Better ways to apply the huge volumes of data being generated and new pathways to encourage and support international research collaboration were among the obstacles to overcome and plans for the future discussed during workshops between scientists, technologists and policymakers today.
STEM professionals and government policymakers came together in Canberra to craft tangible outcomes and conclusions drawing on their research, evidence and their collective experiences in science, technology and policy.
The first workshop was around the 2030 Strategic Plan for the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System. This plan will set the trajectory for the innovation system for the next decade, and the workshop highlighted the following issues facing innovation:
- Australian Industry needs more employees with STEM skills but PhDs, which are a big focus at present, are not the only answer;
- International innovators face obstacles to employment and grants, which is discouraging them from contributing meaningfully to Australian science and technology innovation; and
- Pathways to support for commercialisation and private sector R&D are not communicated clearly, and if improved, will encourage innovation.
The second workshop focused on environmental information (data and analysis) and how it can be utilised by decision makers and policymakers. The conclusions of the workshops were:
- Departments need a ‘data fit’ capability– this includes skilled staff, appropriate systems, cross sectoral linkages and a supportive culture;
- User-centered solutions need to be a focus, with genuine incentives for all stakeholders to participate;
- Examples of where data works in Australia are in parts of the health sector, in ocean exploration and astrophysics – its important we learn from those doing it well; and
- Data should be embedded in education, and we need to find ways to have students using and understanding data from a young age.
Kylie Walker, CEO of Science & Technology Australia, said the outcomes were a profound step towards forging a more meaningful and lasting place for science and technology to inform decisions made by government.
“Its not often that scientists and technologists get the chance to sit in front of a policy maker, particularly those who aren’t based in the nation’s capital,” Kylie said.
“We were very excited to bring some Australia’s leading scientific and technological minds together with those at the coalface of policy making.”
“We also hope that the connections made today will bear fruit for some time, and that policymakers will continue to draw from the expertise of those they met at this event.”
Kylie acknowledged the vital contributions by the workshop Issue Leaders, Dr Charlie Day from the Office of Innovation and Science Australia, and Matt Cahill from the Department of Environment and Energy.