|By Professor Yong-Ling Ruan at The University of Newcastle|
On behalf of Australian Society of Plant Scientists, I joined Science Meets Parliament (SMP) on the 1st and 2nd of March, 2016 in Canberra. The SMP aims to provide scientists unique opportunities to build mutual understanding and connections between scientists and parliamentarians and to better understand the policy making process connecting science and innovation that underpins Australia’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing.
Professor Yong-Ling Ruan, ASPS representative, and Hon Christopher Pyne, MP, and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science at the Science Meets Parliament 2016 at the Great Hall of the Australian Parliament House in Canberra on the 1 March 2016.
Day 1 of the SMP started with an opening address given by Professor Brian Schmidt (AC, Nobel Laureate and Vice Chancellor of ANU) at the Hotel Realm. Prof Schmidt analysed a broad aspects of Australian Science and offered a few ‘tips’ on how to talk to politicians. This was followed by a vivid discussion and debate on ‘How to turn your science into news’, presented by Kylie Walker (Australian Academy of Science), Paul Bongiorno (Network Ten) and Alison Carabine (ABC radio). The meeting continued with an ‘Interactive session’ on rehearsing for parliamentary meetings and concluded with a Gala dinner at the Great Hall in Parliament House where key note speakers, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, (Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science) and the Hon Bill Shorten MP (Leader of the Opposition) addressed the audience outlining their policies and visions for the future of Australian science.
Day 2 featured face-to-face group meetings in Parliament House with Ministers, Parliamentary Members and Senators. Their were concurrent sessions on Science and Politics delivered by past and present Federal Chief Scientists, Professors Ian Chubb and Alan Finkel, respectively, as well as Aidan Byrne (ARC CEO Professor) and Senator Kim Carr (Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Industry).
The two-day event proved to be a very rewarding experience. It helped to better understand and appreciate the process of formulating science-related policies and decisions developed at the government level. It provided a unique opportunity to network with politicians, journalists and fellow scientists while advocating plant science to the broader community. To the latter, I attached here a photo with the Science Minister Chris Pyne at the Gala diner following his keynote speech and our informal discussion.