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Science asks politicians – what’s your vision? (STA election survey)

Download the survey results.Every Federal Election STA surveys the major and minor parties on their vision for Science & Technology. The answers are in and ready to read as voters consider their options ahead of the 2013 Federal Poll.

STA CEO Catriona Jackson said: “We know that what Australia achieves through science, technology and innovation in the 21st century will underpin our success as a nation. It will dictate our economic prosperity, social cohesion and both the nature and quality of the jobs available to our children.

“As the resources boom wanes, knowledge can and should be Australia’s biggest asset, and we must begin the transition from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based one.

“A strategic, sustainable and consistent approach to science, technology and research policy and resourcing is critical if we are to make the most of the great natural talents of our people.

“STA is the peak representative body for the 68,000 Australians working in Science and Technology. Every day our members seek evidence and innovation to tackle the big issues, to make sense of the world we live in.

“We asked Federal Politicians from a range of parties to supply their vision in response to a set of core questions devised by STA members and the science & technology sector. Responses were received from the Coalition, Greens and ALP, and are presented as a comparative table (attached).

”We thank the parties for their responses and look forward to further policy announcements before polling day,” Ms Jackson said.

STA 2013 Federal Election policy survey

1) Investment  in science – R&D expenditure to OECD average by 2020

Australian Government investment in research and development is approximately 2 per cent, ranking Australia 13th amongst the OECD nations. Long-term, strategic investment must be made, by both government and business, if we are to keep up with competitors in our region and the wider world. The2012 National Research Investment Plan (NRIP) has laid out a plan.

Q: Will you commit to long-term, strategic investment in R&D

Q: Will you commit to increasing the investment to at least the OECD average by 2020?

2) Research Infrastructure funding

Funding must be re-instated to support research infrastructure, not only the buildings but the equipment that all scientists need to carry out world-leading work. The considerable operational and maintenance costs associated with infrastructure also need to be supported.

Q: What plans do you have to ensure a more consistent and sustained funding of critical research infrastructure, big and small? Will you back a central research infrastructure investment framework, such as the National Research Investment Plan (NRIP)?

3) Beat the skills shortage before it takes hold: train, retain, attract

Scientists hold some of the most important and diverse jobs in the world yet the Australian research workforce will suffer a crippling skills shortage by 2020. Industry is already feeling the impact of skills shortages in engineering and technical services and telling us of the impediments to development that result. Importing scientists is not a long-term solution, especially when other developed nations are seeking to do the same. Australia must attack the problem at its core, attracting students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, and then working to ensure fruitful and stable career options for home-grown scientists, and those who choose to come here to work.

Q: What approaches will you take to improve the quality and supply of mathematics and science teachers and resources in Australian schools?

Q: Will you commit to working with the sector to make careers in science and technology more stable and attractive?

4) Foster a scientifically literate and engaged Australia

Achieving the full benefits of Australia’s investment in R&D requires effective communication and active engagement with the wider community.  Issues such as immunisation, genetically modified food crops and nanotechnology are complex issues that often spark passionate debate. Without access to clearly explained facts, from reliable sources, members of the public are denied the tools needed to make fully-informed decisions. Ready access to clear information and high-quality debate on the most contentious issues is a fundamental part of a functioning democracy.

Q: Will you commit to strengthen the Inspiring Australia national science communications strategy, to ensure widespread, coordinated science engagement?

Q: Will you commit to back an evidence-based, pro-science approach to policy formulation and political debate of scientific issues?

5) Effective engagement with the international scientific community

Science and technology is an international activity, with collaboration across national borders standard best practice. Australia is a strong performer for its population size, producing 3 per cent of new knowledge. However if we are to have any hope of tackling the most complex questions, we must be able to collaborate with the best and brightest wherever they may be, in our region and the rest of the world.

Q: What policies do you have to invest strategically to strengthen Australia’s international science effort, in our region and beyond, to boost collaboration with the best and brightest wherever they are based?

6) Industry and academia working together

When industry and researchers work together effectively we innovate and multiply our strengths. Clear and reliable policy incentives facilitate deep and sustained collaboration between industry, universities, and public and private sector research institutes. This not only ensures that the benefits from basic research are translated into practice in Australia, but also harnesses national talent and creates knowledge, opportunity and new jobs.

Q: What policies do you have to enhance smoother and more productive collaboration between researchers and business, small and large?

7) Boosting industry research

Governments are in a unique position to create an environment which encourages industry to invest more in research and which makes Australia a more attractive place for international companies to undertake research. Industry investment plays a central role in improved productivity, which in turn fuels economic growth and innovation.

Q: What will you do to ensure a healthy growth in investment in research & development from industry?

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