Science Policy and Diplomacy Newsletter—Issue 2 March 2020

Science Policy and Diplomacy Newsletter Issue 2 March 2020

The Science Policy and Diplomacy Newsletter of the Australian Academy of Science 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.

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The immense global impact of COVID-19 emphasises the importance for science to be able to effectively react to international issues. The International Science Council released a statement on the need for international science collaboration and cooperation in response to the outbreak, the Interacademy Partnership released a communiqué on COVID-19, the Science 20 (S20) made a statement to G20 leaders on the COVID-19 pandemic, and Science Magazine covered how the outbreak is transforming how scientists communicate about fast-moving health crises

The International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) has created an online hub of information and resources about the science and policy interface of the pandemic. This website has been created to mobilise evidence, provide evidence-informed advice to decision-makers, and coordinate advice for decision-makers. INGSA members, including the Academy, will contribute to the resources.

News from the Academy


The Academy has released a statement calling for the data underpinning COVID-19 decisions in Australia to be made public. To assist people to understand the changing situation and make decisions, the Academy is also producing a series of videos and articles based on the latest available knowledge. The Academy knows that science will solve this.

Science will solve this


The Academy headquarters was affected by the recent summer of extremes in Canberra, such as smoke from the bushfires, a hailstorm and extreme rainfall, and more recently COVID-19. The hailstorm severely damaged its heritage buildings.

A statement from the Academy’s President Professor John Shine called for more effective responses to extreme weather events and for Australia to design and build the future we want. In January, the President and the Chief Executive met directly with Prime Minister Morrison to discuss how science can inform the policy making process. The Academy has continued to be involved in key discussions with the National Bushfire Recovery Agency that is coordinating the bushfire response and the policy deliberations of a range of government ministers. 

The Academy participated in two government roundtables.

The Academy is currently using its collective expertise to further develop a range of bushfire-related information, advice and events to help inform future policy and decisions. In January it participated in two government roundtables, which are providing policy feedback to the government and helping to guide the government’s bushfire responses.

In response to the growing call for more activity around hazard reduction burning, the Academy and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC had planned to host a National Fire Fuels Science Forum on 23 and 24 March at the Shine Dome. The forum aimed to convene expertise in bushfire science and knowledge to work on a national statement on the understanding of management of landscapes for the reduction in risk from bushfire. Due to the global outbreak of COVID-19, the forum was cancelled; however, the organisations are looking at what can be arranged later on this important subject.

Policy and diplomacy news

Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy

The clean energy future is one step closer with the Australian Government’s release of Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy, which has the potential to position our industry as a major player by 2030. Hydrogen fuel supports a clean energy future: zero-emissions, flexible, storable, and safe. More about the history and potential of the strategy

The contemporary global context for science

The International Science Council in 2019 released a blog post written by Geoffrey Boulton: The contemporary global context for science: How science can be a transformative power for peace and development during times of complexity and rapid change. This article assesses the role of science for the public good and its importance in unravelling the complex problems faced by societies at both national and international levels.

Australian Antarctic Division

The Australian Antarctic Division’s Chief Scientist, Dr Gwen Fenton, stepped down in November after more than four years in the job. During this period she oversaw a review of science funding and the establishment of the Australian Antarctic Science Council, was a great source of advice to the Academy’s National Committee for Antarctic Research and was instrumental in strengthening relations between the Academy, the Division and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). The Academy looks forward to working with the interim Chief Scientist and the Division into the future.

Launch of 10-year strategy for Sustainable Cities and Regions

Future Earth Australia, following extensive consultation and oversight from leading urban research, practice and policy experts from around Australia, has launched a report that lays out a 10-year strategy to transform Australia’s cities and regions and to address urban problems including transport congestion, inflated housing markets, the loneliness crisis, inequity in opportunities and biodiversity loss. Watch the video and read about the report.

Science and Diplomacy

Science and Diplomacy is a quarterly publication from the American Association for the Advancement of Science Center for Science Diplomacy. The most recent issue covers topics and regions from wildlife trafficking in Africa and hydrodiplomacy between the United States and Mexico, to an analysis of science diplomacy efficacy in highly competitive technology areas.

Brexit and science

The recent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union has had an effect on scientists. The impact of Brexit on science reflects the international nature of the scientific endeavor, highlighting the link between science and politics. Relevant resources include:

Committee for Freedom and Responsibility of Science

The International Science Council (ISC) is a global champion of the Principle of Universality of Science. The ISC convenes a special committee, the Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS), to guide and advise on its engagement with matters pertaining to the freedom of science and scientists. Professor Cheryl Praeger, Immediate Past Foreign Secretary of the Australian Academy of Science and recipient of the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, is a member of this committee. The CFRS on occasions steps in to advocate on behalf of individuals, often in complex and challenging contexts.

