The Australian Academy of Science and the Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) brought together 50 experts for a high-level INGSA Australia Dialogue on 17th April 2019. Hosted at the iconic Shine Dome in Canberra, the workshop explored mechanisms for independent science advice to government and parliamentarians in Australia. Contributors came from across Australia, drawing insights from experience in academia, public policy and media.
Academy CEO Anna-Maria Arabia welcomed the gathering in the Shine Dome, before Sir Peter Gluckman, Chair of INGSA and President-Elect of the International Science Council, gave the keynote address. Other speakers included Will Grant, Christopher Cvitanovic, Sujatha Raman (all CPAS), Karen Hussey (University of Queensland) and Susannah Elliott (Science Media Centre). CPAS Director Joan Leach moderated a panel discussion with Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, Parliamentary Librarian Dianne Heriot and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) Executive Director Steve Hatfield-Dodds.
CPAS Research Director Sujatha Raman chaired the day’s wide-ranging discussions on how things work at present and issues for the future. Australia has a range of resources and mechanisms for scientists to engage with policymaking. To be effective, scientists should not underestimate the importance of knowing the policy process and its timescales, fostering personal connections or making submissions to public inquiries. But looking beyond individual influence to the complex ecosystem of science advice, new challenges emerged.
It was noted that a key challenge in science advice is not so much that people lack scientific information but that they are bombarded with it. Science advice is therefore really about making and communicating informed judgments rather than offering data in isolation from context or interpretation. The capacity to engage across disciplines and stakeholders is crucial for this purpose. It requires distinctive skills which need to be actively nurtured and valued especially at an early career stage.
The Australian Academy of Science provides independent, authoritative and influential scientific advice, promotes international scientific engagement, builds public awareness and understanding of science, and champions, celebrates and supports excellence in Australian science. For more information, please contact Chief Executive, Anna-Maria Arabia (email@example.com)
At the ANU, the Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) is building a programme at the science/policy interface that addresses some of the challenges raised at the workshop. We are co-designing a space for Australian public servants to engage across government departments and with scientists on science issues; supporting early career international researchers and research networks for transdisciplinary science/policy work; and contributing to the research frontier on interdisciplinary knowledge for policy challenges. We welcome collaborations on these issues. For more information, please contact A/Prof Sujatha Raman (firstname.lastname@example.org)