Australia’s Chief Scientist

​Dr Alan Finkel AO

Dr Alan Finkel AO

Dr Finkel is an engineer, neuroscientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is currently the Chancellor of Monash University and President of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and (on rotation) of the Australian Council of Learned Academies. He sits on a number of ASX and private company boards.

He established and led Axon Instruments in Silicon Valley, a world-class supplier of electronic and robotic instruments and software for use in cellular neuroscience, genomics and drug discovery, both in the university and pharmaceutical company research sectors.

In 2006, he returned to Australia and commenced a wide range of activities in public organisations, education, business and philanthropy. He led the amalgamation of the Howard Florey Institute, the Brain Research Institute, the National Stroke Research Institute and the Mental Health Research Institute to form the Florey Neuroscience Institutes.

He is co-founder and Executive Publisher of Cosmos Magazine, Chair of the Australian Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), Chair of the private property development company Manhattan Investments, Executive Chair of the educational software company Stile Education, Chair of building products company Speedpanel Australia and a Director of ASX-listed diagnostics company Cogstate Limited.

Under his leadership, Cosmos Magazine launched a schools science education program called Cosmos Lessons where fortnightly lessons are distributed to secondary schools cast as breaking news stories. At the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, he conceived and implemented the STELR programme for secondary school science, since adopted in nearly 500 schools and now being trialled in a small number of schools in Indonesia. In 2005, recognising the difficulty faced by early career neuroscientists in becoming skilled in the complex experimental techniques, he established the Australian Course in Advanced Neuroscience.

During his PhD in electrical engineering at Monash University he developed an interest in neuroscience research. His PhD was followed by a postdoctoral research fellowship in the experimental Neurology Unit at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University. In addition to engaging in research on signalling mechanisms in spinal-cord neurons, he developed an electronic instrumentation technique called single-electrode voltage clamp that enabled experiments that had not previously been possible.

The Chief Scientist role

Australia’s Chief Scientist is a communicator of science, promoting understanding and enjoyment of, and the contribution to science and evidence-based thinking.

Reporting to the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science the Hon Christopher Pyne, the Chief Scientist works closely with the Prime Minister, providing high-level independent advice on matters relating to innovation, science and technology.

As Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Science Council, the Chief Scientist identifies challenges and opportunities for Australia that can be addressed, in part, through science. The Chief Scientist is also an advocate for Australian science internationally, focusing national thinking on science across the states and territories through the Forum of Australian Chief Scientists.

The Chief Scientist for Australia is a champion of science and research, and the role of evidence in the community and in government.

Challenges and opportunities

As technology keeps evolving, so do the opportunities and challenges around the world. Scientific input is needed to powerfully address these challenges and seize the enormous opportunities presented to us. Science is critical for jobs, business growth and success, and builds Australia’s innovation capacity.

If we want to remain a prosperous, first world economy with a generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive.

It is crucial for Government to receive the best independent scientific advice to chart the best course of action for Australia. The Chief Scientist’s role is to identify the challenges and opportunities for Australia, and advise the Australian Government.

The Chief Scientist will work closely with the Australian Government to bring together the science community, industry, academia and the education sector to promote greater collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship.

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