Australian Academy of Science

Australian Academy of Science Annual report 2015

Australian Academy of Science Annual report 2015

Our top achievements in 2015

  1. science and mathematics education More
  2. Science in Australia Gender Equity More
  3. science explainer website More

Video introduction by the President

Video introduction by the Chief Executive

This annual report covers the period from 1 April to 31 December 2015. The Academy will report on a calendar-year basis in the future.

Strategic plan

Strategic plan

Consistent with our new Strategic Plan for 2015-2020, the activities of the Academy this year have been focused on five strategic themes, underpinned by a commitment to operational excellence.

  • Excellence in science—championing, celebrating and supporting excellence in Australian science
  • International engagement—promoting Australia's international scientific engagement
  • Scientific literacy—building public awareness and understanding of science
  • Influential voice—providing independent, authoritative and influential scientific advice
  • Operational excellence—being an effective and efficient organisation that supports and values its staff

Read more on the strategic plan

Excellence in science

The Fellowship

  • 491 Fellows at 31 December
  • 23 new Fellows and Corresponding Members elected
  • 42 awards and appointments received by Fellows

The Academy is a Fellowship of the nation’s most distinguished scientists, elected by their peers for outstanding research that has pushed back the frontiers of knowledge. Fellows are eminent by reason of their attainments in natural science. Normally 20 Fellows are elected to the Academy each year, one specially elected (for conspicuous service to science) and up to two Corresponding Members (international Fellows).

New Fellows

21 new Fellows, including one by special election, from a wide range of disciplines were elected to the Academy.

  • Martin Asplund FAA Astronomy

    Martin Asplund’s work in solar and stellar physics has changed the way in which we approach atomic and nuclear physics and a wide range of astrophysics, from planetary science and stellar physics through to Galactic archaeology and cosmology.

  • Peter Bartlett FAA Statistics

    Peter Bartlett is a pioneer at the interface of computer science and statistics, with a focus on the science behind large, complex statistical decision problems. He has created the theoretical foundations for many key advances in statistical machine learning.

  • Christine Beveridge FAA Plant biology

    Christine Beveridge is a world leader on the hormonal control of plant development, discovering a new hormone and demonstrating how shoot architecture, which underpins the yield, productivity and value of crops, trees and shrubs, is controlled.

  • Jenefer Blackwell FAA Genetic epidemiology

    Jenefer Blackwell is distinguished for her scientific achievements in the study of neglected tropical diseases, in particular her work on visceral leishmaniasis, which is leading to innovative new vaccines.

  • Christine Charles FAA Plasma physics

    Christine Charles’ research on ion acceleration in expanding magnetised plasmas has led to a new generation of space engines and created two new sub-fields of physics.

  • Susan Clark FAA Cancer epigenetics

    Susan Clark is a leading epigenetic cancer researcher whose DNA methylation and histone modification sequencing technologies have revolutionised the field of epigenetics and led to better outcomes for cancer patients.

  • Maria Forsyth FAA Physical chemistry

    Maria Forsyth is a world leader in developing advanced materials for new energy and infrastructure technologies, including fuel cells, battery designs and new ways to prevent corrosion.

  • Julian Gale FAA Computational chemistry

    Julian Gale is a theoretical chemist whose work in the kinetics and mechanisms of crystallisation processes in materials science, mineralogy, and geochemistry has become the basis for one of the most widely used commercial packages in his field.

  • Edward Holmes FAA Evolutionary epidemiology

    Eddie Holmes is a world-leading authority on viral evolution who has transformed how we assess what types of viruses, and from which animal species, are most likely to emerge in human populations, and how they will evolve in response to our attempts to control them.

  • Wendy Hoy AO FAA Clinical epidemiology

    Wendy Hoy is recognised internationally for her research into kidney disease, which has transformed Aboriginal health services, saved lives, reduced the need for dialysis and supported the development of early intervention programs globally.

  • William Laurance FAA Environmental biology

    Bill Laurance is a world-leading conservation ecologist of tropical forests and their biodiversity, who has made a remarkable array of important scientific findings on the effects of habitat fragmentation, logging, fires, climate change and exotic pathogens on tropical ecosystems.

