In Australia we have talked for a long time about the need to build our capacity for basic and translational research – both – together. And still we talk.
In the meantime, our expenditure on research and development is down to roughly 1.8 per cent of GDP. Only a few years ago it was 2.2 per cent. And still we talk.
If all we do is have a fascinating conversation with ourselves, what are our chances of building a better Australia than the one that just happens along? When we don’t ask about our nation and what we want it to be? Ask the hard questions.
The requirement for quality research, for knowledge, is essential but not sufficient. Balancing basic and translational research within our broader economy is a challenge that cannot be met without more clearly identifying organisational aspects of our national research capability.
We have to know what we want and work to build it. And if our notional leaders won’t do it, we must. We have to work out what we want and then how to engage with all the partners – the researchers, the politicians, the bureaucrats, the business world but above all the community – it is they who pay for most of it one way or another and who will get the benefits when they flow – and who will carry the bulk of the consequences if they don’t.
We have to avoid drifting around hoping something will come along to sustain a privileged lifestyle.
Building a coherent, purposeful if careful approach to the full spectrum of research is at the heart of Professor Ian Chubb’s talk.
Ian Chubb has been a strong and effective advocate for government and industry support of innovation and research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) over several decades.
Throughout his career, including as Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (2001 to 2011) and as Chief Scientist of Australia (2011 to 2016), he made significant contributions to improving the infrastructure for scientific research and training and was conspicuous in raising the public profile of science in the media.
He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1999 and then a Companion in the Order of Australia in 2006 for his service to higher education, including research and development policy in the pursuit of advancing the national interest socially, economically, culturally and environmentally, and to the facilitation of a knowledge-based global economy.
He was the ACT Australian of the Year in 2011 and has received six honorary doctorates. In 2016 he was awarded the Australian Academy of Science Medal for his outstanding contributions by sustained efforts in the public domain which have significantly advanced the cause of science and technology in Australia.
He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.