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Australian Government to revitalise science priorities

The Australian Government has announced plans to refresh Australia’s science and research priorities and its National Science Statement.

Australia’s Science and Research Priorities were last updated in 2015, while the National Science Statement was published in 2017. “Both these policy frameworks, which set the Government’s direction and vision for Australian science, are out-of-date and require renewal,” said Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic in a statement.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM, will lead a national conversation to develop the refreshed priorities and statement. Dr Foley will be supported by a taskforce established within the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. The work will include extensive consultation with science, research and industry stakeholders.

“The current priorities do not mention First Nations knowledge, do not properly acknowledge climate change and fail to adequately engage with emerging critical technologies, which are essential for national prosperity and our wellbeing,” said Minister Husic, who added that the Government recognises that a strong science system, with clear priorities, is critical to maintain high levels of sustainable economic and social prosperity.

“I highly value the science and research communities and will work closely with them on refreshing these priorities,” he said.

The Department will also run a public consultation process to ensure that all Australians have an opportunity to contribute.

Revitalising Australia’s science priorities and statement will help develop a national policy framework that embeds science into government decision making. It will better align efforts and investment in science to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits for all Australians.

The current set of National Science and Research Priorities outlined 9 broad areas of focus. As a starting point, the government has identified 3 priorities that could form part of a refreshed set of Australian science priorities, to prompt a national conversation within the Australian science community:

  • Supporting stronger action on climate change, including investments in renewable energy, reducing emissions, and transitioning to a net zero world.
  • Elevating and investing in First Nations perspectives on science, technology and innovation.
  • Harnessing the potential of emerging technologies and scientific research in pursuit of not only economic growth, but improving Australian wellbeing

In finalising the priorities, consideration will be given to how the priorities can:

  • reflect the key challenges and opportunities facing Australia
  • align with Australian Government priorities, such as the National Reconstruction Fund
  • reflect Australia’s competitive and comparative advantages
  • inform and align government decision making and investment into the future
  • provide greater certainty and focus for investment, including by industry
  • be reviewed and updated to ensure they remain contemporary and responsive to Australia’s needs.

The framework incorporating the revitalised National Science and Research Priorities will be finalised within 12 months.

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