23 May, 2012The Chief Scientist's comprehensive Health of Australian Science report outlines the crucial challenge we have as a nation in shifting our cultural view on the value of science, maths and engineering.
"This landmark report shows that without attention, Australia runs the risk of being left behind in an increasingly competitive international environment," said Universities Australia Chief Executive, Belinda Robinson
"This would leave Australia in the unfortunate position of being a knowledge and skills importer.
"For us to begin our race to the front of the pack, we must first acknowledge the huge cultural shift that needs to take place.
"Achieving this shift requires an all-in approach - an approach that involves not just our teachers and lecturers, but our industry captains and leading public figures.
"Just as we must ensure that we have the best educators inspiring our students, we must ensure industry and business are standing ready to employ them.
"As the Chief Scientist said, Australia has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, number of researchers employed in business enterprises.
"As students have the right to choose what they want to study, the challenge is to provide the right incentives and create the desire to pursue these subjects. Employment opportunities will play a major role."
Ms Robinson said that a report by Universities Australia, and commissioned by the Chief Scientist, found that less than half of all first year university students surveyed totally agreed that science was central to maintaining Australia's way of life.
"If we want to keep pace in increasingly competitive world engaged in a race to the top, we must make it a priority to shift this view," Ms Robinson said.
"We also recognise there are a variety of means and mechanisms available to help stimulate demand that would not come at the expense of limiting student choice.
"Universities share the Chief Scientist's view that equipping our future workforce with the skills and talents necessary to secure the long-term well-being of Australia should be a national priority."
The Chief Scientist's report can be found at www.chiefscientist.gov.au