National Committees for Science

Antarctic Research

The final outcome of the first Antarctic and Southern Ocean Horizon Scan has just been published in the journal Antarctic Science (Volume 27(1):3-18). Following the release of a synopsis of the top priorities for Antarctic research in Nature in August last year, this second work provides a more comprehensive discussion of the rationale for and foundational science underlying the 80 questions that make up these priorities. The process involved a suite of Australian scientists, including six of the 70 attendees of the scan meeting which included representatives from 22 countries. Its outcomes are generating substantial interest from major national Antarctic programs.

The publication of the final list of science priorities comes at an especially critical time for Australian Antarctic research. A recent Senate enquiry into Australia’s future activities in the region has just been concluded, and the Australian Antarctic Strategic Plan Final Report released to the government. Perhaps as importantly, significant changes have been made to the way strategic planning for and assessment of Australian Antarctic science are conducted. As the major players in the region gear up to understand the ways in which the horizon scan priorities align with their national capabilities and priorities, strategic planning for the future of Australian Antarctic research has taken on further significance.

The committee contributed to an Academy submission to the Australian National Audit Office performance audit Supporting Australia’s Antarctic Program.

Photo: CC Jennifer Pickens

Data in Science

The National Committee for Data in Science provided a submission to the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Targeted Consultation on the Draft Principles for Accessing and Using Publicly Funded Data for Health Research.

The committee organised a roundtable on 18 June, ‘Open data: Where do we stand and how do we move forward’. This was an opportunity to hear from the President of CODATA (International Council for Science Committee on Data for Science and Technology), Professor Geoffrey Boulton, who was visiting Australia, about how the UK is dealing with the issues surrounding creating and supporting an open data culture.

Interestingly, the recent Belmont Forum’s open data survey reveals that only 41% of Australian researchers are motivated to share data (by a personal commitment to open data) versus 72% in the US and 68% in the UK. Australia thus needs to consider how to establish and expand an open data culture. The key purpose of the roundtable was to get feedback from those attending, which included the Chief Scientist of Australia and heads or representatives from the National Library of Australia, funding bodies (ARC and NHMRC), research agencies (CSIRO, BoM, GA, NecTAR, Research Data Services Project) and research data infrastructure funding agencies (the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Industry and Science), regarding the key issues and challenges associated with open data that are facing Australia and how best to prioritise a way forward.

The roundtable represented the start of a useful conversation with the key players. In the coming months the committee plans to develop a policy paper on ‘Realizing an open data culture in Australia’ with key recommendations to guide whole-of-government and higher education investments and approaches to advance open data in Australia.

Ecology, Evolution and Conservation

The National Committee for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation is keeping abreast of the work being done by the National Committee for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on a decadal plan for agricultural research in which climate science, automation and robotics, and big data will be seen as relevant besides traditional agricultural research.

The committee is also building links with the international project Future Earth, which also links to the National Committee for Earth System Science, and with the new Ecosystem Science Council.

An assessment of whether a decadal plan for evolutionary biology would be a high-value project is being undertaken by the committee.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb
Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb AC FTSE recently consulted on the Draft Science and Research Priorities for Australia.

Information and Communication Sciences

The Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky FTSE has supported the National Committee for Information and Communication Sciences’ intention to develop a plan to identify R&D opportunities that complement the national research priorities, particularly in the area of cybersecurity.

The committee’s submission to Australia’s Chief Scientist’s consultation on the Draft Science and Research Priorities for Australia argued that while cybersecurity against malicious threats and attacks is an important research priority, an equally important research area is in ensuring a resilient national cyber infrastructure that is secure in the face of natural disasters, equipment failures and other unforeseen events.

The committee is planning a strategic review on research and education in information and communication sciences. This review will identify strategically important research and education activities that will advance national directions in information and communication sciences.

Mathematical Sciences

The National Committee for Mathematical Sciences is preparing the mathematical sciences decadal plan, with an expected publication date of early next year.

The committee heard reports on two new initiatives, ‘Choose maths’ and ‘Maths inside’, which are designed to address the declining number of school students studying maths, something that the committee is very concerned about. The committee has also called for an online portal to bring together the many resources available for promoting mathematical sciences in Australia.


customer in fruit and vegetable shop
The National Committee for Nutrition aims to strengthen the science of nutrition in Australia. Photo: CC Niklas Morberg

The National Committee for Nutrition is working with colleagues and parallel bodies in the Oceania region to develop an Oceania group of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences. Consideration is being given to a bid for the 2025 International Congress of Nutrition, and undertaking a decadal plan for nutrition science in Australia.

The committee continues to explore avenues to strengthen the science of nutrition in Australia.


The Chair for the National Committee for Physics, Professor Hans Bachor AM FAA, along with colleagues from the Australian National University Dr Vincent Daria and Dr Mary Ann Go, held workshops for high school teachers in the Philippines in April. The workshops, supported by the Philippine Government, the Dynamic Learning Program and the Optical Society of America, provided over 90 teachers with exciting hands-on ways of teaching optics with low-cost and local equipment.

This activity was organised to celebrate the 2015 UNESCO International Year of Light.

teachers participating in Philippines workshop
Teachers in the Philippines learning ways of teaching optics. Photo: Hans Bachor

Space and Radio Science

In 2010 the National Committee for Space Science (disbanded in the 2012–13 Review of National Committees) delivered the 2010-2019 Decadal plan for Australian space science, presenting the Australian space science community’s strategic vision for 2010–2019. The newly-formed National Committee for Space and Radio Science is conducting a mid-term review of the decadal plan to reassess its recommendations and implementation and suggest any necessary changes. The committee undertook a census of the space and radio science communities in March and April as the first step in the review process.

Visit the review website to learn more about the review of the Decadal Plan for Australian Space Science.

Academy Newsletter Issue 100

© 2022 Australian Academy of Science