13 August 1999
I have recently returned from an overseas trip, which has produced some interesting ideas for the future of science and science bodies. It has been some time since my last note so there is quite a bit of news to report.
With best wishes,
Brian D O Anderson
GREEN PAPER ON RESEARCH
Following discussion at July Council, and with the assistance of a working party chaired by John White (and including Fellows of the Academies of Technological Sciences and Engineering and of the Social Sciences) we have prepared and submitted a comment on the Green Paper on Research and Research Training. We are particularly concerned about the lack of quality control in the allocation of institutional research infrastructure funds and the research training proposals. The proposed changes to the Australian Research Council we see as generally more favourable.
In the latest issue of the Newsletter of the Business/Higher Education Round Table, I have an article which argues that Australia needs systematic policy instruments to address shortcomings in education, research and industry, to compete better in the international knowledge economy. The article is available at www.science.org.au/reports/.
The Executive Committee has endorsed two programs aimed at building Australia’s research base in information science and technology. The Information Technology Researcher Incentive Program aims to attract senior researchers to Australia and the Information Technology University Demonstrator Program aims to build critical masses of research capacity with strong links to the private sector. The proposals are now being refined by a working party, which includes nominees of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.
As a member of the Steering Committee, I have been involved in plans for the National Innovation Summit. Much of the work of preparing material for the discussion’s program is being done by working parties. The two principal sponsors of the Summit are the Business Council of Australia and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. I see the event and associated activities as providing a valuable opportunity to raise the profile of innovation, and its under-pinning research, on the agenda of government.
PRODUCTION OF PhDs
The Secretary (Science Policy), John White, has circulated a paper on the question of whether Australia is producing too many PhDs. Following some comment, he convened a meeting to consider the issues. These include the coupling of supply and demand, the determination of the number of PhDs available, their distribution among disciplines and the role of coursework in PhD programs. A proposal has now been submitted to the Australian Research Council for a special project grant, under the scheme of project grants to the Learned Academies, to carry out a study.
OTHER SCIENCE POLICY
John White has also been busy preparing a national statement on ethical conduct in research involving humans, and a submission to the House of Representatives inquiry into primary producer access to gene technology.
I have written to government ministers about Cooperative Research Centres and proposed amendments to the Trade Practices Act which could affect the licensing of intellectual property.
BECKER HOUSE REVOVATION
At the last Council meeting, Ross Taylor, the Chairman of the Becker House Project Committee, tabled five volumes of the Conservation Management Plan and Scope of Works for Becker House. The consultants, Gutteridge Haskins Davey, advised that all the works judged either necessary or desirable could cost the Academy up to $2.483 million. The committee categorised work into four levels of priority. Council authorised expenditure of $1.1 million on the first two levels - essential for safety or functional reasons and highly desirable. The Centenary of Federation Fund of the Commonwealth Government has made a grant of $525,000 towards the work.
On the advice of the National Committee for Animal Sciences, the Secretary (Biological Sciences), John Young, has written to the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry about the adequacy of Australia’s quarantine system.
The National Committee for Physics is conducting a discipline review, jointly with the Australian Institute of Physics.
FOUNDATION FOR FOREIGN SCIENTISTS
John Young has observed the absence in Australia of counterparts of the senior awards made by the von Humboldt Foundation in Germany. These, and similar schemes in some other countries, encourage the involvement of senior foreign scientists in the scientific life of the host country. John is considering an appropriate proposal.
ASSOCIATION OF ASIAN ACADEMIES
The Korean Academy of Science and Technology is proposing to form an association of academies of science in Asia. We are finding out more about the proposed body’s relationship with the existing Federation of Asian Scientific Academies and Societies, of which our Academy is a member.
The Australian Institute of Political Science has asked the Academy to nominate 20 distinguished scientists of the 20th century for its Tall Poppies campaign. The Secretaries will prepare a list with the assistance of other Fellows and Professor Rod Home, of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne. Your comments will be most welcome.
SOIL SCIENCE SYMPOSIUM
We are organising a national conference on the role of soil science in sustainable land and water management to be in Adelaide on 11 and 12 November 1999. The conference will provide practical information for land and water resource managers, policy makers and researchers in the field. Further information from Faye Nicholas at email@example.com or (02) 6247 5777.
Dr Jon Bell, of the Australia Telescope, will be organising the next Elizabeth and Frederick White Conference. The conference will look at strategies for mitigating radio frequency interference.
AGM 2000 SYMPOSIUM
Plans are already under way for next year’s annual general meeting symposium. Dick Manchester and John Shine are organising a program on Australia’s science future, which will look at the future of science under a group of themes. The contributors will mostly be younger researchers. This involves changing the AGM arrangements for next year. The New Fellows Seminar will be held on Tuesday 2 May, Australia’s science future on Wednesday and Thursday, 3-4 May, and the formal sessions of the meeting on Friday 5 May.
A number of suggestions from Fellows about publicity, procedures and equipment will be adopted for the next AGM.
Council has decided to sponsor the 12th International Congress on Photosynthesis to be held in Brisbane from 18 to 23 August 2001. The Chairman of the organising committee is Barry Osmond.
A Council committee of the Academy Secretaries and four other Fellows will review matters of Fellowship policy, including the age structure of the Fellowship, the Sectional Committees, and action to balance the Fellowship in relation to geographical distribution, sex and research discipline.
I note with regret the death of two Fellows: Professor Clifford Emmens on 22 June and Dr John Philip, who was killed in a road accident in the Netherlands on 26 June.
MEETINGS WITH OFFICIALS
The Officers, Council and I are continuing to meet regularly with officials concerned with science and research policy. For example, Professor Vicki Sara was a lunch guest at July Council, and Dr Batterham, the recently-appointed Chief Scientist, addressed Council during the afternoon.
Documents on the Academy’s Web site
Minutes of recent meetings of Council and EXCOM are now available to Fellows at www.science.org.au/fellow/fellows/ You will need to enter the user name ‘fellow’ and the password ‘becker’. Bear in mind that the latest minutes are always drafts, and subject to Council/EXCOM approval.
Wark Dinner and Lecture by Dr Tom Healy FAA, Melbourne. Information is available from Faye Nicholas: firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 6247 5777.
Therapeutic cloning for tissue repair, Canberra. Information is available from Trish Nicholls: email@example.com or (02) 6247 3966.
30 September and 1 October
Fire! The Australian experience
A reminder that this meeting of the four Academies will be held in Adelaide on 30 September and 1 October. Your registration should be sent to Kylie Hall at ATSE by 17 August (ph (03) 9347 0622; fax (03) 9347 8237; firstname.lastname@example.org).
OFFICE BEARERS OF THE ACADEMY
President, Professor Brian Anderson
phone (02) 6279 8667, fax (02) 6279 8688,
Secretary (Physical Sciences), Professor Kurt Lambeck
phone (02) 6249 5161, email@example.com
Secretary (Biological Sciences), Professor John Young
phone (02) 9351 4600, firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary (Science Policy), Professor John White
phone (02) 6249 3578, email@example.com
Foreign Secretary, Professor Michael Pitman
phone (02) 6247 7636, firstname.lastname@example.org
Treasurer, Professor Athel Beckwith
phone (02) 6249 3234, email@example.com