18 October 2005
I have just returned from China as co-convenor with Dr John Zillman of a delegation which participated in the second Australia–China symposium, organised in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The meeting, funded by the Department of Education, Science and Training and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, covered the topics of biotechnology, nanotechnology and medical devices and took place in Beijing. I was pleased to present the President of the Chinese Academy, Professor Yongxiang Lu, with a certificate marking his election as a Corresponding Member of the Australian Academy of Science in 2005.
The first segment of our visit was to participate in a workshop where both Australian and Chinese scientists spoke about their work. The Agribusiness Biotechnology and Bionano structures had separate workshops and both were successful. A number of opportunities for collaborative work and future interactions were identified. In the second part of our program we visited a number of laboratories both of the Chinese Academy of Science and related Institutions.
We, the Australian scientists, were impressed at the level of science that was now being achieved in China. There have been quite massive investments in new laboratories and equipment and the forward movement is in the hands of mid-career laboratory leaders, mostly those who have been successful in research in western countries. They have recruited an outstanding cadre of returning postdocs and PhD students. There is tremendous enthusiasm in these laboratories.
We were looked after very well and found the scientists and the officials to be friendly and open in their interactions with us.
Before I left for China I attended a dinner at Parliament House where the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were announced. Professor Barry Marshall was a special guest at the dinner and I was delighted to offer my congratulations to one of Australia’s newest Nobel laureates. Professor Marshall and Dr Robin Warren shared the 2005 Nobel Prize for Medicine for their research on Helicobacter pylori. Then later in the evening I was pleased to be on hand to congratulate Professor David Boger on being awarded the 2005 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his research into the rheology of particulate fluids. The Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools was awarded to Mark Merritt, a teacher from Western Australia who has been involved in the trialling of PrimaryConnections. See below for further information about each of these prize winners.
With best wishes, Jim
Professor Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren have been awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize for Medicine for their discovery that the bacterium H. pylori is a major cause of gastritis and peptic ulcers. Their discovery means that peptic ulcers are no longer a chronic illness requiring lifelong treatment; they can be cured quickly with antibiotics and acid secretion inhibitors. See the Nobel Prize website for more information (http://nobelprize.org/medicine/laureates/2005/press.html).
Professor David Boger has been awarded the 2005 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his work on non-Newtonian fluid mechanics. He discovered ‘perfect’ non-Newtonian fluids, which are elastic and have constant viscosity and are now known as Boger fluids. It was through the study of Boger fluids that David was able to develop the tools to predict how non-Newtonian fluids behave. See DEST’s website for more information (https://sciencegrants.dest.gov.au/scienceprize/documents/docs/pdf/Prime_Minister_Prize_for_Science.pdf).
Mark Merritt was awarded the 2005 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools for his leadership in science teaching, as a primary teacher and as an active member of the Science Teachers Association of Western Australia. During 2005 he has been a keen trialling teacher for PrimaryConnections, an innovative program linking science with literacy in Australian primary schools. The program is a partnership between the Academy and the Department of Education, Science and Training.
FEDERATION OF ASIAN SCIENTIFIC ACADEMIES AND SOCIETIES (FASAS)
The Academy was honoured to host the 2005 Council meeting of FASAS in Canberra from 7-10 September. As an outcome of the meeting, the Academy has been asked to participate in two FASAS science education projects, including a website for science education on natural disasters.
ICSU GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Professor Bruce McKellar, the Academy’s Foreign Secretary, is attending the 28th General Assembly of ICSU and associated events in Shanghai and Suzhou, China, from 16-22 October. Two Australians are giving papers at the Assembly: Dr Ian Allison is speaking on the International Polar Year and Dr Brian Walker on science for sustainable development. Dr Graeme Pearman is one of two candidates who have been nominated for election as President-Elect.
INTER-ACADEMY PANEL WORKSHOP
Professor Mark Hackling, a consultant to the PrimaryConnections program, represented the Academy at an Inter-Academy Panel (IAP) workshop in Stockholm on 21-23 September on the topic of Evaluation of Inquiry-based Science Education Programmes. The meeting proposed that a working committee be established, with Australia and Sweden as co-chairs, to progress science education objectives.
COMMITTEE TO REVIEW HUMAN CLONING AND EMBRYO RESEARCH LEGISLATION
A six-member legislative review committee headed by retired federal court judge Justice John Lockhart is currently conducting independent reviews of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 and the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002. Professor Suzanne Cory and Professor Bob Williamson met with the committee on 30 September. The Academy supports a continuation of the 2002 legislation authorising forms of stem cell research that include derivation and studies of embryonic stem cells. The Academy’s submission to the review is at http://www.science.org.au/reports/25july05.pdf. The committee is due to report to Parliament by 19 December 2005.
