does
the international union seem to exert much influence on the international
collaborations in the field. High-energy physics is a case in point.
These examples are rare – more generally when international collaboration is key to moving the discipline forward, or Australia is significantly involved in the discipline, then Australians are active in the international union or appropriate body – eg IAU, SCAR, IGBP etc.
The grants received for support of these international links have been essentially frozen since the Dawkins reform of 16 years ago. As subscription levels have increased significantly in that time, we have reduced subscription levels – most dramatically to ICSU itself – and have also cut out some subscriptions – most recently to SCOPE and CODATA. We have acted in this in consultation with the relevant National Committee, but this has not diminished the pain felt by some Australian scientists as a result of these actions.
So you see what is at stake here – can we show that the benefits received justify the price we have to pay, given that we have a finite budget. Can we make a case that the returns are so great that more funding is justified?
I think it is fair to say that ICSU and many of its unions have themselves time to adjust to the advent of economic rationalisation and the end of the cold war. It seems to be a realistic assessment that they are now finding their feet again, and I am optimistic that in at least some of these cases we will see benefits flow to Australia if we tap into them.
Are there links that we have in a formal sense that are not generating significant benefits for the Australian scientific community? Are there opportunities we are missing, to be grasped more firmly? Or are there cases where we should be reducing our involvement to a level commensurate with the outcomes?
When you look over the list of international bodies with which Australia is involved, there will be two kinds of gaps:
- Bodies with which we are involved that are missing from the list;
- Bodies with which we could be involved but are not.
We need your help to fill in these gaps. The second is perhaps the more interesting – are there opportunities we are missing because of some historical accident.
What we want to come out of the study is a basis on which we can show that:
- We are structuring our international involvement in a justifiable way in terms of the outcomes for Australian science, that we recognise the priorities and can show that we meet them.
- A greater investment will enhance the benefits, i.e. it is not money supporting a few egos, but it is a good thing for Australian science.
The main points discussed were:
- Subscriptions to international scientific unions are a significant part of the AAS budget, but we don't know much about the benefits arising from this investment.
- We need qualitative, quantitative, and/or anecdotal information on the benefits generated from these linkages.
- To do what Phil McFadden outlined earlier will require more funds than currently available. Therefore, we need to show that we are using current funds effectively and are achieving outcomes that can be leveraged to request more funds from government.
- Some benefits are hard to quantify, such as the fact that some areas of science are only possible by involvement in activities that become global, and that interaction with the global science community is an investment in ensuring Australia is a scientifically literate country.
Rachel Webster (Astronomy)
Rachel Webster spoke about the benefits from hosting an international congress in Australia, as summarised below:
In July 2003, the astronomical community of Australia hosted the triennial General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Sydney. The proposal to host the GA was submitted by the National Committee for Astronomy (NCA), and technically they were the host organisation for the assembly. However, since the NCA does not have a legal status, the Astronomical Society of Australia was the legal body that undertook the organisation of the conference.
This GA was extremely successful with over 2000 astronomers attending, but the framework within which the conference was organised made the process quite difficult and stressful.
1. Scientifica. Broad scientific program
b. Latest results
2. International exposurea. Collaborations and linkages
b. Profiling our young scientists
3. Overcoming the ‘tyranny of distance'a. Establishing Australia as a destination for scientists for short-term visits
b. (using our tourist image without shame)
4. Local political influencea. Opening by PM and Brendan Nelson
b. High awareness, particularly in NSW
5. Local gluea. Entire community needed to contribute, both financially and with their time
b. Active PR in the wider community.
1. Funding: obtaining support was extremely difficult
2. Conference organisers: inadequate
3. Legal entity was required: high possibility of bankrupting the organisation
4. International catastrophes: no control
The main points to emerge were:
- In the past the AAS provided a “float” for financial support for organising international scientific conferences. However, the AAS is no longer in a position to provide such funds.
- It would be useful if the AAS could provide and maintain information on 'best practice' for organising international conferences in Australia, including best venues, best conference organising companies, a list of 'lessons learned' from organising other conferences etc.
- Another benefit of hosting international conferences is that the profits from recent conferences held in Australia have been used to set up trusts to provide annual scholarships for local scientists, eg the IUNS conference held in 1993.