  • Geoffrey McLachlan FAA Statistics

    Geoff McLachlan’s pioneering work in mixture models has been especially influential, from inference and clustering and error-rate estimation for classifiers, to new techniques in analysing gene expression data.

  • Michael McLaughlin FAA FTSE Agricultural science

    Mike McLaughlin is a leader in developing and evaluating fertiliser technologies and developing biosolid re-use, whose approach to assessing contamination risk has been adopted around the world.

  • Helene Marsh FAA FTSE Marine biology

    Helene Marsh is the world’s premier authority on the ecology and conservation biology of dugongs, and she has been instrumental in advancing scientific understanding of marine megafauna and management of coastal marine mammals.

  • Linda Richards FAA Neuroscience

    Linda Richards is a leading developmental neurobiologist whose discoveries have defined the fundamental mechanisms regulating the wiring of neuronal connections between the two hemispheres of the brain.

  • Malcolm Sambridge FAA Seismology

    Malcolm Sambridge’s new mathematical approaches to analysing complex geophysical data have fundamentally altered the way in which we understand the Earth and it’s internal processes.

  • Ian Small FAA Plant biology

    Ian Small has discovered a new mechanism that controls the production of proteins in plant organelles, which shows great promise in modifying specific RNA sequences and specific genes in all living species.

  • San Thang FAA FTSE Polymer chemistry

    San Thang is a research innovator in polymer and materials science and a leading expert in the field of radical chemistry, with several key innovations to his name, including the hugely successful RAFT process.

  • Carola Vinuesa FAA Immunology

    Carola Vinuesa has revealed how our immune system produces high quality, long lasting antibody responses, which is leading to new approaches to treating diseases such as lupus and type-1 diabetes.

  • Michael Waters FAA Developmental biology

    Michael Waters uncovered a new paradigm in cytokine receptor signalling, was the first to purify, characterise and clone the growth hormone receptor, and has developed new physiologies of growth hormone action, including its role in activating neural stem cells in response to exercise.

  • Ziggy Switkowski AO FAA FTSE Nuclear physics and corporate leadership

    Ziggy Switkowski is a trained nuclear physicist and a respected leader in innovation and business, who has advocated at the highest levels for technology, science and academia. Dr Switkowski was specially elected by the Fellowship.

Find out more about the Fellows elected in 2015

Meet the new Fellows of 2015

New Corresponding Members

  • Jillian Banfield FAA Microbiology

    Jillian Banfield is distinguished for her research on natural nanomaterials, including clays, microbiology and biogeochemical cycling in subsurface environments, bioremediation and the human microbiome.

    Read more

  • CNR Rao FAA Solid state and materials chemistry

    Professor Rao is one of the world leaders in the area of solid state and materials chemistry, including transition metal oxides, superconductivity, colossal magnetoresistance, multiferroics, and nanocarbons and their analogues.

    Read more

Deceased Fellows and Corresponding Members

Six Fellows and one Corresponding Member passed away. Their achievements enhanced the global store of scientific knowledge and understanding, and their participation in the life of the Academy will be greatly missed.

Deceased Fellows
Deceased Corresponding Member

Honours awarded to Fellows

(from left) Professor C. Jagadish, elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (USA) and recipient of awards for nanotechnology and engineering; Professor Michael Goddard, elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society; Professor Suzanne O’Reilly, recipient of a citation award for earth sciences; Professor Carola Vinuesa, recipient of an award for excellence in biomedical research; and Professor Victor Flambaum, recipient of a prize for excellence in mathematics, earth sciences, chemistry and physics.
  • 15 received international science awards
  • 6 elected to international science academies
  • 1 elected to another Australian learned academy
  • 2 received Queen’s Birthday Honours
  • 2 received Prime Minister’s Prizes for science and for innovation
  • 3 received NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science, including 1 NSW Scientist of the Year
  • 3 received Eureka Prizes
  • 7 received Thomas Reuters Citation Awards
  • 2 received science medals
  • 1 received AFR Australian Business Person of the Year

Regional groups

The Academy's regional groups are state-based, with a chair appointed to each group by Council. The groups meet and hold events as desired.

