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									                COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA



    Official Committee Hansard

        HOUSE OF
     REPRESENTATIVES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND
               INNOVATION


   Reference: Australia’s international research collaborations

                 TUESDAY, 13 APRIL 2010
                                   PERTH




               BY AUTHORITY OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES


            THIS TRANSCRIPT HAS BEEN PREPARED BY AN EXTERNAL PROVIDER
                            INTERNET

Hansard transcripts of public hearings are made available on the inter-
               net when authorised by the committee.

                       The internet address is:
                  http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard
             To search the parliamentary database, go to:
                     http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au
                                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
              STANDING COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
                                               Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Members: Ms Vamvakinou (Chair), Fran Bailey (Deputy Chair), Mr Champion, Mr Cheeseman, Dr Jensen,
Mr Johnson, Mr Kerr, Mr Ramsey, Ms Rishworth and Mr Symon
Members in attendance: Dr Jensen, Mr Ramsey, Mr Symon and Ms Vamvakinou
Terms of reference for the inquiry:
  To inquire into and report on:
  Australia’s international research engagement, with particular reference to:
  1.    The nature and extent of existing international research collaborations.
  2.    The benefits to Australia from engaging in international research collaborations.
  3.    The key drivers of international research collaboration at the government, institutional and researcher levels.
  4.    The impediments faced by Australian researchers when initiating and participating in international research
        collaborations and practical measures for addressing these.
  5.    Principles and strategies for supporting international research engagement.
                                                                      WITNESSES
BADDELEY, Professor Adrian John, Private capacity ............................................................................... 16
BEVAN, Associate Professor Alexander William Robert, Head, Department of Earth and
Planetary Sciences, Western Australian Museum......................................................................................... 44
CAKIR, Associate Professor Mehmet, Private capacity............................................................................... 34
JONES, Ms Diana Susanne, Executive Director, Collections and Content Development, Western
Australian Museum.......................................................................................................................................... 44
O’BRIEN, Professor Brian John, Private capacity....................................................................................... 24
STANLEY, Professor Fiona Juliet, Director, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research..................... 1
Tuesday, 13 April 2010                         REPS                                           IS+I 1


Committee met at 8.33 am

STANLEY, Professor Fiona Juliet, Director, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research

   CHAIR—Good morning, everyone, and welcome. I declare open this public hearing for the
inquiry into Australia’s international research collaboration being conducted by the House of
Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation. The inquiry arises
from a request to this committee by Senator the Hon. Kim Carr, the federal Minister for
Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. Written submissions were called for and 83 have
been received to date. The committee is now conducting a program of public hearings and
inspections. This hearing is the fifth for the inquiry. I now call Professor Fiona Stanley AC to
give evidence. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear?

  Prof. Stanley—Yes. I am also professor in child health at the University of Western Australia
and Chair of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.

   CHAIR—Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should
advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament. Consequently, they
warrant the same respect as proceedings of the House itself. It is customary to remind witnesses
that giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt
of parliament. We thank you for your submission and now welcome you to make a brief opening
statement before we proceed to questions.

  Prof. Stanley—I would like to start by acknowledging the Nyoongar people, on whose land
we are having this very important meeting, and I would also like to say how pleased I am with
the interest and support for research and science that is so key if we are going to have a
knowledge economy, a knowledge based Australia—the future of the 21st century, it seems to
me.

   Given the incredible problems that we are facing in terms of the environment, in terms of our
social environment, in terms of the medical problems that I outline in my submission—things
like obesity and mental health—to get an evidence base around them, to have research
addressing them, is absolutely crucial, and of course the more international that research is, the
more likely it is that Australia will be able to benefit from that kind of international
collaboration.

   Most of the problems that I addressed in my submission were health and medical problems,
but I mention some of the others, such as changes to the environment, demographic change,
climate change, food production, water, energy and so on. These are universal problems and
around the world there are people who are working on these problems at various levels and my
sense is that we need to be at the international table and, as I said in my submission, bringing the
best brains together is crucial.

