Science policy update—August 2020

August 28, 2020

The Academy periodically sends out a science policy and diplomacy newsletter for those interested in policy and international matters. The newsletter highlights important science policy discussion and events in Australia and around the globe. We report on the involvement of science in national and international policy and diplomacy, and the Academy’s contributions to these discussions. Find out more about and subscribe to the newsletter.

Bushfire expert briefs

A log laying on bare red and brown ground where almost everything has been burned.
Charcoal, ash, and red soil left after a bushfire. Photo: Professor Rob Fitzpatrick

The Academy has published its first two bushfire expert briefs. The expert briefs on bushfire aim to aid decision-makers, parliament, the national royal commission and the public with the delivery of scientific evidence. The first two briefs are:

Both briefs have been reported in the media, including by Cosmos and  ABC Country Hour, which interviewed experts on soil condition. The Academy also met with parliamentarians and representatives from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. More briefs are in the pipeline, including addressing the health impacts of bushfires.

Submissions and government engagement

Great Barrier Reef

In November 2019, the Academy made a submission to a government inquiry on the identification of leading practices in ensuring evidence-based regulation of farm practices that impact water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef. The submission defended the role of science in public policy, and the processes underpinning peer review and the scientific evidence base.

The Academy will continue to contribute expertise to the inquiry, including being represented at public hearings.

Review of the EPBC Act

In June 2020 the Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) released an interim report. The report made recommendations for the reform of the EPBC Act, centring around the establishment of a set of National Environment Standards that a revised Act would uphold. The report picked up the Academy’s submission to the independent review.

The independent reviewer, Professor Graeme Samuel, has established a consultative group to advise on the requirements for the National Environment Standards. Academy Fellow Professor Craig Moritz is coordinating the Academy’s input to this process, and the Academy’s Secretary Biological Sciences, Professor Helene Marsh, is participating in the consultative group in her capacity as Chair of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), a committee under the EPBC Act.

Government data

In August 2020, the Academy made a submission to the National Archives of Australia Consultation on its exposure draft for its next policy for Australian Government agencies. The policy aims to improve how Australian Government agencies create, collect, manage and use information assets. Our submission highlights the importance of access to data across sectors, obtaining accurate metadata, and storing data securely.

The submission was written with advice from the Academy’s National Committee for Data in Science, Academy Fellow Professor Michael Barber, and Dr Danny Kingsley, Scholarly Communication Consultant.

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