The science community had a huge win with the Australia Day Honours. Quantum physicist Michelle Simmons from UNSW is Australian of the Year and ANU biophysicist Graham Farquhar Senior Australian of the Year. Of 16 ACs, ten are honoured for work in some form of science. And then there is the usual long list of medical practitioners and scientists in the other categories.
These awards strongly signal STEM and medicine’s standing in the community and it demonstrates that Malcolm Turnbull is still on to something with his innovation agenda – he just has to sell it better. Australians who fear technology will take their children’s jobs switch off when they are told we must innovate or expire economically. But they have great faith in science, especially medical science.
Professor Simmons’ appointment will appeal to everybody who wants to see many more women in science having the opportunity, by right, to make the most of their ability and who love the idea that the Australian character suits science; “our distaste for authority means we think for ourselves. Best of all, we are prepared to give those hard challenges a go. I firmly believe there is nowhere else in the world better to do scientific research and challenge what’s possible,” she said on Thursday night.
As a message to sell science to the community that pays for it this is very hard improve on.