International science engagement pays off for Australia

Monday, 22 April, 2019

International science engagement pays off for Australia

The economic and scientific benefits to Australia’s membership of major global science organisations have been outlined in a report released by the Australian Academy of Science.

Australia has been a member of the International Science Council (ISC, formerly known as the International Council for Science), since its establishment in 1931. The Council serves as an interface between the scientific community and high-level international policy forums, advancing science as a global public good by convening the scientific expertise and resources needed to generate international action on issues of major scientific and public importance.

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Academy of Science is a member of the ISC and 30 of its member bodies. Now, the Academy report ‘Benefits of Australian membership of the International Science Council and international scientific unions’ has shown that Australia benefits as a member of these global science organisations by:

  • receiving a direct economic return — estimated at $118 million from 2000 to 2017 — through hosting scientific union meetings in Australia and other activities;
  • receiving indirect benefits such as the invaluable opportunities for Australian scientists, especially young scientists, to collaborate with international leaders in ways that accelerate delivery of the long-term economic benefits of scientific progress for Australia;
  • providing opportunities for Australian perspectives to contribute efforts to use science to solve global challenges; and
  • enhancing Australia’s international scientific profile and reputation.

“As members of international science organisations, Australian scientists have the opportunity to help shape science in our region and beyond,” said the Academy’s Foreign Secretary, Professor Elaine Sadler.

“While Australia benefits from its membership of the International Science Council and the international scientific unions, we would derive greater scientific and economic benefits by taking a more strategic approach.”

The report also highlights the important role that science has as a soft power asset in diplomacy. The national interest is well served when scientific activities open doors and broker dialogue with other nations, especially where geopolitical issues might otherwise slow positive cooperation.

“In Australia science is an underused element in diplomacy and it is not yet recognised as a key soft power asset, whilst in countries around the world science diplomacy is fast becoming a strategic part of the national toolkit,” Prof Sadler said.

According to the Academy, Australia has felt the absence of an international engagement strategy for science, technology and innovation with long-term resourcing. Internationals scientific engagement is thus a key priority included in the Academy’s priorities for the 2019 federal election — a platform known as Earning Our Future.

To view the report, click here.

Image credit: ©

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