  I would like to make three other points. The first I did not make in my submission, and that is
that, in order for us to be at the international table, we have to have science well funded in
Australia, and there are two aspects at the moment that are a huge worry to us as a group of
researchers around the country.


                             INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
IS+I 2                                         REPS                            Tuesday, 13 April 2010


   Australia does really well in terms of what we do for the amount of money that we have got.
When I go to the States I am just amazed, as are they, at the amount of research that we do with
the amount of money we have, compared with—perhaps we should not compare ourselves to the
states; let’s say Canada. What we do is quite extraordinary, but there will be a limit to how much
our young people are going to follow a career path in science, with the lack of support for their
future careers. So there are two aspects of research funding that we need to address.

  One is that the full costs of research need to be funded in Australia, and at the moment, with
NHMRC in particular but also ARC, we do not have the full costs of research funded. By that I
mean what it really costs to pay university salaries to researchers. So in our institute now, we
have to top up our scientists 25 per cent to give them a par with university salaries, otherwise we
will lose them. We have to dip into our fundraising and savings for that, which is a huge effort.
So one aspect of the full cost of research is salaries—and it is particularly for our young people,
I must say.

   The second aspect of the full cost of research is indirect costs. This is a mess in Australia. It
would be really good if this committee would consider this as other countries have done. By
‘indirect costs’ I mean things that you do not get on your grants, and in Australia we are not
allowed to spend one dollar of an ARC grant or an NHMRC grant on anything other than the
research project, so things like computing and IT and animals. Some biostatistics we can fund,
but not a lot, so we have to get that funding by devious ways. I do it through a lottery;
fundraising; we have to put our grants through universities so we can get the Commonwealth
funding.

   It has gone down to about 11c in the dollar. The state government funding here in Western
Australia has gone down from 34c in the dollar to 15c in the dollar. So whilst our institute is
getting more research grants, including the National Institutes of Health grants from the States,
we are getting less funding from the state government and from the Commonwealth government
to actually fund that research and enable us to be competitive. That means that we cannot then sit
at the international table, unless we have got proper funding for research. That is why, Maria, I
wanted to mention those two additional things.

   The third thing I wanted to say is that I now believe that—and I did mention this in the
submission, but it is stronger than ever in my feelings now—we must be part of an international
research network—and this particularly pertains to Western Australia, because we are so isolated
compared with other places. We must be part of a national, but particularly an international,
network. So a KPI that I put onto my senior scientists and I am now going to put onto my junior
faculty in the institute is, they have to be part of an international network, or if there is not an
international network in their area of research, they have to create one so that almost everyone in
the institute is part of an international network, either informal or formal, and I mention quite a
few of them in my submission, but I now have put it as a KPI, because I just do not think we can
actually do research at the level that we want to do it unless we have that association or that
collaboration.

  CHAIR—Thank you. I would like to ask you about the international perception of Australia.
You have quite rightly stated—and this has been obvious to the committee from the previous
inquiry that we conducted into building Australia’s research capacity, concentrating on domestic
capacity building—that the international community tends to view us as a country that is doing

                             INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
Tuesday, 13 April 2010                         REPS                                           IS+I 3


reasonably well. Although our output per capita is very small in comparison to others, we still
manage to be, often, at the front, in the headlines of significant breakthroughs. I will not go into
the reasons why that has happened, but it does intrigue me that in this inquiry that we are
presently conducting, which looks at the international collaborations, it is becoming apparent
that the relationships that are formed by our universities and our researchers in the broader
international community are going to be very important not only to the quality of the research
but to how we continue to be seen as a country worthy of that collaboration. We have looked at
the European Union’s incredible investment in innovation. We as a country are considered a
third country—we are not in that mix—and clearly this committee is very interested to see how
we can find ways to assist Australia, and I mean by that actually putting Australia on the map or
on the Europeans’ agenda as a worthy third country.

