Symposium 2023 program

International scientific collaborations in a contested world

About the symposium

Detailed symposium program (PDF)

Symposium discussion paper


Monday 13 November: Symposium dinner, National Gallery of Australia

6.30pm–10.00pm – Symposium dinner

  • Opening remarks by Her Excellency Ms Caroline Kennedy, Ambassador of the United States of America to Australia 
  • Peter Hartcher, political editor and international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, speaks with His Excellency the Hon Dr Kevin Rudd AC, Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, in Washington DC



Tuesday 14 November: Symposium, The Shine Dome

9.00am – Acknowledgment of Country and Welcome

  • Anna-Maria Arabia, Chief Executive, Australian Academy of Science



9.05am – Outline of symposium objectives

  • Professor Frances Separovic AO FAA, Foreign Secretary and symposium convenor, Australian Academy of Science
  • Professor Steven Chown FAA, Fellow and symposium convenor, Australian Academy of Science



9.10am – Address from Platinum Event Partner 

  • Ms Prerana Mehta, Director, Strategic Partnerships, CSIRO

9.15am – Keynote address: The benefits to Australia of international scientific collaboration 

  • Professor Chennupati Jagadish AC PresAA FREng FTSE, President, Australian Academy of Science

Session overview

Science and technology are being advanced across the globe. Collaborating with other countries provides access to expertise and instrumentation, shares costs, avoids duplication, and accelerates effort. It enables skills development and mobility of researchers, which is shown to improve research quality.

Building scientific capacity in our region isn’t just the right thing to do, it also pays back in political stability and reduced refugee flows. Science diplomacy assists in smoothing otherwise challenging relationships.

Global challenges are too big, too complex, and too interlinked to be tackled by individual nations. When the shared goal is for the public good—for example, combating a pandemic—the benefits are obvious and immeasurable. When the goal is in Australia’s national interest, we need all the research and innovation power we can muster. Australia is a small market—0.3% of the world’s population—with a small but strong research base comprising 4% of the world’s research. So, accessing the research base beyond our borders is critical to make the most of every dollar invested and to boost our innovation capacity—thereby diversifying our economy, growing jobs and productivity, and maintaining global competitiveness.



9.45am – Keynote address: The state of foreign policy in a contested world

  • The Hon Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs (representing Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs)

Session overview

Since coming into office, Foreign Minister the Hon Penny Wong MP has actively sought to strengthen Australia’s reputation as partner of choice—drawing on all elements of our national power—to build a stable and prosperous region. The geopolitical environment is increasingly complex and international relations increasingly revolves around policies that have science and technology at their core, such as secure sustainable energy sources and pan-national efforts to prepare and respond to health threats. Science diplomacy in foreign affairs has been redefined, taking on a more prominent role than ever before. The Hon Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs will share insights into Australia’s foreign policy and its nexus with science diplomacy.



10.00am – Keynote address: The dynamic threat environment

  • Nathan Smyth, Deputy Secretary National Security and Resilience, Department of Home Affairs 

Session overview

Australia's security environment is expected to continue to be complex and challenging, with key threats including terrorism, espionage and foreign interference. Continued review and amendments to existing legislation and policy will be necessary to maintain Australia's national security.

In recent years, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has warned of increasing threats from espionage and foreign interference in Australia. The volume and scale of security threats are described as unprecedented due to Australia's increasing interconnectedness with the rest of the world. ASIO also notes that Australian is an attractive target as a major commodity supplier and as a scientific and technological innovator.

In this environment, researchers in Australia have been asked to address a proliferating number of risks and challenges associated with research collaboration, especially with China. The speaker will assist us in understanding the current threat environment and measures to securitise global scientific connections.



10.30am – Morning tea break under the arches 



11.15am – In conversation and panel discussion: Cooperation in a contested world: What implications does the Defence Strategic Review have for international scientific collaboration?

