Alan Finkel no longer stands-alone as Australia’s great science communicator with CSIRO chief Larry Marshall delivering a curiously under-reported speech at the National Press Club last week.
As with the Chief Scientist, the CSIRO supremo sold Australian science with admirable enthusiasm and an understanding that the future of funding depends on engaging with the community. Like Dr Finkel, Dr Marshall speaks fluent lab and can explain what it means to the rest of us, linking past and present examples of what Australian researchers have achieved and putting science and innovation in context from the Great Library of Alexandria to a shed in Geelong.
And there was section to sell to the nation-building lobby that is suspicious of science in the marketplace and plenty for those people who see research as wasted money unless it gets somebody a market float or a tax loss.
“In the past, we have unleashed our science on the world as an idea, undeveloped, like a raw material we have dug from the ground, and much like our mineral wealth, which we have dug up and shipped away, our ideas have realised their potential elsewhere, creating value, jobs and opportunities in other countries. This isn’t sustainable.”
If Finkel and Marshall can’t create a constituency for science as the engine of innovation we are in a bunch of bother.