Updated April 19, 2011 19:15:00
Former vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, Ian Chubb, has been named Australia’s new chief scientist.
The role provides high-level advice to the Prime Minister on scientific matters, including climate change.
His predecessor, Penny Sackett, resigned part-way through her five-year term earlier this year for “personal and professional” reasons, revealing she had not been asked to brief Julia Gillard since she became Prime Minister.
Professor Chubb says he will be a strong advocate for the science and research sector and will be advising on a broad range of science and research issues, including climate change.
“We have to do something about it [climate change],” he said.
“What’s done is an issue for Government, not an issue for me.
“I think the role of the chief scientist, the role of the scientific community is to provide all of the evidence that is available… a pretty overwhelming proportion of which is arguing that there is climate change.”
Professor Chubb lists developing Australian science “to the fullest possible extent” as one of his key priorities.
“That the talents and skills that are developed as a consequence of that lead to the education of young people and encouraging their interest in science,” he said.
“That the results of that science are turned into both information for the community, so they can get a general level of awareness of what’s being done and why, but turning it into useful products.
“And I put product in inverted commas, but I do mean innovation, but I also mean as the basis on which a lot of public policy might sit.”
Professor Chubb is best known as an advocate for higher education funding and research and says he will remain so.
There have been nationwide protests about proposed cuts to funding of medical research in the upcoming budget.
“What I would expect to be able to do would be to build a very substantial case for the benefits of science and innovation, development and so on in this country to present both to Government and the community more broadly,” he said.
“Now the Government’s going to have to establish priorities as they do in every budget cycle, and we’re going to have a case that’s so good that it’s a high priority and I think that’s part of the job.”
Professor Chubb’s appointment has been welcomed by the peak bodies representing scientists and researchers.
The Academy of Science has described Professor Chubb as an excellent choice for the role.
Professor Bob Williamson says the selection of Professor Chubb is very positive for the future of science in Australia.
“Ian Chubb was a neuroscientist before becoming a vice chancellor,” Professor Williamson said.
“He understands science and knows it well. perhaps more important, he is also very well known as someone who speaks his mind and is very forthright in his defence of scientific research at the highest level. “
Anna-Maria Arabia from the Federation of Scientific and Technology Societies says the new chief scientist will play a key role.
“It is important the chief scientist is able to work not only with the Prime Minister but with the whole cabinet,” she said.
“We know that scientific issues affect many portfolios, not just the science portfolio.
“Ian Chubb has not been backward in coming forward and we look forward to his contribution in the important scientific debates in Australia.”
First posted April 19, 2011 11:44:00