Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Best Practice Science Is Open and Transparent

By Clinton Foster

Geoscience Australia’s Chief Scientist outlines the philosophy behind the organisation’s newly stated science principles.

Dr Foster is Chief Scientist of Geoscience Australia. The “Science Principles” document is available at http://www.ga.gov.au/about-us/corporate-documents/science-principles.html as a free download.

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

We take for granted science outcomes like the GPS navigation functions in our smart phones, although few of us understand the science behind it. Science underpins everything we do in our modern society and yet the numbers studying science in schools, and in some disciplines at universities, are continuing to fall in Australia.

Science information is literally available on tap via the internet, but provides answers that are often many and sometimes contradictory. These may be without supporting evidence and untested, and are what I call “assertive science”.

The past century has been an age of assertive science in which the title “scientist”, a white lab coat and the use of jargon allowed assertions to be made, sometimes with dire consequences. In public, an assertive statement or the phrase “trust me, I’m a scientist” was commonly offered in support of a conclusion. Often they were made by an individual scientist presenting answers produced by a single research agency. That type of assertive science should, quite rightly, be unacceptable. But, paradoxically, it has persevered in our age of easy and rapid access to information.

There are two key issues: first, recognition that science actually underpins everything we do, and second, what is the evidence base supporting a particular conclusion? Both are often overlooked. Current assertive science is...

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