National science priorities refresh for Australia’s ‘big challenges’

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

A refresh of Australia’s national science priorities is launching on Thursday, with the Albanese government seeking wide input on the first change to the set of key research areas since 2015. Climate change, First Nations science and emerging technologies have been flagged by the government as potential new priorities.

After committing to the update last year, Industry and Science minister Ed Husic will launch the six-month public consultation in Sydney alongside Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley, who will lead the update. A new national science statement outlining the government’s vision for Australian science will also be developed as part of the update.

The priorities signal areas the Australian government considers important and aim to encourage activity and growth in these areas. Although the priorities do not preclude investment or work in other areas.

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The national science priorities will be updated this year for the first time since 2015

There are currently nine national science priorities – Food, Soil and Water, Transport, Cybersecurity, Energy, Resources, Advanced Manufacturing, Environmental Change, and Health.

Mr Husic will launch a “national conversation” in Sydney on Thursday about how they could be updated to better reflect what can deliver social, economic and environmental benefits for Australia.

“With our scientific knowledge constantly evolving and improving, a science system geared to our future is essential for our national prosperity and the well-being of the Australian people,” he said.

“We want to hear the views of a wide range of Australians on the issues they are facing that require a solution drawing on the breadth of our science and research communities.”

A discussion paper has been launched setting out seven principles to guide feedback on two conversation starters: What are Australia’s greatest challenges, opportunities and strengths; does the nation have the capability and capacity to address them.

The terms of reference show the government’s starting point and three possible that could form part of a refreshed set of Australian science priorities:

  • 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 improved Australian wellbeing

The consultation will be narrowed to the research community before testing draft priorities in June, with the new priorities to be finalised in June.

Dr Foley said wide input is being sought from across the community.

“This is about coming up with a set of priorities that will guide science and research in the years to come, ensuring we are all pulling in the same direction,” she said.

“We want to ensure we can tackle the big challenges – and that means supporting a strong and energetic research sector and a real sense of collective focus.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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