The Abbott Government recently announced the formation of the Commonwealth Science Council as part of its new competitiveness agenda for Australia. Chaired by Prime Minister Abbott, the Council membership is split evenly between industry and university appointments, with the appropriate government ministers participating as appropriate. The Industry Minister will serve as Deputy Chair and the Minsters for Health and Education would be regular contributors.
Australian Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb noted his support for the new Council, which would take the place of the Prime Minister’s Science Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC). My own (limited) review of PMSEIC activities suggests that the Commonwealth Science Council, by dint of its membership and the focus of the Abbott Government, will be more focused on near-term activities and on connections between researchers and industry. (However, it would seem that there has been a trend away from a foresight-heavy advisory council dating back several years before the newest government formed.)
While such links might be denounced in the States as ‘picking winners,’ smaller countries like Australia can’t afford to invest in as many areas of science and technology. Such investment strategies are (hopefully) sound strategic tools for finding the most return on investment.