   Professor Stanley, is it important for us to be seen to be serious about supporting our own
research capacity and to be funding it correctly? You are right—there are just so many fault lines
in the research funding. Is it important for us to be seen internationally as being serious? That is
ultimately what the funding is about: you are putting your money where you mouth is; you are
obviously serious. Are we seen perhaps as having difficulties with that funding and does that
impact on the willingness of people to enter into collaboration with Australia in any way? It
should not, because if we have got some brilliant scientists—and we have got them—then
everyone will want them, but in a broader way would that have an impact? I want to go back to
the domestic capacity, of course, which is another problem.

   Prof. Stanley—Yes. It is a hugely important issue for Australia, because we are
geographically isolated and therefore we are off people’s radar screens in both Europe and North
America, and I guess they are the two hot spots of international collaboration which we want to
be part of. We can come back to our region at some stage, if you would like; that is another one
that is important too, because of the medical research. That geographic isolation is something we
have to overcome. That is why I put in my submission that we absolutely need to get funded to
travel to these international network meetings and conferences and to get our young people
there.

  We do punch above our weight in health and medical research. I think it is amazing actually.
We have had some outstanding areas of research where Australia has really dominated. They
have been in neuroscience, in immunology, and I think we are getting there with some of the
other clinical sciences. We have certainly been part of the international genome project and we
have got some very bright people in terms of genetics and its application to medicine. But I
wonder what is happening in terms of the age of some of our scientists?

   One of the things that I have been talking to Michael Good about, who is just stepping down
as head of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and he is Chairman of the NHMRC, is
that we just do not think that there is the same level of passionate commitment that our
generation had in terms of what we are willing to give up, as it were, to be at the international
cutting edge of science. Maybe I am being a bit gloomy there, but I think it would be quite
interesting to look at that. I know that there are quite a lot of concerns about people who are not
going into science and the Academy of Science is concerned about that and so on.

  CHAIR—And mathematics as well, I understand. We are all very familiar with the issues—
that actually relate to school level.

                             INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
IS+I 4                                         REPS                            Tuesday, 13 April 2010


   Prof. Stanley—Yes, and I think the things that the Academy of Science has done—and I have
brought their document here to leave with you—in terms of getting science in primary schools
and secondary schools is very laudable, but we know that we are getting fewer statisticians and
fewer mathematicians. I have just stepped down from the advisory council of the Australian
Bureau of Statistics, and one of the things they are concerned about is: where is the next
generation of statisticians? Whether people are going into statistical economics or are going into
finance or other more lucrative careers, we are not getting them into the areas which we
probably need to have them in.

  I have not got the data on health and medical research. I am concerned about: are we going to
grow up a next generation of leaders that have the same passion and commitment to working? I
took out a loan to keep on working when I had a child. Would somebody do that today? I do not
know. They might but, when I talk to young scientists now, they think I was a freak to do that.
So I think we have to really put our money where our mouth is and say that if we want to have
science we have to pay for it a bit better than we have in the past. Yes, I think we need to support
that, so I think we need to have more dollars to grow our capacity.

  We have to demonstrate to the international and European commissions and the North
American networks and so on that we actually have something to contribute, that Australia
should be at that table, for a whole lot of reasons. One is that we have got such bright scientists,
who are going to contribute to the thinking. The other, however, is using the science and how it
might be translated into an Australian environment and that could be quite exciting. We are very
good, for example, at doing randomised controlled trials in Australia; we are very attractive to
the big pharmaceutical companies because we do trials very well. We do longitudinal studies
very well.

   The other big plus that we have, particularly here in Western Australia, which we are now
rolling out nationally, is the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy for
population health data linkage. We have probably the best population data on health and other
outcomes in Western Australia than almost anywhere in the world. I have just come back from
an international data linkage meeting in Canada, and another one in London where I gave some
talks, and people were just gobsmacked by the breadth and depth of data that we have here. That
is an advantage.

