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ATSE column

Focus on Education to Feed the Future

By Kadambot Siddique

Agricultural science education is a national priority for the nation’s food security.

Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique AM FTSE is Chair in Agriculture and Director of the UWA Institute of Agriculture at The University of Western Australia.

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Boosting Our Innovation Dividend

By Vaughan Beck

It’s time for urgent action to drive productivity and prosperity.

Dr Vaughan Beck FTSE is Executive Director – Technical with the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and led its campaign on innovation issues during 2011.

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Six Steps to a Balanced Economy

By Andrew Liveris

Australia can take six steps to secure its future as a balanced economy, says the Australian CEO of a global company.

Dr Andrew Liveris FTSE is Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical. An Australian-born chemical engineer, he is co-chair of President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, and delivered the keynote address at the Australian Government Future Jobs Forum in Canberra in October.

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Strengthening the Weakest Link

By John Bell

Australia needs to develop better incentives for public–private sector collaboration.

Through initiatives like the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) programs, Australia has a long history of encouraging public researchers to seek links with firms and other end users of research. These “supply-side” innovation measures encourage researchers to supply their skills and experience to innovating companies.

Productivity, Competitiveness and the Missing Link

By Terry Cutler

The debate about Australia’s flagging productivity and competitiveness has overlooked one vital factor – and some local role models.

Productivity is finally back in the headlines, if only because action on the nation’s productivity has been missing just when it is most needed.

Competitiveness is back on the agenda, too, but only as the flipside of a worrying resurgence of talk about protectionist bail-outs for underperforming industries now hit with adverse exchange rates and increased trade exposure.

Pricing Carbon to Fix the Problem

By Peter Laver

Peter Laver says that Australia should look closely at rewarding emissions reductions rather than just taxing emissions production.

The debate about carbon pricing – and the government’s announcement about its “carbon tax” – risks losing sight of what we are trying to achieve.

Rather than the debate being about compensation, wealth redistribution, making “polluters pay”, international competitiveness, exemptions and impacts on growth, we really need to focus on capital investment. We should use most of the money coming from pricing carbon to fix the problem – to make the necessary investments in low-carbon electricity generation and transport, and improved energy efficiency.

Saving the Australian Synchrotron

By John Boldeman

The possibility that political wrangling could lead to the closure of the Australian Synchrotron is almost beyond comprehension.

All advanced societies have at their core a body of technological scientists and engineers who contribute substantially to the economic and sociological development of their populations.

Switzerland is one nation that stands out. It does not belong to the European Union, it has limited mineral resources and has to rely on the expertise and capabilities of its people. At the centre of its national competence is a proportionally large number of experienced engineers and scientists who depend on their advanced scientific infrastructure.

Time for a New Focus on Food

By Julian Cribb

Civil wars over food in northern Africa at a time when around half of Australians are dying as a result of their diets present the greatest scientific challenge of our time.

Few people seem to have noticed that two governments went belly-up in North Africa recently – as a result of riots that began as protests over the price of food.

Food insecurity is growing worldwide as demand for food grows and the things we need to produce it – land, water, oil, nutrients, fish, technology and stable climates – become more scarce. At the same time around half of Australians are dying as a result of their diets, at enormous cost to those that live.

Chief Questions for Science Advice

By Robin Batterham

It’s time to review how government receives its scientific advice following the resignation of Chief Scientist Penny Sackett.

Governments must look to the wealth of scientific and technological skills available to them to help develop evidence-based policies on important economic and social objectives. These include population strategy, food production, low-carbon energy supplies, water management and national productivity – as well as the implications for risk management and remediation around national emergencies, which often flow from extreme climate events.

Don’t Rush the Science Curriculum

By Lesley Parker and Alan Finkel

The rush to implement the new Australian Curriculum is jeopardising the future of science, engineering and maths education.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in schools is essential for a prosperous, informed and scientifically and technologically competent nation. But Australia needs a significant and immediate investment in STEM teachers as we face a critical period in the development and implementation of the new Australian Curriculum. The investment in teachers is necessary to compensate for previous underinvestment.