Science Policy and Diplomacy Newsletter—Issue 3 July 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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News from the Academy

Academy responses to COVID-19

The Australian Academy of Science is actively supporting efforts by the Australian Government and the broader community to control, minimise and mitigate adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community.

The Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF) is convened by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO FTSE FAA FAHMS, and its operations are led by the Australian Academy of Science.The Academy has worked as the lead organisation to produce rapid responses to COVID-19 related questions posed by the Prime Minister, Minister for Health, Minister for Education, and Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Topics range from vaccines to online school education. See all the reports.

The Academy created the COVID-19 Expert Database to provide a mechanism for governments, the business sector, the research sector, and other decision-makers to easily access the expertise they need to inform their decision making. There are currently nearly 1800 registered experts in the database.

In addition, the Academy’s policy initiative ‘Science for Australians’ has, in recent months, published two COVID-19 related features:


The National Fire Fuels Science Forum, a joint event between the Academy and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, was scheduled to be delivered on 23 and 24 March in Canberra. Due to the global outbreak of COVID-19, the forum was changed to a series of webinars with up to 500 attending each week and hundreds more watching the replay. The series enabled a broad range of people from around Australia and internationally to hear discussion of the issues, science, constraints, beliefs, culture, truths and myths around hazard reduction burning in Australia.

As part of the submission made to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, the Academy has prepared a series of expert briefs. The first brief, focusing on soil condition after bushfires, has been published, with more to come.

On 29 July, Academy Fellows Professor David Lindenmayer and Professor Chris Dickman will be providing evidence to the Inquiry into lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019-20.

Mostly bare red-brown soil with ash and charcoal on the surface
The Academy has published an expert brief on soil condition after bushfires. Photo: Professor Rob Fitzpatrick

Academy submissions


The Academy made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Economics into the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 [Provisions]. The submission was based on previous submissions on nuclear power.

The National Committee for Space and Radio Science made a submission to the Australian Space Agency Moon to Mars Program design.


The Academy made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade regarding opportunities for strengthening Australia’s relations with the Republic of France.

The Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences made a joint submission to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s draft National Health Information Strategy Framework.

The Academy made a submission to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act Review led by independent reviewer Professor Graeme Samuel AC. In discussion with Professor Samuel in mid-December, it was suggested that the Academy compile advice on topics pertinent to the review, relevant to the Academy’s science expertise and important to the goal of improving the status of Australian species and ecosystems. The Academy offered the review six short papers that address key aspects of the operations of the Act. The submission was drafted with advice from Academy Fellows Professor Helene Marsh, Professor Craig Moritz, Professor David Lindenmayer and Professor Chris Dickman, and Associate Professor Emily Nicholson, Professor Martine Maron, Dr Jessica Walsh, Dr Libby Rumpff, Professor Don Driscoll, Professor John Zichy-Woinarski and Professor Steven Chown. Input was also provided by the Academy’s National Committee for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation.

Based on this submission, the Academy was invited to participate in a roundtable on 29 May to discuss how science and information can support the EPBC Act to enable effective environment protection and biodiversity conservation. This is part of a series of roundtables led by Professor Samuel to explore key issues and potential future reform directions. 

The Academy made a submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, also sometimes referred to as the Bushfires Royal Commission. The submission consists of a series of expert briefs on bushfire recovery which will be published from late July 2020.


The Academy made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade on the Inquiry into strengthening Australia’s relationships with countries in the Pacific region. Recommendations included the support of a coordinated program to develop and leverage science diplomacy as a strategic national capability and to work with cross-sector stakeholders to ensure resources are available to sustain long-term Australian engagement with the International Science Council and its global network in the Pacific.


The Academy made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration’s Inquiry into lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019–20.

The Academy also made a submission to the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 on the Inquiry into the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Developments in science policy and diplomacy

This section highlights recent science policy and diplomacy news. A special topics issue covering COVID-19 developments will be sent out soon.

Space and Australia’s national security

The Australian Government’s announcement of funding has benefits for the growing Australian space sector. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ latest Defence Strategy Update and Force Structure Plan has revealed $270 billion in extra funding for Australia’s defence capabilities, with the space domain a major beneficiary. Combined with the announcement of closer defence, security, and space ties with Japan the increased emphasis and encouragement of Australia’s growing space sector will have implications for Australia’s science and security capabilities. For dedicated news and updates on Australia’s space research and industry sectors, subscribe to the Space and Radio Science News and Opportunities newsletter and view past issues.

Astronomy decadal plan mid-term review

The recently released Astronomy decadal plan mid-term review showcases the growing astronomy and space science sectors in Australia and recommends potential areas for improvement for Australia’s astronomy capabilities. The mid-term review makes nine major recommendations for the next five years and details the continuing investment into major facilities and infrastructure required for Australian astronomers to continue to play a world-leading role in answering key questions about our universe.

Between the leviathans: science policy and power politics

The article Between the leviathans discusses the influence of power politics on international science policy. This article describes the growth of globalised science in Australia and how the rise of China relative to the United States may impact international science in Australia and the world.

How diplomacy helped to end the race to sequence the human genome

This New York Times article discusses how diplomacy helped to end the race to sequence the human genome—how the 20th century’s last great scientific contest ended in a tie, aided by some deft statecraft from the White House.

Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) review

The ANZSRC is a set of three related classifications developed for use in the measurement and analysis of research and experimental development (R&D) statistics in Australia and New Zealand. A review of ANZSRC was undertaken to ensure the classification reflects current practice and to improve coverage, coherence and consistency across the classification. The ANZSRC Review is available on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website. The classification is the result of nearly two years of extensive consultations with researchers, universities, peak bodies and other users of the classification. The Academy’s National Committee for Space and Radio Science made a submission, while 13 more National Committees contributed their expertise to the review.

Opportunities to provide input

Survey of academic researchers who use or wish to use technical support from staff data scientists

This survey is being run by the US Academic Data Science Alliance and is seeking participants who collaborate or consult with data scientists. It is envisaged that the results will assist initiatives to support better data science policies. Find out more about the survey.

Call for respondents: societal resilience survey

The International Network for Government Science Advice and Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures at the University of Auckland are calling for participants in a survey on societal resilience. The survey will seek to gauge contextual factors that the responder feels may be influential and responses will be analysed in aggregate. To participate in the survey go to and enter the code ingsaresilience.

The importance of diversity in science

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent Black Lives Matter protests have re-ignited the continued discussion of diversity in science. Diversity in gender and race, and along many other lines, are crucial to the continued expansion and success of science.

As a part of its strategic plan, the Academy aims to be a national leader in diversity, equity and inclusion in the science sector. Most recently it committed to supporting gender equity in higher education during and after COVID‑19. The statement echoes the findings of a report in May by the Rapid Research Information Forum which found hard-won gains for women’s advancement in the STEM workforce were at risk of a major setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Academy works to embed diversity, equity and inclusion practices into all Academy activities.

Like the Academy, many science organisations around the world are strong proponents of diversity in science. Some recent statements by the International Science Council and its scientific unions reaffirming support for diversity in science include:

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