Academy awards

  • 34 talks and lectures conducted by award recipients
  • 382 participants of Academy-supported research conferences
  • 20 scientists given funding to support research, travel and conferences

Through the generosity of Fellows, their families and colleagues, and like-minded individuals and organisations, the Academy presents a range of honorific awards, research grants and travelling fellowships each year. These awards celebrate and raise awareness of the achievements of both the person after whom they are named and the recipients, and contribute towards the advancement of science in many fields of research.

2015 honorific lectures and talks

34 talks and lectures funded by the Academy’s travelling fellowship and honorific lecture awards took place in 6 states at 14 different venues including 12 universities, with a total of 1500+ attendees.

These included:

2015 conferences

4 Academy-supported research conferences were held in 4 states with a total of 382 participants.

2016 honorific awards

The 2016 awards were announced in November 2015 and most will be presented at the Academy’s annual celebratory event, Science at the Shine Dome, in May 2016.

5 career, 3 mid-career and 10 early-career researchers were awarded $32,500 in honorariums and lecture funding.

Honorific awardees

Find out more about the 2016 awardees

2016 research, travel and research conference funding

These awards were made in 2015 but may take up to two years to complete.

Science in Australia Gender Equity

  • 32 institutions signed up to take part in the Athena Swan pilot
  • 100 people attended the SAGE launch at Parliament House
  • 32 site visits made by SAGE program manager

The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot of the Athena SWAN Charter was launched on 16 September at Parliament House in Canberra.

This ambitious project is a joint venture of the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. It aims to achieve a step change in career prospects and career progression for Australian women and minority gender groups in science through a comprehensive accreditation and quality improvement framework called the Athena SWAN Charter, developed over the past 10 years in the UK. More than half of Australia’s universities have signed up to the three-year Australian pilot, as have five Medical Research Institutes, the CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

Driving gender equity in Australian science

More information about SAGE

National Committees

  • 202 members in 2015
  • 50 scientific societies and organisations represented by members
  • 14 submissions made to 7 consultations

The Academy has 22 National Committees for Science that are widely representative of its disciplines. The broad aims of the committees are to foster a designated branch or theme of natural science in Australia and to serve as links between Australian and overseas scientists in the same field. National Committees advise the Academy’s Council on Australia’s representation for the unions and multidisciplinary bodies of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and other international bodies.

More about National Committees

National Committee highlights

Australia in the era of global astronomy
Launch of Decadal plan for Australian astronomy 2016-2025

‘Australia in the era of global astronomy: The decadal plan for Australian astronomy 2016–2025’ was launched in July and presents the strategic vision for Australian astronomy for the next decade. The plan follows the success of the astronomy community’s 2006 plan and presents the community’s vision to stakeholders outside the research sector, including the Australian Government and industrial and research partners nationally and internationally.

Read the astronomy decadal plan

Travel grants for geoscientists

The Academy and the Australian Geoscience Council jointly launched the inaugural 34th International Geological Congress (IGC) Travel Grant Scheme for Early-Career Australian and New Zealand Geoscientists. The fund was established with the proceeds of the highly successful congress held in Brisbane in 2012, and provides support for Australian and New Zealand early-career geoscientists to travel internationally to further their careers.

The Academy’s National Committee for Earth Sciences co-administers the IGC Travel Grant Scheme together with the Australian Geoscience Council.

More about the travel grant scheme

Engagement with CODATA

The National Committee for Data in Science and the Australian National Data Service held 2 meetings with the President and Executive Director of the International Council for Science’s Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), in June and October 2015. The meetings considered:

  • global trends associated with the citation of data in scientific publications
  • key challenges facing Australia and how to prioritise a way forward.
International Year of Light
International Year of Light

2015 was the UNESCO International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. The Academy celebrated by hosting a public lecture together with Questacon: Lasers can do anything!

Australian activities were coordinated by an organising committee chaired by National Committee for Physics member Professor Ken Baldwin.

International links supported by National Committees

  • 32 number of international organisations the Academy is a member of

The International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-government organisation with 48 scientific and interdisciplinary bodies with a global membership representing 140 countries. Academy Fellow Professor David Black is ICSU’s current Secretary-General, and the Academy is Australia’s adhering body to ICSU.