   It is about looking for advantages, that we could either contribute to this international work or
use the findings to say, ‘Well, this is what it would look like in the real world,’ or, ‘If you’re
going to apply this particular research finding, we can do that in Australia.’ We might even use
the States as an advantage for once—whoo!—by doing randomised trials—you know,
randomising states, and different ways of doing things in some of these issues. So that is another
thing that could be looked at and supported. But it is about thinking internationally—thinking,
‘How do we get to that table?’ and then looking at the things that can support that.

  CHAIR—Whose prime role would that be, thinking internationally? With other presentations
over the course of the last few hearings, recommendations have emerged, one being that a
ministry dedicated to international collaboration be constructed in order to assist presumably
Australian researchers to find their way through what is obviously a very complex world of
research but also, I would imagine, to promote Australian researchers to the international
community. Institutions do that anyway, but what would your view be on the establishment of

                             INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
Tuesday, 13 April 2010                          REPS                                            IS+I 5


such an entity, whether it was a ministry or a dedicated department or section? There just seems
to be this desire for someone to be driving the opportunities—not necessarily the nature of the
research but rather the opportunities—available to scientists here and helping them navigate their
way through the international community. Do you think that is feasible?

   Prof. Stanley—That could be very well worth considering. I am just thinking of international
models of countries. It is interesting. I have been asked to review the Canadian Institutes of
Health Research. I reviewed them last time, about four or five years ago, as well, and they have
an extraordinary commitment to international/global health research. They have four planks in
their equivalent of the NHMRC. One of the planks is global health because they are committed
to what they call the north-south divide, and of course the south is not Australia, it is all the poor
countries in the south, as you realise, and the north is the wealthy European and North American
countries. So they are very committed to those inequalities in health across the international
divide—developing countries and developed countries. But a whole plank—just a whole plank
of their funding—goes to an international activity.

   NIH, for example, call for—when they have got funding, of course, so that is something that
we would have to think about very seriously—international applications in various areas of
priority and you just look at those and you think, ‘Wow! Somebody in government or advising
government is thinking about what are the major problems; what America and Canada should be
involved in.’ How do we then implement those by either requests for applications, as in NIH’s
case, or setting up a whole plank, as in Canada? I do not know about the European Commission,
I have not looked into that so well, but it seems to me that if we did that it would actually have a
couple of outcomes. One is that it would put it on the agenda. It is like parental leave: it is not
just about giving leave to parents; it is about saying, ‘We value parents.’ So we value this
internationalisation of what we are doing because we believe that that is good for Australian
science and how we do it. I think that is one big thing.

   The other thing is that it would look at all of the barriers, all the things that you had in your
terms of reference: what are the barriers to us being at that table and what is achievable for a
country the size of Australia? Where should it be put? Where is the biggest bang for the buck?
But it might also lead to better cooperation between the ARC and the NHMRC, which I think are
the two biggest funding agencies, and there are some other organisations that tag onto those—
the Heart Foundation and others. How can we make Australia better able to be at the
international table with some of these really big and important issues that are facing us in health,
or the environment, or whatever? Just off the top of my head, I think it could be terrific in terms
of thoughtfully saying, ‘Well, what’s Australia’s role in the international arena for science and
research?’

   One other thing that I was particularly keen on, and presented to the Prime Minister’s Science
Engineering Innovation Council in 2006, was a working group on data for science and how we
needed to handle our data as an international contribution to science; so opening up our datasets
internationally and only having intellectual property or patenting with discoveries that arose out
of those datasets. So an organisation or a department or an agency that you have suggested might
be able to carry those sorts of things forward.




                              INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
IS+I 6                                         REPS                            Tuesday, 13 April 2010


   What are the planks that we need to have in place to enable Australia to have its data used
internationally and have people come here because we have got such unique data? There are a
whole lot of issues that could be addressed by such an agency, if it was going to be put forward.

