Australia's Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, led the development of the 2016 Roadmap, supported by an expert working group. The 2016 Roadmap was provided to the federal government in February 2017, and has now just been released.
Outstanding science and research is a critical foundation of an innovative and prosperous modern society. Globally competitive research depends on access to first-class research equipment, systems and services, collectively referred to as research infrastructure.
Australia today is the beneficiary of internationally recognised and highly efficient research infrastructure that consistently delivers outstanding returns. It has been developed through the implementation of a series of strategic roadmaps funded by successive Australian governments, with support from state and territory governments, universities and research agencies.
It is time, now, to build on this foundation of Australian prosperity and reach for excellence in the decade ahead. There are four layers that make up the Australian research infrastructure system:
1. institutional research infrastructure
2. national research infrastructure
3. landmark research infrastructure
4. global research infrastructure
Institutional infrastructure, while critical, rightly falls within the domain of the individual institutions and has not been considered.
With this frame in view, Australia’s existing national research infrastructure system serves over 35,000 researchers and comprises a highly effective network of facilities and projects under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), landmark facilities, including the Australian Synchrotron and the Open-Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) Research Reactor operated by publicly funded research agencies (PFRAs) and large-scale international collaborations such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
Coordinated planning and collaboration across research domains has consistently enabled Australia to achieve scale in emerging areas of research infrastructure and national priority. We have successfully built on our national strengths in areas such as fabrication at the micro and nanoscale, environmental management and modelling, data platforms, the design and development of complex instrumentation, and quantum computing.
Research in all of these fields has the potential to significantly transform the way we live and the patterns of economic opportunity across the world. It is greatly to our benefit that Australia’s best researchers are equipped to make a strong contribution through access to leading facilities both domestically and overseas.
In December 2015 the Australian Government reaffirmed its commitment to national research infrastructure through the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). It secured funding for the existing NCRIS funded facilities and projects, the Australian Synchrotron and the SKA and commissioned the development of the 2016 Roadmap.
As NISA recognised ongoing investment supported by a clearly defined strategy is essential if we are to maintain the quality and scale of our national research infrastructure portfolio. We must monitor performance, plan strategically for obsolescence and replacement, and reorient or increase capacity in areas of greatest opportunity across this complex portfolio.
In particular, the importance of the Government’s role cannot be overstated. It is not simply the leading architect of the national strategy but the major investor, and the anchor that provides state and territory governments, universities and research agencies with planning security to underpin their coinvestment. Importantly, governments are also both a contributor to and a user of national research infrastructure.