The Academy meets its ICSU responsibilities with the help of the National Committees for Science, providing Australia with global science credibility and influence through representation on executive boards of ICSU organisations and in their subcommittees and task groups. In this way Australian scientists contribute to international science policy and strategic planning.

  • Member of ICSU and 31 international organisations, including 20 scientific unions and 11 interdisciplinary bodies
  • 27 executive positions held in 2015
  • 6 nominations to executive positions of international bodies
  • Approximately 390 Australians on subcommittees and taskforces
  • 19 Australian voting delegates attended 8 union general assemblies

Early- and mid-career researchers

  • 234 EMCRs attended EMCR Forum events
  • 35 EMCRs supported by the Academy to develop their research
  • 180+ EMCRs attended Academy events

The Academy supports early- and mid-career researchers (EMCRs) by holding inter-disciplinary events designed to stimulate innovative thinking about future developments and applications of science, and through the EMCR Forum.

EMCR Forum

The Australian Early- and Mid-Career Researcher forum (the forum) is the national voice of Australia's emerging scientists, representing researchers who are up to 15 years post-PhD (or other research higher degree), irrespective of their professional appointment.

Read more about the EMCR Forum

Academy support for EMCRs

  • 11 Early Career Fellowships for the France–Australia Science Innovation Collaboration (FASIC) program (3 funded by the Rod Rickards Fund) awarded
  • 6 EMCRs attended Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) HOPE meeting
  • 12 JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowships awarded
  • 4 Australia – United States research collaboration projects selected
  • 1 nomination to the APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) 2015
  • 1 visit to the National Institutes of Health in the USA by an ECR (Adam J Berry Fund) awarded

Academy events supporting EMCRs:

I feel like I developed 10 years of industry-relevant knowledge in three daysHeather Main, participant in the 2015 Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank

The Academy administered a number of other events for EMCRs: the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, the East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) program (for US early-career researchers visiting Australia), and the first Australian delegation to the Kavli Frontiers of Science symposium in Indonesia.

EAPSI debrief highlights 2015

International engagement

  • 106 Australian researchers supported to travel overseas
  • 63 international researchers supported to travel to Australia
  • 14 countries visited by researchers supported by the Academy

The Academy has a long history of working successfully with overseas counterpart organisations to increase collaborations between Australian and overseas researchers. This year, the Academy administered a number of international exchange programs and activities around the world.

Interactive map: Australian and overseas researchers supported by the Academy to travel internationally

Interactive world map. Data available in table format below. Map legend. White: from Australia. Red: to Australia.
Flag of Australia
Total outgoing researchers
Total incoming researchers
Flag of Taiwan
To Australia
From Australia
Flag of the USA
To Australia
From Australia
Flag of China
To Australia
Flag of Indonesia
From Australia
Flag of Brazil
From Australia
Flag of Germany
From Australia
Flag of Japan
From Australia
Flag of France
From Australia
Flag of India
From Australia
Flag of South Korea
South Korea
From Australia
UK flag
United Kingdom
From Australia
Flag of the Netherlands
From Australia
Flag of Finland
From Australia
Flag of the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
From Australia

Multilateral engagement

Academy President Professor Andrew Holmes represents the Academy on the board of the InterAcademy Council (IAC). Professor Holmes and Academy Foreign Secretary Professor Cheryl Praeger participated in the joint session of the InterAcademy Partnership and the InterAcademy Medical Panel executive committees and the IAC board in New Delhi, India, in September. The meeting provided an opportunity to strengthen links and networks within academies.

More about international representation

Bilateral research collaborations

The Academy engages with overseas science academies, international scientific organisations and foreign embassies in Canberra, as well as Australian embassies abroad to identify areas of mutual scientific interest and to foster opportunities for collaboration. This year, Academy Foreign Secretary Professor Cheryl Praeger, or her representative, met with embassy officials and international scientists from a range of countries, including:

  • Ambassador Sem Fabrizi of the European Union
  • the incoming Australian Ambassador to Mexico Dr David Engel
  • incoming Australian Ambassador to Brazil Mr John Richardson
  • Dr Gisella Orjeda, President of the Consultative Commission on Science, Technology and Innovation of Peru and a member of the Peruvian Academy of Science
  • Professor Sangkot Marzuki, President, Indonesian Academy of Sciences
  • Ms Sawa Koyama, Deputy Head, Bilateral Cooperation Division, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