  Mr SYMON—Professor Stanley, I have got several questions arising from that. We, as you
obviously know, did a previous inquiry through this committee and one of the recommendations
we made was to fund the full cost of research. It is good that you keep pushing that because it
sounds like there is probably more to it. The question I would like to start off with is: could you
name some other areas of indirect costs, like you were before, that we may not be aware of? It
seems to me that, as a government, if we are funding research but then there is a chunk taken
away, it is very easy several years later to say, ‘We didn’t get the results we were looking for,’
but if it has been underfunded in that process—and possibly unknowingly because there have
been chunks of that funding taken out for other purposes along the way, rather than direct
research—could you fill me in with a couple of those examples?

   Prof. Stanley—Yes, I would love to. I am coming from the perspective of the independent
research institute so, whilst we have centre agreements with the University of Western Australia,
Curtin and so on, we are independent. We do not have a budget for running the institute from
anywhere, so we have to seek out running costs, even just to turn on the lights and run the
building, as well as what I call the ‘indirect costs of research’ which are the things we cannot get
on our grants—the IT; all the animal facilities; supporting strategic initiatives—for example,
strategic recruitment of the next bright young layer of scientists into the institute. We have a
huge task to get that funding on board.

   The Australian Association of Medical Research Institutes, which is basically the group of 37
independent institutes in Australia, has now formed itself into a major organisation and worked
out recently the costs by doing a survey of all the independent institutes in Australia, and it is
between 60c and 70c in the dollar that we need just to fund the research that we have at the
moment. That is not doing anything strategic. It is not me going out, as I have just done, and
recruiting a lad from Cambridge to bring into this institute; we had to go and get additional
funding for that endeavour. But that is the kind of thing that makes Australia more competitive,
if you can pull people in from overseas. So you probably need 100c in the dollar if you are going
to do that sort of thing. So just to do the science we need 60c to 75c in the dollar. At the moment,
what we get from the Commonwealth infrastructure fund is about 11c in the dollar and, as I have
said, from this state it has gone down from 34c to 15c in the dollar. That means that I have to
spend a huge amount of time fundraising out there.

   The universities are in a different situation, as are some of the other organisations like CSIRO
who do research; they have budgets that come from the Commonwealth and states. But we are
very pleased to have an association with the universities because we get a whole lot of additional
support from them. We get our PhD students from them—we get support for that; we have
library services. We have mentoring and other support from the universities and we can go to
them and say, ‘Look, we’ve got a program grant from NHMRC and they’ve underfunded it by
25 per cent.’ The university says, ‘Well, here, we’ll top it up.’ So there are huge advantages for
us in being closely linked with the universities, but my sense is that everyone is feeling it very
badly indeed. One of the things that we put up to the Cutler review, which actually did have it in
there—you have just got to wade through the Cutler review to find all the recommendations—is
about linking the indirect costs to the grant, as they have at NIH.

                             INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
Tuesday, 13 April 2010                         REPS                                           IS+I 7


  Mr SYMON—That leads me into my next question. What is your experience with overseas
countries and how they fund the indirect component of funds?

  Prof. Stanley—The best model, we think, is the one that is in North America—I am not sure
what happens in the European countries and I should have been perhaps across that better—
where you have got the indirect costs of research linked into the grants. Then it is much simpler.
You have got the whole funding of research being linked to that particular activity and, to us,
that seemed to be a very logical way to go.

  Mr RAMSEY—You are telling us about the infrastructure block grants that universities get,
but you do not; you cannot qualify for those?

  Prof. Stanley—That is where we get the 11c in the dollar.

  Mr RAMSEY—Okay.

   Prof. Stanley—We are an unusual institute. Few of the institutes in Victoria, for example, do
this because they have so many, whereas we have a special relationship here in Western
Australia, so we put our grants through UWA or through Curtin. They then in the RIBG cream
off what they need—creaming off more and more—and we get our 11c in the dollar.

  Mr RAMSEY—Thanks for that.

   Prof. Stanley—There is another infrastructure fund, the Commonwealth infrastructure fund. It
is for the institute infrastructure fund, and the institutes who cannot go through universities get
that directly from the Commonwealth. But, again, it is a finite amount and I do not think it is
linked enough to the real costs of research.