- Don't just focus on large international conferences – there are many smaller international scientific meetings that would be beneficial to host in Australia.
Session 5: Summary of main findings and invitation to National Committees to contribute to the Academy's study on 'Maximising the Benefits of International Scientific Linkages'
Bob Frater FAA, Secretary-Elect (Physical Sciences)
Bob Frater provided a summing up of the day's discussion, as summarised below.
We heard that NCs have relatively small budget that is fully committed. It was pointed out, however, that there are other sources of funds for meetings, such as the Elizabeth and Frederick White conferences. A list of sources of financial support is provided below:
- Oliphant Conference (as an international conference);
- Fenner Conference ;
- Boden Conference.
- Competitive Grants Scheme-projects and international conferences –twice/year.
- Conferences and workshops – once/year.
Other: see also: http://www.fasts.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=24
- Seeking sponsorship from relevant organisations.
We have touched on the multidisciplinary nature of much modern science (as distinct from cross-discipline for its own sake). This will clearly influence the future makeup of. The various bodies of ICSU are being reviewed and ICSU is trying to make changes to better address future needs. This will obviously influence us as well.
This said, we have identified the continuing need for strong underpinning discipline bases for the National Committees.
Is the Academy relevant? Clearly, many young scientists don't think so because they only see the National Committees and don't see them as relevant.
We need to check the age profile of NCs and we clearly need more involvement of young people in active committees.
The Academy is identified as a national body with clout. We heard, however, that the Academy does a lot behind the scenes but is not seen to do enough publicly – particularly by young scientists. We keep coming back to the relationship between the Academy and young scientists.
We heard that 'knowledge is extant here but not adequately promulgated'.
The Academy needs to be more visible and active. One path to this is through an effective national committee system.
We clearly need to attach more glamour to science - IAU General Assembly opening at the Opera House in July 2003 was a good example.
Good practice examples
There are opportunities to share experience and practices between committees. A few examples follow:
Diversity in some committees makes strategic planning difficult but the National Committees can support groups and institute reviews. We have seen one Committee take a role in developing textbooks.
We've seen good cross-fertilisation between the component disciplines well demonstrated in Radio Science and perhaps this provides some pointers for other people.
In Geography, we have seen definitions and positioning of the discipline in Australia being refined in discussions with the federal government.
We have seen very successful international conferences run by the National Committees. Rachel Webster gave us an example of how this has been done in astronomy.
Coordination of policy etc.
Assembly of coordinated inputs to government is a key role for the Academy.
The Academy has a role as the coordinator of 'bottom up' approaches but I see it as a challenge to the Academy to be seen as THE effective conduit for advice.
Does the Academy need to be involved in running conferences?
We have heard suggestions that the Academy could be a source of information on conferences but, clearly, providing a float is out of the question.
One question that arose was: 'Why is there a 'Wentworth group' outside the Academy (or Academies)?'
We heard that 'Governments don't want advice outside ideology'. Are we forming Wentworth groups simply to avoid the conflict in other bodies or was the Academy slow to act?
There are areas where there are benefits in joint activities with other academies, e.g. the Joint Committee on Sustainability is a good example. Are we canvassing these in an appropriate way?
How do you measure effectiveness? We have heard money quoted as a measure but perhaps credibility with the next generation of scientists is a greater measure.
Summary of abbreviations
AAS – Australian Academy of Science
ABS – Australia Bureau of Statistics
ARC – Australian Research Council
ATSE – Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
CODATA – Committee on Data for Science and Technology
DEST – Department of Education, Science and Training
DSTO – Defence Science and Technology Organisation
G3OS – Global Observing Systems
IAG – Institute of Australian Geographers
IAU – International Astronomical Union
ICSU – International Council for Science
IGBP – International Geosphere Biosphere Program
IGU – International Geographical Union
IGY – International Geophysical Year
IHDP – International Human Dimensions Program
IPY – International Polar Year
IUGS – International Union of Geological Sciences
IUNS – International Union of Nutritional Sciences
IUPAC – International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
NC – National Committee
NGO – Non-Government Organisation
OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
RACI – Royal Australian Chemistry Institute
SCAR – Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
SCOPE – Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment
UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
WCRP – World Climate Research Program
WHO – World Health Organisation
WMO – World Meteorological Organisation