AUSTRALIAN FOUNDATION FOR SCIENCE
The Academy’s Australian Foundation for Science held its annual Open Session and AGM in Canberra on 4 October. A high point of the Open Session was a talk by Dr Chris Turney, a J G Russell Award winner, describing the discovery of Homo floresiensis (‘the Hobbit’) and its implications for human evolution and migration.
At the meeting it was important that we were able to report favourably on PrimaryConnections, which was catalysed by a grant from the Foundation.
Mr John Ralph, Chairman of the Foundation, announced that the Academy would produce a poster celebrating the Nobel Prize-winning research of Professor Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren, to be distributed to all schools in Australia. This follows on from a poster produced by the Academy in 1996 to honour Australia’s previous Nobel Prize recipients, Professor Peter Doherty and Professor Rolf Zinkernagel.
The Foundation’s Board of Advisers congratulated the Academy on its initiatives to involve early-career researchers in events such as Science at the Shine Dome, the High Flyers Think Tanks and Frontiers of Science symposia.
ABC AUSTRALIAN ACADEMY MEDIA FELLOWS
The Academy and the ABC are pleased to announce that the winners of the inaugural ABC Australian Academy of Science Media Fellowships are Dr Debbie Richards, Department of Computing at Macquarie University; Dr Ian Goodwin, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle; and Dr Sheree Cairney, Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University. These scientists will improve their communication skills and understanding of the media by spending six weeks with ABC Science in radio, TV and online. They will undergo a five-day science media training course then over five weeks work alongside producers and journalists to complete a project such as a radio program or website, as well as offering their expertise to ABC staff.
This new partnership with the ABC has allowed the continuation of the Media Fellowships program for 2005, previously co-funded by the Department of Education, Science and Training.
An article in the October edition of Australasian Science on intelligent design summarises the Academy’s statement on creationism (and intelligent design). It is a timely reminder that the Academy’s statement can be found at http://www.science.org.au/policy/creation.htm. The Academy views with alarm the idea that ‘intelligent design’ be taught in Australian schools as a scientific alternative to evolution. The Academy sees no objection to the teaching of creationism in schools as part of a course in dogmatic or comparative religion, or in some other non-scientific context. There are no grounds, however, for requiring that creationism/intelligent design be taught as part of a science course.
LEARNED ACADEMIES GRANTS-IN-AID REVIEW
The Department of Education, Science and Training is undertaking its five-yearly review of the four learned academies. The review committee of Professor Bruce Alberts, Mr John Ralph and Professor John Hay met in Canberra from 16-19 September and interviewed a small group of Academy representatives. The Academy’s submission to the review is at http://www.science.org.au/academy/5-year-review.pdf. The committee’s report will be considered by the Minister for Science, the Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson MP, this month.
HERITAGE LISTING FOR THE SHINE DOME
The Shine Dome is still celebrating the news that it is the first building in Canberra to be included on the National Heritage List. The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, in his statement of 21 September, said ‘the building combined a unique design with structural ingenuity and was an excellent example of twentieth century architecture’. He said in addition to the National Heritage Listing, the Shine Dome had received numerous awards, and was one of seven projects the Royal Australian Institute of Architects has nominated to the World Register of Significant Twentieth Century Architecture. The Shine Dome is one of only five Australian twentieth-century buildings to be listed. The other buildings are the Sydney Opera House, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the ICI Building and Newman College. More information on the history of the Dome is at http://www.science.org.au/dome.
DIARY DATES 2005
29 November–2 December. Epigenetic regulation in development and disease (a conference in the Sir Mark Oliphant International Frontiers of Science and Technology Conference Series, co-sponsored by the Academy), CSIRO Discovery Centre, Plant Industry, Canberra (http://www.oliphant.org.au/index2.html#2).
5-9 December. Bio-engineering and nanotechnology (a conference in the Sir Mark Oliphant International Frontiers of Science and Technology Conference Series, co-sponsored by the Academy), University of Queensland (http://www.oliphant.org.au/index3.html#3).
COUNCIL MEMBERS (www.science.org.au/fellows/council/)
President, Jim Peacock
phone (02) 6246 5250, fax (02) 6246 5000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary (Physical Sciences), Robert Frater
phone (02) 9886 5628, email@example.com
Secretary (Biological Sciences), John Shine
phone (02) 9295 8120, firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary (Science Policy), Philip Kuchel
phone (02) 9351 3709, email@example.com
Secretary (Education and Public Awareness), John McKenzie
phone (03) 8344 6407, firstname.lastname@example.org
Foreign Secretary, Bruce McKellar
phone (03) 8344 5122, email@example.com
Treasurer, Phil McFadden
phone (02) 6249 9612, firstname.lastname@example.org