Australia is not doing collaboration between science, government and industry well and needs a strategy to improve research and innovation, the chief scientist says.
Professor Ian Chubb says it is important to support the full spectrum of research, from discovery through to use, as well as develop a more strategic approach to science to give Australia the progress needed for sustained economic development.
Only by working together can government, industry and academia meet the challenges, he says.
“In Australia, we are not good at the working together bit,” the chief scientist told the National Press Club on Tuesday.
The UK and Australia have a similar distribution of researchers in universities and business but the UK does collaboration better because it has real strategies and incentives, Prof Chubb said.
“We do not have such strategies. And we should.”
Prof Chubb said it was important the community understood the scientific process because when opinion overrode evidence, it was a sad time for humankind.
“And it is a truly frightening time for humankind when scientists and their science are derided – even vilified – because their evidence, after close and expert scrutiny, happens not to fit with what some people want to hear.”
He believes if the community better understood how science generated and assessed evidence people could make better-informed decisions.
His talk came as hundreds of industry leaders converged in Canberra to meet parliamentarians.
Science and Technology Australia boss Catriona Jackson said they hoped to follow the UK’s lead and spread expert knowledge throughout federal divisions since the Abbott government scrapped a science ministry.
Prof Chubb said politicians acting on expert advice could identify a budget, key priorities such as particular areas where Australia must be engaged, or key infrastructure within a priority framework.
Once that was done they should leave the decisions on which projects to fund to researchers and the peer community, he said.