Climate Change: Evidence and Causes

The Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences have updated their joint report, Climate Change: Evidence and Causes. In the combined mission to promote the use of science to benefit the society and inform critical policy debates, this publication seeks to reinforce our understanding of human-caused climate change.

Ten young scientists to represent Australia at the 70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

The Academy nominates the Australian delegation that attends the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings, and the next 10 young scientists who will represent Australia at the 70th Lindau Meeting have been announced. The 70th meeting has been postponed until 2021.

Science as a tool to unify people: a Lindau experience

A blog post by Jaouad Abdouss on his experience at the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 2019 has been published. In this article Jaouad reflects on his time at Lindau and the opportunities he had to engage with other young scientists from around the world and with Nobel laureates.

Science for Australians launch

The Academy launched its Science for Australians initiative on 1 March, publishing Academy Fellow Professor Veena Sahajwalla’s feature on the circular economy, When going around in circles is the way forward. The initiative is designed to build a robust policy platform, illustrating the benefits of science to the public and bringing unity to the Australian STEM sector. 

Plastic crisis requires fundamental system change

The European Academies Science Advisory Council has released a report on the plastic crisis. The report makes clear that voluntary and market mechanisms are insufficient to address the problem. According to the Council, ‘European legislators should adopt rules and incentives to speed up the move towards a Circular Plastic Waste Economy. We have to reuse plastic goods and packaging, drastically improve our recycling and above all see that no waste is leaked into the environment.’ 


November 2019

ARC Survey on Increasing women’s participation in Australian Research Council grant processes

The National Committee for Materials Science and Engineering made a submission to the ARC Survey on increasing women’s participation in Australian Research Council grant processes. The submission was made via a survey and will be available shortly.

Consultation on Rural Research and Development Corporations

The Academy made a submission to the Department of Agriculture consultation on Rural Research and Development Corporations. The submission was drafted with advice from the Academy’s National Committee for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests.

Inquiry into evidence-based regulation of farm practices that impact water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef

The Academy made a submission to the Inquiry into the identification of leading practices in ensuring evidence-based regulation of farm practices that impact water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef. It expressed its strong support for the principle that public policy should be informed by the best available evidence.

December 2019

Inquiry into the impact of seismic testing on fisheries and the marine environment

The Academy made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications Inquiry into the impact of seismic testing on fisheries and the marine environment. The submission was drafted with advice from Academy Fellow Professor Ian Chubb.

Letter to members of the COAG Education Council

Academy President, Professor John Shine, wrote to all state and Commonwealth ministers outlining how the Academy and its education programs could be utilised for the national solution for education.

Consultation on mitochondrial donation

The Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Research made a joint submission to the National Health and Medical Research Council consultation on the Mitochondrial Donation Issues Paper: Ethical and Social Issues for Community Consultation.

Consultation on Implementing the Recommendations of the Third Review of the Gene Technology Scheme

The Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering made a joint submission to the Department of Health consultation on implementing the recommendations of the third review of the Gene Technology Scheme. 

January 2020

Our Common Digital Future—draft Charter for a Sustainable Digital Age 

The National Committee for Information and Communications Sciences made a submission to the German Advisory Council on Global Change and Sustainable Development Solutions Network draft online charter ‘Our Common Digital Future’. See the comments section on the page.

Expressions of interest to host the World Data System International Programme Office

The International Science Council has released a call for expressions of interests to host the World Data System International Programme Office. Expressions are due by 31 May 2020. Precise details are not expected for this submission.

February 2020

ANZRC FoR Codes review

The Academy made a submission to the Australian Research Council (ARC) consultation on the revision of the Australia New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), based on input from the National Committees. The ARC has further asked the Academy for assistance in finalising the technical details of the ANZSRC Review for Divisions 04 Earth Sciences and 06 Biological Sciences. More information on the consultation

March 2020

Human Rights and Technology Discussion Paper

The Academy made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (HRC) consultation on the Human Rights and Technology Discussion Paper. The Academy's submission supported the direction and sentiments expressed in the HRC's discussion paper, but also highlighted the need for clearer definitions and further consideration given to the indirect consequences some of the proposals may have on, for example, scientific research. The submission was prepared with advice from the Academy's Fellowship, its National Committees for Data in Science and Information and Communication Sciences, and the Australian National University’s Humanising Machine Intelligence research project.

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