Scientific literacy

School programs

Year 6 students exploring science with the Primary Connections’ unit ‘Change Detectives’. Photos: Daniel Hall

The Academy is committed to promoting science and mathematics education as a contribution to informed citizenship and to encourage young people to prepare for the many careers based on science and technology in the future. In close consultation with state and territory education sectors and education experts, the Academy is actively involved in the implementation of the national science and mathematics curricula through the development of inquiry-based resources that stimulate student interest and enhance learning, and through professional learning to improve teacher confidence and quality.

The Academy’s school education programs have been made possible through Australian Government funding. Primary Connections also enjoys the generous support of donors and sponsors.

Primary Connections

  • 54 workshops conducted for teachers and teachers-in-training
  • 24 teachers who received bursaries to attend workshops
  • 6 interactive teaching resources
Primary Connections: Linking science with literacy

The Academy’s Primary Connections program pairs curriculum resources with professional learning for the teaching of science in primary schools, supported by Australian Government funding of $14.7 million since 2006. The program boosts the confidence of primary school teachers, encourages young students’ natural interest in science, and develops students’ mathematical and communication skills. This year, with support from government, sponsors and donors, Primary Connections has significantly expanded its reach into rural and remote Australia, and has increased the focus on training university undergraduates who are studying to become primary school teachers.

The Primary Connections resource, ‘Feathers, fur or leaves’ won best Interactive Teaching Resource in both the Primary Teaching Resource and Outstanding Digital Resource categories of the 2015 Educational Publishing Awards.

The Academy was also invited to showcase Primary Connections to the international school STEM education community at a science teaching conference hosted by the Mexican Academy of Science in November.

Find out more about recent Primary Connections achievements

Supporting primary teachers in STEM
  • 54 workshops for 1225 teachers and teachers-in-training from more than 500 schools and universities
  • Primary Connections online community has more than 20,000 members, nearly twice as many in 2014
  • 24 teachers from regional and remote Australia received bursaries to attend workshops in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia
New curriculum units and digital resources
  • Year 6: Creators and destroyers (Earth and Space Sciences)
  • 4 units currently under development
  • 6 interactive teaching resources
    • Schoolyard safari, Year 1, biological sciences
    • Push pull, Year 2, physical sciences
    • Melting moments, Year 3, chemical sciences
    • Night and day, Year 3, earth sciences
    • Smooth moves, Year 4, physical sciences
    • Essential energy, Year 6, physical sciences
This workshop … builds a confidence in you as a teacher where you may have felt completely lost or intimidated by science.CSL bursary recipient

More about Primary Connection’s achievements in 2015

Science by Doing

  • 40% Australian high school teachers registered with Science by Doing
  • 8 professional learning workshops conducted for teachers across Australia
  • 2 million hits per month on the Science by Doing website
Science by Doing: Engaging students with science

Science by Doing is an innovative online science program developed by the Academy and supported by $10.3 million in funding since 2010 from the Australian Government. It consists of digital curriculum units for students in Years 7 to 10, designed to engage and excite them in their science learning.

The Science by Doing professional learning approach supports teams of teachers working together in schools to improve student learning. It is underpinned by four important components: professional learning resources, curriculum resources, leadership, and general support.

  • 10,000 teachers were registered with Science by Doing by end December, representing 40% of all Australian high school science teachers
  • 30,000 teachers, students and parents registered with Sciency by Doing during the reporting period, nearly doubling the previous number
  • The Science by Doing website averaged 2 million hits* per month
  • 4 new curriculum units, including one on how to use Science by Doing resources
  • 8 professional learning workshops for teachers in Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia
  • 4 presentations at national conferences

*Hits measure total interaction with a website and are recorded for each file that is accessed during a visit. They cannot be compared to visit numbers.

The four new curriculum units are:

  • Introduction to Science by Doing
  • Year 8: Rock your world
  • Year 9: Chemical reactions—Big systems
  • Year 10: Chemical patterns—Evolution and heredity; Motion and energy transfer

There is now a complete set of all the curriculum units needed for years 7 to 10 freely available for Australian teachers and students.

