Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Healthy, But Needs Leadership

By Simon Grose

The Chief Scientist has established a role at the centre of science policy formulation, and flagged his intentions.

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

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

Exactly a year after he began work as Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb has issued Health of Australian Science, a 200-page overview of his bailiwick (see also Lowe Tech, p.47).

Its broad assessment – “Australian science is generally in good health” – was the happy theme picked up in media reports but closer reading reveals signals from Chubb about his agenda for the remaining 2 years of his appointment.

A recurring theme is the tension between the funding and practice of education and research. It points out that in 2008–09 the Commonwealth – including the higher education sector – supported 75% of the nation’s basic and strategic research, but applied research has gained an increasing proportion of Commonwealth science funding since 1990 and “there is no apparent rationale for this trend”.

It also says that the setting of National Research Priorities “provides a sensible base for broadly guiding the research effort… yet some science disciplines are declining in spite of this”.

It seems the problem is school-leavers and undergraduates and their ideas about what is cool: “Universities are funded according to where the students enrol and what they do. This basically logical approach might well put some important disciplines at risk because they happen to lack popularity at a particular time”.

The report canvasses the notion that “the...

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