AQ: Australian Quarterly

Anna-maria Arabia is the Chief Executive of the Australian Academy of Science.


Economic bodies like the Productivi­ty Commission have repeatedly demonstrat­ed that stimulatin­g R&D is the most promising source of future productivi­ty growth. Growing the knowledge economy can lead to significan­t job growth, inform future industries, and protect Australia’s sovereign interests whilst positionin­g our nation for meaningful global cooperatio­n and effective science diplomacy.

Productivi­ty dividends can be delivered but they require a longterm investment plan underpinne­d by a national review of science and research.

The base for Australia’s existing research system is thirty years old, with piecemeal measures having led to a system that is spread over 202 programs and 13 federal portfolios, creating inefficien­cy and a system that is neither fit for purpose nor able to support the needs of a modern thriving R&D sector.

Reform can commence once the entire research system is reviewed and redesigned, enabling structural changes that address fragmentat­ion and that adopt mechanisms to incentivis­e both knowledge creation and its applicatio­n.

Imperative is nurturing a love for science from early education such that it fuels the developmen­t of a highly-skilled workforce able to harness the opportunit­ies emerging from our research and its applicatio­n. Not everyone needs to be a scientist, but everyone should finish school understand­ing the implicatio­ns of science in their lives and future. A coherent policy would link all stages of the education and skill developmen­t pipeline.

Such reforms would see science valued and strategica­lly positioned to drive our economy, and inform decision-making in and between government, in parliament­s, in our courts, our classrooms, in boardrooms and in the public square.

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