More about Science by Doing

reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry

reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry
  • $6.4m awarded for new mathematics program

In October, the Academy was awarded $6.4 million over three years by the Australian Government in a successful competitive tender process to develop a school mathematics program. Known as reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry, this bold new national program is designed to increase the engagement and achievement of Australian primary and secondary students through innovative approaches to teaching.

Overseen by a committee led by internationally-recognised mathematician and Academy Council member Professor Cheryl Praeger AM FAA, reSolve is managed by the Academy in collaboration with the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers.

Science outreach

Media and social media

  • Academy mentions in the media: 2,559
  • Media releases distributed: 26
  • News articles on website: 54

Case study

In May, the Academy and the Australian Medical Association jointly launched a report from the 2014 Theo Murphy Think Tank warning about the risks that climate change poses to human health. This resulted in 266 media stories by outlets including the ABC, Fairfax and NewsCorp (41 broadcast, 225 print/online).

Some of the media outlets that featured the Academy or its activities: ABC, Buzzfeed, The Age, The Guardian, Fairfax Digital, The Sydney Morning Herald, Nature, Campus Morning Mail, The Conversation, The Daily Telegraph, The Australian,, Herald Sun, BBC,, Daily Mail, Australiasian Science, The Project, The Huffington Post, IFLScience, RN, Lab+Life Scientist, Science Alert, The Saturday Paper
Some of the media outlets that featured the Academy or its activities
Growth in social media
Between April and December 2015, Twitter followers have increased from just under 10,000 to about 13,000; Facebook likes increased from under 3,000 to over 4,000; YouTube subscribers have increased from a few hundred to over a thousand.

Nova: science for curious minds

  • 43 science topics published on the redeveloped outreach website, Nova

The original Nova—one of the first science explainer websites in the world—was established in the 1990s as an online public education program of the Australian Academy of Science. Thanks to a gift from Telstra in 2014, the website underwent a major redevelopment and was launched as Nova: science for curious minds on 30 June 2015. In the six months after launch, Nova built a solid reputation based on strong science and accessible communication.

65 of Australia’s best scientists, including 24 Academy Fellows, reviewed topics—which is a major point of difference to other science websites.

Designed by Melbourne company Webplace, Nova was shortlisted for a 2015 Australian Graphic Design Association Award. 3 animated YouTube science videos produced by German company Kurzgesagt in collaboration with the Academy received nearly 3 million views and sparked international interest in Nova.

Brain Box

Scientists come in all shapes and sizes and the Academy’s Brain Box videos introduce the brains behind the science. This year the Academy published 6 Brain Box videos.

See the Brain Box channel on YouTube

Brain Box interview with astrophysicist Professor Tamara Davis

Academy website

The Academy website received a makeover with a fresher, more modern look and improved navigation. It’s not all cosmetic; behind-the-scenes work made the site perform better on both desktop and mobile devices.

  • Number of visits: 292,000
  • 3 most popular pages
    • Climate change
    • Immunisation
    • Science by Doing


  • 2,282 people who attended public Academy events
  • $64k revenue from the hire of the Shine Dome
  • 53 speakers at Academy events

During the year, the Academy held events for scientists and the public in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart and Canberra, on science as diverse as data, stem cells, forensics, climate change, pain, new materials, epigenetics, quantum computing, astrophysics and artificial intelligence.

Academy events

  • Number of people who attended public events: 2282
  • Number of public events: 11
  • Number of speakers: 53
  • Number of YouTube views of public events: 26,000
  • Number of people who attended all events at the Shine Dome: 10,407

Revenue from facilities, events and sponsorships

Total sponsorship raised (Science at the Shine Dome + Public Speaker Series): $87,909. Revenue from ticket sales during 2015 Public Speaker Series (April – December): $3733. Revenue from hire of the Shine Dome: $64,823.

The Shine Dome was hired for a total of 64.5 days, with 76% external and 24% Academy.

