Science Policy and Diplomacy Newsletter—Science advice special edition August 2021

Science Policy and Diplomacy special edition August 2021

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.

This special edition of the newsletter showcases the role of the Academy in providing science advice in Australia and internationally.

The International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) provides a forum for policy makers, practitioners, national academies, scientific societies and researchers to share experience, build capacities and develop theoretical and practical approaches to the use of scientific evidence in informing policy at all levels of government. The Academy will present on its innovations in science advice at the upcoming INGSA conference in September. Register to attend

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Innovations in science advice—the Australian Academy of Science and science policy

The Australian Academy of Science provides independent, authoritative and influential scientific advice, promotes international scientific engagement, builds public awareness and understanding of science, and champions, celebrates and supports excellence in Australian science.

Cover letter and first page of a RRIF report
RRIF reports present real-time science in response to questions from Australian Government ministers. 

Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF)

Australia’s established avenues for policy advice have been severely tested. Amid our twin crisis of 2020 and 2021—the black summer bushfires and the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic—the Australian Government required rapid, real-time science advice. While the nation has well-established expert advice mechanisms within various policy domains within government, most notably health, it lacked a formal mechanism to access independent multidisciplinary expertise within the broader scientific community.

In response, Australia's Chief Scientist partnered with Australia’s learned academies and science organisations to establish the Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF).

RRIF reports are rapid, and present real-time science in response to questions from Australian Government ministers. RRIF reports are a peer-review synthesis of the latest evidence based on available expertise at a point in time. RRIF reports are independent, express uncertainty and do not make recommendations explicit or implied. RRIF’s membership represents unparalleled access to multidisciplinary expertise, both Australian and worldwide.

Looking beyond the pandemic, Australia has an opportunity to embed this kind of rapid access to expertise in regular scientific advisory mechanisms so that evidence can routinely inform the government’s decisions.

Read the RRIF reports to see what questions required rapid responses.

RNA roundtable

Innovations in science advice mechanisms beyond the RRIF model continue at the Academy. Recently the Academy and the Australia and New Zealand RNA Production Consortium hosted a national roundtable. Thirty-eight experts in RNA biology and biotechnology from the Australian university and research sectors, along with industry, called on Australia to play a leading role in the global ecosystem of RNA science and harness the opportunities for Australian industry to develop RNA-based products and services for global markets.

INGSA2021 Conference

From 30 August to 2 September 2021, INGSA2021—Build Back Wiser: Knowledge, Policy and Publics in Dialogue will bring together speakers from across the science advice and science diplomacy spectrums.

The Academy’s Chief Executive Anna-Maria Arabia will be sharing the Academy’s role in innovating science policy at this conference, sharing the role of RRIF in providing a rapid response mechanism throughout the pandemic and into the future.

INGSA2021 will examine the complex interactions between scientists, public policy and diplomatic relations at local, national and international levels, including in times of crisis such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

This international conference will bring together more than 1,500 political representatives, diplomats and government science advisors to promote scientific expertise and the use of scientific knowledge in informing policy decisions in an increasingly complex world.

In the lead-up to the conference, INGSA has been convening key discussion across science, policy and society with its Horizon Series of videos, convening wide-ranging and engaging talks on everything from regulating the tech giants to preparing for the next pandemic.

INGSA2021 - Build Back Wiser: Knowledge, Policy and Publics in Dialogue, 30 August to 2 September 2021, Canada

Topics in science advice

Chief Scientist’s Physics High podcast interview

Physics High creates content that supports those learning physics in secondary school. It also has a podcast, Deep Impact, that interviews science communicators to find out what they do and why they do it. Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Cathey Foley was interviewed recently and discusses her role as Chief Scientist in providing science advice to government and championing Australian science.

Australian Parliament Call for Inquiry to Science Advice

On 10 August, Australia’s Senate witnessed the proposal of an inquiry into the current state of scientific advice to Parliament. Put forth by Senator Waters, on behalf of Senators Carr and Rice, the inquiry will support the opportunity to create a Parliamentary Office of Science, potentially modelled on the United Kingdom’s Office of Science and Technology. Senator Rice and Senator Carr supported this proposal with speeches discussing the current state of science advice in Australia, recognising the contribution of RRIF in providing scientific evidence to government.

The COVID-19 Scenarios Project

The International Science Council (ISC) has launched the COVID-19 Scenarios Project that seeks to outline a range of scenarios over the mid and long term to assist the understanding of the options for achieving an optimistic and fair end to the pandemic. An article overviewing the project has been published in The Lancet.

In developing this project, the ISC has consulted with WHO and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The Council has established a multidisciplinary Oversight Panel, including world experts in relevant disciplines, to work with a technical team to produce the scenario map.

European science diplomacy

The European Union (EU) has multiple organisations and projects that seek to innovate science advice mechanisms within and among EU countries and beyond. Following the success of the three Horizon 2020 research and innovation projects on science diplomacy, 16 participating and affiliated institutions have announced the formation of the EU Science Diplomacy Alliance.

The Alliance will support research and networking to advance science, technology and innovation diplomacy in Europe and beyond to address global challenges. It will also facilitate dialogue, training, institutional capacity building and coordination of joint funding to enhance the collective impact.

OECD Report: How will COVID-19 reshape science, technology, and innovation?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a policy brief, How will COVID-19 reshape science, technology, and innovation? The policy brief discusses the effects that the COVID-19 crisis could have on the future of science, technology and innovation (STI) and its policies. The OECD reports that STI policy could see fundamental changes as resilience, environmental sustainability and inclusiveness become more prominent objectives on policy agendas. The crisis could also spur experimentation with new tools, policy approaches and governance models.

Science & Technology Australia—A vision to make Australia a global STEM Superpower

Science and technology are key to solving humanity’s most complex challenges—and to forging new opportunities for Australia, reports Science and Technology Australia (STA) in its Policy Vision. STA calls for Australia to be every bit as ambitious in its science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) capabilities as other nations across the globe, and to aim for Australia to become a global STEM superpower. To enable STEM to play this pivotal role, Australia needs to safeguard and strengthen its sovereign STEM capabilities.

The Australian Academy of Science occasionally partners with Australian Government departments and other science and research organisations to produce independent research reports and science advice, and facilitate international science linkages on their behalf. If you are interested in working with the Academy please contact us.

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