Notwithstanding the ongoing challenges of the pandemic in 2020-21, it has been an especially successful year for ACOLA. Our advice has led to better policy considerations and public scrutiny, and provided the evidence that underpinned new government initiatives.
Professor John Shine AC PresAA
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.
It gives me great pleasure to bring you the Annual Report of the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) for 2020/2021. It has been an honour to take on the rotating Board Chair role, on behalf of the Australian Academy of Science, during 2021.
Notwithstanding the ongoing challenges of the pandemic in 2020-21, it has been an especially successful year for ACOLA. Our advice has led to better policy considerations and public scrutiny, and provided the evidence that underpinned new government initiatives. This demonstrates the ongoing critical interest and value of interdisciplinary research-based advice, from timely reports and advice for the Chief Scientist related to COVID and parliament to deep, insightful horizon scans on emerging technologies.
After four years as Australia’s Chief Scientist, we farewelled Dr Alan Finkel AO FAA FTSE FAHMS. We wish him well in his next endeavours. ACOLA was pleased to work closely with Alan on numerous issues to help guide Australia through the challenging waters of COVID-19 and provide insights into future opportunities for Australia under our Horizon Scanning series. Change brings new opportunities, and we look forward to collaborating with Dr Cathy Foley AO FAA FTSE, as the new Chief Scientist, in supporting the National Science and Technology Council.
My warmest thanks to the Presidents of all the Learned Academies for their dedication to our ongoing collaboration through ACOLA, which extends back to 1970 with the establishment of ACOLA’s earliest form, the Consultative Committee of the Australian Academies (CCAA). These past five decades show the leadership and commitment of the Academies to building a strong Australia through interdisciplinary perspectives garnered by bringing together Australia’s leading minds across industry and academia. 2020–21 has shown how critical our work continue to be, as the complex and wicked problems of climate change and a pandemic and opportunities of new technologies, to name but a few, demand the integration of robust research and expert opinion across research domains, especially bringing together traditionally STEM and HASS expertise.
Finally, I would like to thank the ACOLA management team and research and policy staff for their commitment and professionalism throughout this challenging year, especially those based in Melbourne who have experienced long and difficult lockdowns. Without them, ACOLA’s members could not become greater than the sum of its parts and deliver our high-quality advice.
Professor John Shine
Chair, Board of Directors