Tuesday, 05 February 2019 10:24

Scientists put out call for greater investment in science sector

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Scientists put out call for greater investment in science sector Image courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The peak body for science and technology has called for stronger investment in research and support for a strong and diverse research workforce to help Australia keep pace with rapid global change and fuel a brighter future for all Australians ahead of the May 2019/20 Federal Budget.

According to Science & Technology Australia, scientists and technologists have experienced steady declines in funding over the past few years, and with predictions of a Budget surplus on the horizon and international evidence of strong returns on public investment in research and development, the solution-making sector is an obvious choice for intelligent investment.

STA president Professor Emma Johnston said the broad ranging recommendations submitted on behalf of more than 70,000 STEM professionals across the country were ambitious and desperately needed.

“Experience around the world and here in Australia has shown that public investment in science reaps large returns. If science and technology are to play a part in Australia’s prosperity, the time to invest is now,” Professor Johnston said.

“Research and development require vision and support that extend beyond the election cycle, and we hope that the government will be brave and intelligent in structuring the next Federal Budget to support this kind of vision.”

Among other recommendations, Science & Technology Australia is calling for are;

  • A 10-year strategic plan and clear 5-year funding commitment to achieve investment of 3% of GDP in research and development (currently 1.8%);
  • Better support for STEM education, science and maths teachers, and universities; and
  • Further investment in programs to support and encourage diversity and inclusion with the science and technology sector.

Professor Johnston said that it was estimated that Australia was creating STEM jobs at 1.5 times the rate of non-STEM jobs, while the growth of STEM qualified workers was only increasing by 15% per year.

“We’re not even close to keeping pace with the growth in demand for STEM-qualified workers: we must prioritise meeting this demand or we are putting our future at risk,” she said.

STA has also advocated for increased investment in encouraging and supporting a diverse and inclusive STEM workforce.

“A strong and capable workforce is a diverse workforce; we have the opportunity now to build on the upcoming Women in STEM Decadal Plan and other successful programs like Superstars of STEM, we can make a meaningful impact in our sector, not just on the issue of gender equity, but also supporting genuine diversity,” Professor Johnston said.

“We’re calling for government support to establish the first Indigenous scientists’ association and for extra investment in diversity across scientific societies and associations more generally. These bodies are the backbone of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sector in Australia.

“STA and its members call on the Australian Government to join us in leading the way towards a truly inclusive and diverse workforce in Australia, setting an example for all industries and leading the way for many other nations across the globe.”

Professor Johnston said: “We’re calling for government support to establish the first Indigenous scientists’ association and for extra investment in diversity across scientific societies and associations more generally. These bodies are the backbone of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sector in Australia.

“STA and its members call on the Australian Government to join us in leading the way towards a truly inclusive and diverse workforce in Australia, setting an example for all industries and leading the way for many other nations across the globe.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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