Turnbull government unveils National Science Statement

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The Turnbull government has unveiled its National Science Statement.

The statement, which focuses on the long-term importance of science to the economy and wider society, articulates government’s vision and objectives for Australian science. It also sets principles for government policy-making in science.

The four stated objectives of the statement are: engaging all Australians with science; building scientific skills; producing new research and technology; and, improving Australians' lives through research.

It says government will act in a 'leadership role' by: providing funding and other resources to support science; using and sharing research locally and globally; and, promoting translation of research into economic and other benefits.

Shadow minister for innovation, industry, science and research, Senator Kim Carr, said Labor welcomed the statement but that the science and research community will not be "fooled" by words and platitudes.

"This is a statement without any plan for action, nor the resourcing required to meet its limited ambitions," he said.

Minister for industry, innovation and science, Senator Arthur Sinodinos AO, said the statement represents the Turnbull government's response to requests from the science and research community for long-term thinking and an expressed commitment from government to science.

The statement has been widely supported but the life sciences sector, coming on the back of other policy support for innovation including the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund, but it remains concerned over the Turnbull government's response to the review of the R&D Tax Incentive.

The review recommended a series of changes to the popular program, including a $2 million cap on cash claims, which has generated significant concern across the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. The Turnbull government is expected to officially respond to the recommendations in the May Budget.

According to Sinodinos, science underpins Australian innovation and productivity.

"It leads to improvements in all aspects of our lives–work, health, environment and society as a whole," he said.

"We want young Australians, our workforce, businesses and employers to appreciate the value of science and the contribution it makes to many aspects of our lives.

"We need to make sure we have strong scientific capability and skills, including cutting-edge scientific skills and, importantly, a broad base of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills across the workforce."

He continued, "We must also ensure these skills produce research; Australia needs high quality, world-leading research, with access to research infrastructure and connections to scientific projects around the world.

"And we need to be generating new ideas and technologies, while at the same time transferring knowledge from research to end-users.

"To achieve these goals, the government will act strategically and systematically; we’ll take a long term view, provide stable support, encourage collaboration and support all Australians to participate in science."