In 2020, there has been a no more significant time in modern history that the research community, ACOLA and the Learned Academies have come to the service of the nation.
Professor Joy Damousi FASSA FAHA
Chair, Board of Directors
ACOLA STRATEGIC STATEMENT
The scale and complexity of the challenges facing communities across the world, especially in 2020, call for fresh thinking and new approaches if our legacy is to secure a better world for future generations. ACOLA’s aim is to advance discussions on complex issues through trusted, independent, and interdisciplinary evidence-based advice to solve real world problems.
ACOLA is exceptionally well-positioned to contribute to enabling this ambition. As the body that brings together over 3,000 academic and industry experts from ACOLA’s member academies of: Science, the Humanities, Social Science, Health and Medical Sciences, and Technology and Engineering, ACOLA is uniquely placed to enable interdisciplinary solutions to complex global problems and national needs.
ACOLA’s interdisciplinary approach sets it apart from other research and policy organisations in this country. The approach is founded in our independence and recognition that the complexity of the challenges facing contemporary society will be most effectively addressed by bringing together specialist expertise from across domains, which are more than ‘the sum of the parts’. We must continue to invest in interdisciplinary expertise and advice, and ensure its value is understood.
With research programs including the Securing Australia’s Future series and more recently the Horizon Scanning series, ACOLA has nearly five decades of demonstrated experience as a trusted and influential source of expert advice for governments, industry and the public.
Welcome to the 2020 ACOLA Annual report, it is always a pleasure for each of the Presidents of the Learned Academies to chair ACOLA during their tenure. This has been a particularly successful year for ACOLA in supporting and building the organisation, despite a year of significant and unprecedented events.
Bushfires, storms, a global pandemic, and a global recession have significantly impacted our operating environment and that of our members and funding partners. However, through these events, we have reaffirmed our and the Learned Academies’ ability to mobilise our expertise to the needs of Australia.
In 2020, there has been a no more significant time in modern history that the research community, ACOLA and the Learned Academies have come to the service of the nation. In addition to continuing our commissioned deep-thinking advice for the Australian Government under our Horizon Scanning series, we have pivoted to the needs of society with great speed and agility. This is a testament to the skill, commitment, and professionalism of ACOLA’s member academies, their Fellows, and the ACOLA staff.
Indeed, this year has been one of our busiest years. In addition to work occurring on five studies for governments, ACOLA supported the Australian Chief Scientist’s Rapid Research Information Forum, which published 12 timely and focussed briefs on COVID‑related policy issues, and supported various inquiries and parliamentary requests.
With five decades of experience, we are well‑positioned to continue to convene, harness and translate evidence and expert opinion from across our members’ over 3,000 Fellows; spanning industry, government and academia. I look forward to ACOLA continuing to foster and mobilise this capability for the nation over the coming years, solidifying its role as a key source of high-quality, robust, and independent interdisciplinary advice for Australia’s decision-makers and the public on complex challenges and issues.
I would like to thank the National Science and Technology Council, the Australian Chief Scientist and Australian Government departments for their ongoing support and commitment to ACOLA. We could not achieve all we do without the partnerships we have forged, who collectively see the value of interdisciplinary advice and evidence in guiding decisions on Australia’s future.
Special thanks must go to the Presidents of all the Learned Academies. They make essential contributions to ACOLA and join me on its Board. I also note that following many years of involvement in ACOLA activities, including our Research Committee, the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS) officially joined ACOLA as an associate member in early 2020. Our five member academies ensure a genuinely interdisciplinary perspective to our advice and engagement with governments and the public.
Finally, I would like to thank the ACOLA management team and research and policy staff for their commitment and professionalism throughout this challenging year, without whom ACOLA’s members could not become great than the sum of its parts and deliver our high-quality advice.
Professor Joy Damousi
Chair, Board of Directors