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A New Approach to Research Evaluation

By Vaughan Beck

The system used to assess the quality of Australian research needs refinement to recognise the value of applied research.

Despite considerable progress in developing the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) scheme, it still runs counter to the Australian government’s innovation policies because of its focus on “pure” research that advances knowledge – to the detriment of “applied” research that targets problem-solving and opportunity creation.

Death in the Hive

By Andrew Barron

Almost 5 years since colony collapse was identified, the science tells us there is neither a single cause nor a single solution.

In the northern autumn of 2006, beekeepers in the USA began reporting mass deaths of honey bee colonies. Apiaries were full of empty hives. Colonies appeared abandoned. Food stores and sometimes dead brood were left inside hives, but few or no adult bees, or even corpses of adult bees, could be found.

Colonies had failed rapidly and catastrophically. The problem was named colony collapse disorder (CCD), and soon reports of similar devastating colony losses appeared across the globe.

Andrew Barron is a senior lecturer with the Department of Biology at Macquarie University.

Invest in Science for a Stronger Australia

By Suzanne Cory

An economic crisis is looming because Australia is not investing in science for its future.

An economic crisis is looming for Australia, and it has nothing to do with carbon trading, food shortages, a global economic crisis or devastating floods. But it has everything to do with our citizens’ ability to understand and tackle those issues. If we do not act strongly, and act soon, Australia’s economy is sure to become less productive, less resilient and less competitive.

Invest in Science for a Stronger Australia

By Suzanne Cory

An economic crisis is looming because Australia is not investing in science for its future.

An economic crisis is looming for Australia, and it has nothing to do with carbon trading, food shortages, a global economic crisis or devastating floods. But it has everything to do with our citizens’ ability to understand and tackle those issues. If we do not act strongly, and act soon, Australia’s economy is sure to become less productive, less resilient and less competitive.

Professor Suzanne Cory is President of the Australian Academy of Science.

IT Savvy, But Stupid

Twitter screen

In the age of information it seems we would be better off with more wisdom and a little less information.

By Edward H. Spence

In an age of information abundance there is a deficit of wisdom.

The age of abundant information is paradoxically marked by a deficit of wisdom. It seems the more information we have the less wise we are in managing and controlling it for our individual and collective well-being.

The problem is that there is too much information and there is not enough time to absorb it, understand its implications and judge the best way to use it for our individual and common good. The glut of information has created gluttony for information, which can lead us to behave not necessarily unethically but unwisely and in some cases downright foolishly.

Edward H. Spence is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Ethics at Charles Sturt University’s School of Communication and Creative Industries.

How Effective Is Science Outreach?

School science experiment

The real aim of the IYC is to “increase the public appreciation and understanding of chemistry, increase young people’s interest in science, and generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry”.

By Ian Rae

Will the International Year of Chemistry successfully promote science to the community?

2011 is the International Year of Chemistry (IYC). It follows the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010 and the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, and will be enjoyed concurrently with international years for forests and for people of African descent. It’s also World Veterinary Year.

Ian Rae is a thoughtful skeptic and former RACI President.

The Case for Gene Patents

By Michael Gilbert

Patents are an essential incentive for investment in research.

The very word “cancer” incites feelings of fear and dread. Most of us do not understand where it comes from or why, the treatments seem unreliable and the outcomes are often miserable.

Some cancer researchers are supporting moves to ban gene patents because they are worried that access to critical information and materials will be stifled. They use emotive case studies to argue that somehow gene patents are inhibiting progress in curing patients.

The X-Factor in the Productivity Equation

By Anna-Maria Arabia

The progress of women in science and technology has stalled for the past 15 years.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants a higher participation economy because it is a driver of prosperity, a sustainer of growth and a giver of hope and purpose to the community. She also wants an economy with a new generation of Australian entrepreneurs, researchers and inventors.

But Australian governments and industry are failing to take advantage of a key piece of the participation and productivity jigsaw that is sitting right under their nose – women. I know, because I’m a woman who left science for 8 years.

The National Science Curriculum: Not Yet!

By Professor John Rice

The draft science curriculum scores a “fail, more work needed” from the Deans of Science.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has been developing a national K–12 curriculum for more than 18 months. It is currently discussing a draft of a K–10 science curriculum with state and territory education authorities.

Good Science Done Properly

Sackett

Professor Penny Sackett is Chief Scientist for Australia.

By Penny Sackett

Scientists have a social responsibility to maintain high ethical standards in their work.

I am an astronomer, not a philosopher, but just as a galaxy or a comet is neither intrinsically good nor bad I am willing to propose that pure knowledge is value-free. Science as pure knowledge is thus outside the realm of ethics – only through human action or intent does knowledge obtain meaning or moral value.

Professor Penny Sackett is Chief Scientist for Australia.