Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Scientists Told to Get Dirty

By Simon Grose

Science Minister Chris Evans is a no-nonsense, tough-talking coach who has given Team Science a reality check.

Simon Grose is a Director of Science Media (sciencemedia.com.au).

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

It’s almost a year since ministerial responsibility for science in Canberra passed from one gruff, burly Senator to another – from Kim Carr to Chris Evans.

While this had no effect on the lives of the nation’s scientists, for the 200 or so at this year’s Science Meets Parliament event hosted by Science & Technology Australia, that ministerial shuffle made for a markedly different experience.

Scientists are no different from any other constituency in their tendency to be a bit self-important. Telling voters what they want to hear is the key to political success, so politicians prefer to play to a constituency’s need for affirmation rather than challenge it.

Carr has been doing this for scientists for years. If he had been at the podium in the Great Hall of Parliament House, the audience would have been buoyed by a message about their importance to Australia and how much the government valued them.

Evans offered no such blandishments. He listed climate change, the supertrawler, our Olympic swimming performance, tobacco packaging and the health of gay men as examples of issues of the moment in which science had a role to play in devising policy. While Carr would have extolled a central role for science in these and other issues, Evans told science to fight for a place in the ruck.

“One of the things that has struck me since being in the...

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