Science and Research

1. Minister for Science and Research

The Science party strongly believes that the government needs a dedicated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) focus in the cabinet. This minister's portfolio will include the government overseeing of:

  • Appropriate funding in line with the Science party policy;
  • Science and technology research;
  • Direct links with the Education, innovation, industry and business ministers and portfolios;
  • Regular and direct links with the Chief scientist of Australia and the state and territory chief scientists;
  • Regular and direct contact with the Australian space agency, ASTRA.

Australia is one of the few developed countries in the world without a dedicated Science Minister, and this is to our detriment. The lack of a Science Minister diminishes the importance of science and research in the eyes of the Australian public and communicates that a government is not committed to science and research.

2. Minister for Innovation and Industry

In addition to a dedicated Science and Research Minister, the Science Party will appoint an Innovation and Industry Minister for specific duties relating to:

  • Investment in Science and Technology;
  • Liaising with industry and appropriate stakeholders; and
  • Direct links with the Science and Research, Education and Business Ministers and portfolios.

3. Increased investment in science and technology research

3.1. Policy: Double governmental scientific and technological research spending from the current $9.2 billion (0.56% of GDP) to $18.4 billion. Plan for the future through targeted government investment in areas which encourage economic and technological development, such as:

  • Transportation
  • Communication
  • Education
  • Agriculture
  • Health and biomedical research
  • Energy
  • Computer science

3.2. Discussion: The Science Party believes that scientific research and technological development hold the key to Australia's success in the future. The Science Party wants Australia to be a place that is known for its science and technology sector. To do this, we need to build a strong research industry, while training people to have the skills that this industry will require.

Among OECD nations, Australia is among the lowest for public spending on research. Doubling our current figure will put us near the top of this list.

4. Nuclear Research

The Science Party would like to see Australia play host to or aid research into new nuclear reactor designs that can be used for energy generation. Please also see our energy policy, including Renewable Energy and Nuclear Energy Research Reactors.

4.1. Policy: The Science Party has a policy of maintaining the existing facilities at the Open Pool Australian Lightwater reactor (OPAL).

4.2. Discussion: Nuclear reactors represent a unique environmental challenge, as nuclear reactors produce byproducts that are potentially harmful over long periods. Despite this, nuclear reactors play an important role in modern energy production, medicine and research.

OPAL (otherwise known as the Lucas Heights reactor) provides isotopes necessary for nuclear medicine for those in Australia, as well as many countries in the South Pacific. It also provides an important facility for nuclear research. The Science Party has an explicit policy of maintaining existing facilities at OPAL. If the need arises for an extension of nuclear research capabilities and medical isotope production, a new reactor could possibly be built in Western Australia to better provide medical isotopes for those living in western and central Australia.

5. Space

The Science Party has a separate Space Policy detailing the steps that Australia should take into this field, which would benefit both Australia and the space industry.

6. Open Access to publicly funded research

6.1. Policy: Any publication of research in a paywalled research journal arising from Australian government funding must also be immediately published as Open Access.

6.2. Discussion: Any knowledge discovery facilitated by public funding should be available for public viewing. Universal access to current scientific knowledge also benefits science as it allows work to be examined from all angles.

Current regulations

The Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council have moderate Open Access policies. For research that they have funded, Open Access is required no later than one year after publication. Researchers must provide explanation if this is not possible for "legal or contractual obligations".

A delay of one year is enough to stall progress in fast-paced areas of research. The ability to gain an exemption for "legal reasons" undermines the aim of Open Access.

International precedent

The USA's National Institutes of Health require open access to all published findings that arise from any amount of direct NIH funding, no later than 12 months after the date of publication.

Some non-governmental organisations that fund research, including the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also have an Open Access requirement for funding.

Democratising Science

Holding scientific publications behind paywalls stifles progress by restricting knowledge to people affiliated with organisations that have journal access, and those who can personally afford to pay access fees. Consequently, only a small minority of humanity has access to some cutting edge research, enabling only them to contribute the next step in understanding our world. Giving everyone access to published findings will accelerate the advancement of knowledge and the correction of errors.

Expanding Open Access to scientific literature may also help dispel an image of scientific research as an elite pursuit, thus improving engagement with science and trust in the scientific process.

 

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