2015 public speaker series sponsors:

  • Series Wine Sponsor—Jirra Wines at Jeir Station
  • May Travel Sponsor—CAASTRO
  • August Entertainment Sponsor—CUDOS
  • October Co-Sponsor—CSIRO Manufacturing Flagship


Historical Records of Australian Science

The Historical Records of Australian Science (HRAS) is a journal published bi-anually by CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Academy. This year, for the first time, HRAS was published fully online, widening its accessibility and reducing production costs. Fellows have free access to the online version via the Fellow’s section of the Academy website, and hard copies can be ordered from CSIRO Publishing for $110 per year (both editions).

  • institutional subscribers: 83
  • downloads: 11,631
  • historical articles: 8
  • biographical memoirs: 4
  • reviews: 21

Australian journals of scientific research

The Academy and CSIRO jointly publish 13 Australian journals of scientific research. The journals:

  • cover a wide range of chemistry, biology, soil, wildlife and agricultural production research
  • have subscribers in 90 countries
  • are free for scientists in more than 100 developing nations through the UN Research4Life programme.

During 2015, more than 1.1 million articles from the 13 journals were downloaded. The journals published 113 issues comprising 13,743 pages.

More information about these and other journals published at CSIRO

The Basser Library and Fenner Archives

The Academy’s Council closed the Basser Library and Fenner Archives for one year from 1 July 2015 to enable consideration of how best to manage the holdings into the future. Access was maintained for biographers writing for Historical Records of Australian Science, and for recipients of the Moran Award for history of science research. The Council established a taskforce, made up of Fellows and experts in archives and the history of science, to conduct a comprehensive assessment and provide recommendations to Council by mid-2016.

Influential voice

  • 100 sector representatives and parliamentarians in attendance at the SAGE pilot launch
  • 11 submissions and responses made to government
  • 2 events hosted by Parliamentary Friends of Science

Drawing on the expertise of Fellows and the National Committees for Science, the Academy made 11 submissions and responses to government consultations, reviews and inquiries, including on the role of ICT in infrastructure, the regulation of autologous stem cell therapies, Australia’s Antarctic program, greenhouse gas emissions targets, international education, and research policy and funding.

The Academy also published 3 position statements on science priorities for Australian innovation, freedom and responsible practice of science, and the long-term sustainability plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

A number of the Academy’s submissions and statements have had a positive impact. Submissions to inquiries into the Gene Technology Amendment Bill 2015 and the capability of the Defence Department’s physical science and engineering workforce were both extensively referenced in the final reports. The Academy’s contributions on setting a post-2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions and the draft Reef 2050 plan led to invitations to participate in Ministerial roundtables to provide further expert advice.

Parliamentary Friends of Science

The Australian Academy of Science held two events for Parliamentary Friends of Science. Sponsored by co-chairs the Hon Karen Andrews MP, Assistant Minister for Science, and the Hon Richard Marles MP, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, this bipartisan group engages interested members of federal parliament in discussions about science.

The Academy’s National Committee for Astronomy launched its new decadal plan for 2016–25 at a Parliamentary Friends of Science event organised by Science and Technology Australia. There was a panel discussion on the new search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) program, with 10 members of parliament attending.

Parliamentary Friends of Science, together with the Parliamentary Friends of Women in Science, Mathematics and Engineering, jointly hosted the launch of the SAGE pilot of the Athena SWAN program, attracting a capacity crowd of almost 100 representatives and parliamentarians.

The Hon Karen Andrews MP and the Hon Richard Marles MP

National Innovation and Research Alliance

Members of the National Innovation and Research Alliance (formerly the National Research Alliance), co-convened by the Academy and Science & Technology Australia, met twice during the year: once in March to agree on a series of actions urging the government to provide certainty of funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (NCRIS); and a second time in December when ‘innovation’ was added to the alliance name to provide for a more inclusive membership and scope.

Australian Council of Learned Academies

The Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) comprises the Presidents of Australia’s four Learned Academies: the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. The ACOLA Secretariat Pty Ltd, established concurrently with the Council, is made up of the Chief Executive equivalents of the Learned Academies, and conducts projects and activities on behalf of the Council.

The ACOLA Council met in April, July and November and the Secretariat Board met in July, October and November (AGM).

