Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Unhealthy Science?

By Alex Reisner

Ian Dobson Delivers the First of Three Studies Commissioned by Australia's Chief Scientist.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In 1999, the Australian Council of Deans of Science (ACDS) published a report commissioned from Dobson and Calderon, Trends in Science Education to determine the participation in university science courses from 1989 -1997. According to the ACDS: "Dobson and Calderon concluded that, 'short term excesses in supply (of graduates) may not reflect the long term outlook' (p76). The report also demonstrated, in a stark fashion, the decline of enrolments in the 'enabling sciences' of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry over the past ten years."

Subsequently two additional analyses were undertaken: Science at the Crossroads? A study of trends in university science from Dawkins to now, 1989 – 2002 (Dobson, 2003) and Sustaining Science: University Science in the Twenty-first Century (Dobson, 2007).

In that second of the studies Dr. Dobson wrote:

The major concern, however, ought to be with the longer term and with the patterns discernable over the past 15 – 20 years. As shown in Table 78 when examining the pattern back to 1989, the long-term absolute decline in chemistry, physics and mathematics ought to ring alarm bells. The ‘steady as she goes’ pattern of 2002-5 hides the fact that the 1990s saw sharp declines in enabling sciences participation by students enrolled in courses in the Natural and Physical Sciences. The number of enrolments has roughly doubled...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.