There are some challenges in the short to medium term. Science participation in the senior years of school has fallen. Although the rate of this decline has slowed, participation rates have not yet stabilised. Compared with other nations, secondary school performance in science literacy is also slipping. Despite a recent increase in science enrolments at university, the trend has been flat for most of the past decade and has not recovered to the levels achieved in the early 1990s. The research community has enjoyed increased levels of funding in the past decade, but this funding has been under increasing pressure as a result of rising demand by researchers.
Australia’s output of research publications is high and overwhelmingly world class. In most scientific fields Australian researchers collaborate internationally and contribute well. This is where the strength lies in the current system. Th e vulnerability lies in the several narrow fields that will probably fail to maintain capability in the short to medium term if current trends continue.
Despite a robust science system overall, some disciplines that are vital to Australia’s future are diminishing to an extent; examples are agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Importantly, this includes the so-called enabling sciences (mathematics, physics and chemistry), which form the basis of education and research in all science.