  • The Hon Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence
  • Professor Tanya Monro AC FAA FTSE, Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist, Department of Defence
  • Dr E. William Colglazier, Editor-in-Chief Science & Diplomacy, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Professor Nerilie Abram, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University

Session overview

The Defence Strategic Review recently adopted by the Albanese Government recommends significant reforms to the way Defence is structured, postured and operates, to respond to our current strategic circumstances. It seeks to respond to the return of major power strategic competition at an intensity that is a defining feature of our region and time.

It highlights the need for development of asymmetric capabilities to allow Australia to deter malign actors in our rapidly changing environment. To enable capability development in a reasonable timeframe, Defence needs to partner extensively both domestically and internationally to access expertise and co-investment.

It is against this backdrop that the Defence Science and Technology Group is leading implementation of the new Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA) to enable the research and industry sectors to focus their work on the development of advanced and asymmetric capabilities in key technological areas. In addition, the Defence Strategic Review clearly states climate change as a national security issue. It recognises increased challenges for Australia and the Australian Defence Force (ADF), including increasing risk in our region and greater demand for disaster relief locally and abroad, thereby distracting Defence’s primary objective of defending Australia.

Panellists will explore if and how Australia can prioritise development of such high priority Defence capability whilst also placing limitations on the research sector designed to protect our security. Comparisons will be drawn with measures adopted in other nations.



12.30pm – Lunch break under the arches



1.25pm – Address from Platinum Event Partner 

  • Professor Joan Leach, Director, Australian National Centre For Public Awareness of Science, The Australian National University

1.30pm – Panel discussion: Are measures to address national security risks associated with research collaboration working? How do we compare to other nations’ responses to intensifying geopolitical tension? 

  • Moderator and contributor: Associate Professor Courtney Fung, Department of Security Studies & Criminology, Macquarie University; and Advisory Board Member, National Foundation for Australia-China Relations 
  • Professor Sir Peter Mathieson FRCP (London) FRCPE FMedSci FRSE FRSA, Chair, Task Force on Security Issues in UK Higher Education; and Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Kathy Belov AO FAA, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Global and Research Engagement, University Sydney
  • Professor James Laurenceson, Director, Australia-China Relations Institute, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue, Monash University and University of Warwick

Session overview

The geopolitical environment within which international scientific collaborations unfold poses new and complex challenges for the higher education and research sector. Scientists across the world recognise and address an increasing range of risks and support robust national security measures in myriad ways. However, literature is demonstrating that geopolitical tensions are affecting the productivity of scientists and the nature of their research.

Are safeguard measures proportional and do they adequately encourage the continuation of productive international scientific engagement? How can they be refined and made more effective? What national capabilities are needed to create greater resilience to security threats?



2.30pm – Panel discussion: Can science and technology help solve global challenges with the current constraints on international engagement?

  • Moderator and contributor: Professor Steven Chown FAA, Director, Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future
  • Dr Vaughan Turekian, Executive Director, Policy and Global Affairs Division, National Academy of Sciences (USA)
  • Professor Jacqui True FASSA FAIIA, Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Monash University
  • Dr Marcus Doherty, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Quantum Brilliance Pty Ltd

Session overview

Science and technology play a critical role in solving global challenges such as climate change and securing food supply, as well as in shaping international affairs and policy issues such as energy policy, cybersecurity, nuclear proliferation and disease prevention.

Panellists will share their experience in international scientific collaboration and outline global interdependencies to enable fundamental science delivery to support global systems our society relies on.

We will explore the evolution of science diplomacy and how vital it is to national interests as well as increasing global demand for STEM professionals and how security concerns are impacting their inter-country movement.

We will also examine how climate extremes are impacting the security and peace of nations.



3.30pm – Afternoon tea break under the arches 



4.00pm – Wrap up and next steps

  • Professor Frances Separovic AO FAA, Foreign Secretary and symposium convenor, Australian Academy of Science
  • Professor Steven Chown FAA, Fellow and symposium convenor, Australian Academy of Science

Session overview

Summary of the issues discussed during the symposium, and answer whether the precarious balance between research openness and national security has been achieved in Australia.



4.15pm – Symposium close

  • Professor Chennupati Jagadish AC PresAA FREng FTSE, President, Australian Academy of Science



4.30pm – End



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