Still the clever country?

Professionals Australia launched the Still the Clever Country? campaign at the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome with Professor Ian Chubb delivering the keynote address.

The campaign presents two significant reports and a series of fact sheets on the issues that face the future of science in Australia.

Still the Clever Country is the result of a survey conducted of over 500 of its scientist members to tackle the barriers to productivity improvements and innovation through science and R&D. It provides valuable insights from those experienced in their fields.

Sister publication, Realising Innovation through Science and R&D provides a blueprint for dealing with workplace and structural issues in science with recommendations for government and industry.

Key recommendations coming from the reports suggests that Australia needs to invest in the science and R&D workforce, deal with deprofessionalisation, enhance Australia’s STEM capabilities, encourage effective reward and recognition strategies and address workforce developments

Furthermore, the report suggests that attracting the next generation of scientists is crucial. The survey found, that seventy-six per cent of Australian scientists were concerned about how science could attract the next generation and ranked this as a second only to funding concerns.

For students looking to enter the workforce, it means fewer entry-level graduate and internship opportunities.

In Professor Chubb’s address, he noted that maintaining our status as a clever country is fundamental to our economic sustainability as well as ensuring a fair and just future for Australia. Professor Chubb also described the progress towards a strategic approach to Australian science policy further to the recommendations set out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future

Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton highlighted the need to not only invest in STEM education but the STEM workforce with a focus on education and training offering workers career pathways, not just skills for initial jobs, and emphasised the need for ongoing investment in the science capability of the workforce rather than deprofessionalisation.

To read the full reports, visit the campaign website.

The future looks bright at Shine Dome

It’s the weekend and the middle Saturday morning of Session A NYSF 2015 began with a group photo outside of the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome – as many many NYSF students have done before. Inside Dr TJ Higgins representing the Australian Academy of Science talked to the students about the Academy, its history, the unique Shine Dome building, and the important role the Academy plays in Australia’s science community.

The multidisciplinary forum that followed looked at where Australian science would be in 30 years’ time – a broad topic, to say the least!

Dr Matthew Hill – winner of the 2014 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year (one of the PM’s Prize for Science winners) – leads work in the use of the ultraporous Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) for applications in gas storage and separation at the CSIRO. Dr Hill facilitated an interesting discussion on what the world could look like in 2050 – including a debate on global warming. His team are working with 3D printers and recently developed and tested a printed horse shoe and designed and printed a 3D dragon after receiving a letter from an inquisitive young student.

The future looks bright - Academy of Science Shine Dome - Session A 10 January 2015

The future looks bright –  Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome – Session A 10 January 2015

The second speaker, Dr Katherine Locock, OCE Postdoctoral Fellow at CSIRO, discussed her research into antibiotic resistance and the impending crisis we face as antibiotics no longer work for common illnesses.

The third speaker,  Dr Katrina Konstas, a member of Dr Hill’s team at the CSIRO, led an informative discussion about her work with hydrogen for use in hybrid cars.

There was plenty of time for the audience to ask questions – mostly centred on study paths including choosing a PhD topic and career options.

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Question time – Australian cademy of Science Shine Dome – Session A 10 January 2015

Dr Hill’s advice to students when commencing study at university was to “learn to study efficiently and be highly organised. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself in choosing a degree. You can always use your completed credits toward another degree. … There are opportunities to study bridging courses which help you move into your desired degree”, he said.

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Question time – Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome – Session A 10 January 2015

Dr Locock suggested that students, “should not get bogged down into one career path – don’t pigeon-hole yourself as you will be working across a range of science disciplines – not just the field you chose to study.” For her, studying a PhD was difficult but rewarding. “80 per cent of what you research doesn’t work and this was difficult to overcome at the start.”

Dr Katrina Konstas told the audience that she didn’t do to well at high school; in fact she almost failed year 12 physics. She moved into chemistry at university and excelled. “I couldn’t believe how easy I found chemistry and how much I loved it. After high school I never wanted to go to university. It was a last minute decision. I was the first person in my family to study at university and I’m so glad I did,” she said.

All three speakers emphasised that when looking for work it was beneficial to use existing networks. The networks students are forming at the NYSF are crucial. When applying for work, students can  either apply using those networks,approaching the organisations they wish to work for, or through traditional approaches.

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Students quiz Dr Katherine Locock after the forum – Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome – Session A 10 January 2015