The Office of the Chief Scientist has released Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach (July 2013). The position paper outlines a strategic plan to strengthen Australia’s focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Professor Chubb proposes a four-pronged strategy based on education, basic research, innovation and collaboration to address Australia’s greatest societal challenges which have been identified as:
• Living in a changing environment
• Promoting population health and wellbeing
• Managing our food and water assets
• Securing Australia’s place in a changing world
• Lifting productivity and economic growth .
There is a single reference to museums in the paper (see p.15) where it is recommended that they be supported, alongside libraries and the learned academies, to offer community education in relation to STEM.
The Office of the Chief Scientist have advised that, as the next Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) meeting will not be held until after the election, formal consultations on the Strategy will not begin until later in the year. However, feedback outside of the formal consultation process can be provided to the Office of the Chief Scientist. Comments on the paper will feed into its final form for presentation to the next PMSEIC.
CAMD would be interested in hearing comments on the paper from members as soon as possible.
One element which will no doubt attract attention is the separation of the humanities, social sciences and design sciences from the strategy. While the policy acknowledges the valuable work of these fields it chooses to restrict the sciences in STEM to the natural and physical sciences (p.3). There is as yet no indication of an additional strategy to deal with the humanities and associated sciences and their complementary relationship in regard to STEM activities.