The Australian Academy of Science welcomes the opportunity to comment on the suite of strategies and measures outlined in the Australian Government’s Vision for a Science Nation consultation paper.
Overall, these proposals respond well to the majority of recommendations set out by the Australian Chief Scientist in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM): Australia’s Future, and have the potential to provide significant and lasting benefit to Australia through a comprehensive approach to Australian STEM over the coming decade.
This submission from the Academy provides both a high- level summary and a detailed response to the consultation questions on each of the components of the proposed strategy:
1) Australian competitiveness; 2) education and training; 3) research; and 4) international engagement. The submission makes 20 specific recommendations, four of which relate to measures proposed in the consultation document that are not recommended by the Academy, and 16 relating to additional measures that would provide additional value if included in the strategy.
Two overarching recommendations of this submission are:
1. That the final national STEM strategy must be implemented in such a way as to achieve a true whole- of-government framework and approach to STEM in Australia. The Commonwealth Science Council is the clear governing body to oversee the strategy and the myriad programs, initiatives and other strategies that will come under or otherwise relate to it; likely with a limited number of additional subordinate governance mechanisms such as a National Advisory Board for international science required. However, numerous and significant changes and transformations will be required at the point of delivery of new and existing programs to streamline processes and ensure efficient and enabling interaction with the scientists, business people, students, teachers, government representatives and members of the public who engage with them.
2. That the final national STEM strategy include clear mechanisms to increase public and private funding for STEM. Business investment in R&D in Australia sits well below the OECD average, while Commonwealth Government funding for science as a percentage of GDP has been trending down for the past thirty years, and declining in real terms from a peak of $9.8 billion in 2012. While the STEM strategy presents a significant opportunity to better coordinate and target existing resources, the long-term objectives of the strategy will not be realised or sustained without mechanisms to steadily increase public and private investment in science–particularly in basic research–over the coming years.