Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Science Meets Parliament (But No Minister)

By Guy Nolch

It’s not enough to win the hearts of politicians when the government itself lacks a head for science.

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

Last month saw the 19th staging of Science Meets Parliament, with a reported 200 scientists converging on Canberra to rattle the political cage and network with both politicians and other advocates for science.

The event arose from frustrations with the declining priority of science among the politicians of the 1990s. At that time, government expenditure on R&D was declining compared with other OECD nations, the “innovation” buzzword was first echoing in government circles, and CSIRO’s role (and funding model) was being refashioned away from basic research in favour of an increasingly corporate model.

Occasional meetings of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council would bring together the Prime Minister, Chief Scientist and other government ministers and agency chiefs to advise the government on matters relating to science and technology. However, during the Howard government the PM became increasingly absent from the meetings, and details of the ground covered and recommendations made were harder to pin down. It didn’t help that specialist science journalists like Dr Peter Pockley were becoming thin on the ground.

But just because the PM had other priorities didn’t mean that Parliament as a whole had lost interest in science. What if enthusiastic ambassadors for science left their “ivory towers” and met face-to-face to...

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