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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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