Celebrating Museum Science
Heath Gilmore, ‘Australian Museum names Tim Flannery for lifetime achievement award’, Sydney Morning Herald, August 10 2014
The oldest custodian of science in Australia has chosen Tim Flannery as the first recipient of its lifetime achievement award from its rebadged research institute.
The announcement was made by the Australian Museum on Monday.
Dr Flannery lost his job as chief commissioner of the Climate Commission when it was abolished in one of the first acts of the government after Tony Abbott became Prime Minister.
Since then, the federal government has further angered the science and research sector after announcing budget cuts of $420 million from several organisations, including the CSIRO, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the Australian Research Council, and the Co-operative Research Centres. Last week, Abigail Allwood, the first woman and Australian to lead a NASA team that will search for life on Mars, labelled the government’s slashing of its science budget as “tragic and embarrassing”.
Australian Museum director Kim McKay said the nation’s scientists needed to be celebrated, and the work of former museum employee Dr Flannery, an internationally acclaimed researcher, explorer and conservationist, was an obvious first choice to honour.
Last week, the 187-year-old museum also unveiled its new Gerard Krefft meeting room, honouring its seventh curator, a passionate advocate of the then new Darwin theory of evolution. Mr Krefft railed against creationist critics despite the long term damage to his professional career.
“I think our scientists are fearless,” Ms McKay said. “It’s really important to give scientists a sense their work is collectively held in esteem and has a purpose.
“Science has been under attack. There is no secret that major industry groups fund communication campaigns to cast doubt on the work of scientists. You only have to sow the seed of doubt to undermine the work.”
On Monday, Ms McKay and NSW Arts Minister Troy Grant will launch the Australian Museum Research Institute, a new initiative to promote high-quality research into the unsolved questions of the natural world.
Ms McKay said integrating the work of research scientists under the Australian Museum Research Institute would help focus public attention and support on these four pillars of scientific research and their practical applications in policy and planning.
“The museum’s research expertise is not replicated at universities or other research institutions, which uniquely positions us to address areas of significance to society such as environmental health, biodiversity loss, climate change and biosecurity,” she said.
The University of NSW dean of science and Australian Museum trustee, Merlin Crossley, said the research carried out by the insitute’s scientists, along with the museum’s exceptional collections, would allow the story of the natural world to be told for generations.