Securing Australia’s Future

Securing Australia’s Future

In 2012 the Australian Government announced the allocation of $10 million over three years for the Securing Australia’s Future (SAF) program to provide interdisciplinary research-based evidence for policy development by expert working groups involving Fellows of each of the four Learned Academies.

SAF Project 5: New technologies and their role in our security, cultural, democratic, social and economic systems was developed over three years by an expert working group co-chaired by Academy Fellows Professor Bob Williamson FAA and Professor Rob Evans FAA FTSE. The comprehensive report was launched by the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb AC FTSE in September. Its analysis of the history of technology development and the key trends, drivers, opportunities and implications for Australia’s future economic and social wellbeing was well received by media and stakeholder groups.

In mid-2015, then Minister for Education the Hon Christopher Pyne MP asked ACOLA to undertake SAF Project 13: Review of Australia’s higher degree research training system to identify how research students from all backgrounds could be better prepared for a range of academic and non-academic careers. The Academy is working closely with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering to provide project management support for the review’s expert working group to deliver the report by March 2016.

More information on ACOLA and the SAF program

Strategic plan for Future Earth in Australia

ACOLA funded the Academy to lead a project to develop a comprehensive engagement strategy for Australia’s participation in the global Future Earth initiative.

The Future Earth Australia (FEA) Expert Working Group conducted consultations through an online survey, ‘co-design’ workshops with research and industry stakeholders that were held in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (with additional plans for Canberra, Adelaide and Perth), and one-on-one interviews with influential stakeholders.

Working group members who attended the Paris Climate Change Meeting in December 2015 took with them an initial draft of a strategic plan representing FEA’s potential contributions in the context of the global Future Earth initiative, and its relationship to other sustainability initiatives in Australia.

Operational excellence


Astrophysicist Ray Jayawardhana, 2015 Selby Fellowship recipient. Picture courtesy Professor Jayawardhana via Twitter

This year, the generous support of donors and sponsors has enabled the Academy to celebrate and nurture excellence in science, and to bring outstanding science education to more Australians of all ages. Donations have:

  • supported primary teachers in regional, rural and remote locations to deliver outstanding science
  • supported the improvement of systemic gender equity in science
  • funded new research by Australia’s best and brightest scientists
  • enabled the redevelopment of the Nova website for all Australians
  • allowed the Academy to double its science policy capacity
  • helped Australian scientists to collaborate with their peers internationally
  • $645,493 in private donations (including corporate)
  • $98,881 in sponsorships and corporate partnerships
  • $32,277 in foundation grants
  • Total: $744,373
  • Donors to the Academy supported bursaries for 24 school teachers to attend science literacy workshops; enabled the SAGE pilot to extend its reach to include 25 universities, 5 medical research institutes and 2 publicly funded research agencies; supported 7 fellowships for scientists, enabled the website Nova: science for curious minds to be redeveloped and publish 43 topics
  • First issue of new twice-yearly donor report, Shine on, published
  • Academy visited Fellows, supporters and stakeholders in 5 states

Read more about philanthropic giving


The Australian Academy of Science is managed by a Council of 17 Fellows, which met twice during the reporting period. To ensure Academy business was managed effectively between Council meetings, the Executive Committee (EXCOM) met 5 times, and the Finance Committee met twice.

The Finance Committee comprised the Executive Committee, Council representative Professor Ian Hume FAA, Fellows’ representative Professor Michael Barber FAA FTSE and external members Mr Mark Waldron and Mr David Holmesby (Audit Committee Chair).


The Shine Dome. Photo by Mark Graham.
The Shine Dome. Photo by Mark Graham.

The Academy owns two unique and historic buildings in Canberra. The national heritage listed Shine Dome, especially, is a city landmark. However, they do take some upkeep. This year the Academy:

  • upgraded the lights in the Shine Dome’s Ian Wark Theatre to LEDs
  • replaced the telephone system
  • replaced the Ian Potter House heating boilers.

The state of the art LEDs will last many years meaning the Dome will no longer have to close once a year for two full days to change the light globes. Now replacements are as simple as lowering the fixture to the floor with a remote control rather than bringing in a cherry picker to reach up to them.


Read the Academy’s 2014–15 financial report