  Mr SYMON—I just want to swing the question around now.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes.

   Mr SYMON—A lot of submissions have spoken about international travel and that there is
virtually no budget allowed for it. We have heard that time after time. But I am not actually
going to ask you your views on that. What I am going to ask you is: are there any other
blockages to international collaboration in research beyond the actual travel? Are there
unmeasurable, intangible non-dollar items on top of no travel budget?

   Prof. Stanley—There are probably lots. I am just trying to think. We do a lot of collaboration
now by video links and tele hook-ups. They tend to work when you already know the people and
you are working with them well. But the thing that I would like to have more of in Australia is
the ability to have international conferences here. That has huge advantages. Of course, this is
going to cost, so perhaps this is not the right answer. It has lots of benefits. One is that we
showcase what we have got here and that increases our ability to then participate in these
international activities. It means that we can then recruit international people, even if it is only
for five years. I have had considerable success in recruiting people here to Western Australia for
four to five years of their careers. They have been then headhunted—bugger it!—back to the UK
or Canada to chairs. But that is good because we get at least four or five years of them when they

                             INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
IS+I 8                                         REPS                            Tuesday, 13 April 2010


are most productive and then they have gone back and they continue to be ambassadors for us.
So to have visiting people come here is a hugely important aspect of all of this, not just for us to
go there, because that cements the relationships.

  Mr SYMON—Is it equal? Is it better to get people coming here or is it more valuable to send
our people overseas or are they actually the same argument?

   Prof. Stanley—They are a bit of the same argument. Being at the international conference
table is really important. The point I made in my submission was that the senior people get asked
and their keynote addresses get fares paid. It is our postdocs that we want to get there. I do not
mind going sometimes, but I do not really want to go to lots more international meetings. But I
have to get my young people there and I cannot do that unless we pay for it somehow. That is
different, because what they are doing is being exposed to ideas, being able to participate in
these meetings and so on.

  The people who are brought here, either for a conference we are running here or for a series of
workshops that they may do, can give us advice. We have two major statisticians coming, over
the next 12 months, to Western Australia. One of them was a pioneer of multilevel modelling
and he is giving a day workshop here in November. Thank God he is coming to Queensland, so I
only have to get his fare from Brisbane to Perth, and he is going to have a whole-day workshop
for about 50 people to go through multilevel modelling and this particular statistical set of
techniques. That is going to be immeasurably important. We cannot do that very easily unless we
can bring people here, because to get 50 of our people to go to wherever else a multilevel
modelling course might be—in Bethesda or London or somewhere—is impossible. Getting
somebody here to run these sorts of courses or to be part of our international collaborations and
work is incredibly important.

  CHAIR—But in your experience, do other countries have that provision?

  Prof. Stanley—Yes.

  CHAIR—They do?

  Prof. Stanley—We get asked to go and give—

  CHAIR—And they pay for your airfare?

  Prof. Stanley—Yes, they pay for you. I was in British Columbia last November for two days
being a visiting scientist and talking about research to a group of young British Columbian
researchers. I will try to recruit some of them back here to level it off. But we do not seem to
have that capacity. Well, I do not have that capacity.

  CHAIR—That is an interesting one.

  Prof. Stanley—And I do not know of a set of grants—

  CHAIR—That is available for that?


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Tuesday, 13 April 2010                         REPS                                            IS+I 9


  Prof. Stanley—that is available for me to do that. We often get a Raine Visiting Professorship,
which is our Raine Foundation here. It is a private foundation. We might be able to apply to
Healthway in Western Australia for a visiting fellow, but that is very narrow. Healthway is about
health promotion. It is not about the science leading into it or anything else; it is very narrow.
Maybe we would get a Heart Foundation thing. They are not very common.

  CHAIR—It is ad hoc.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes.

  Mr RAMSEY—Thank you, Professor Stanley, for making your time available to us this
morning. To pick up where Mike was, about other impediments: we have had a number of
presentations and we are about to get another very strong one from Dr Baddeley, I presume,
about visa issues.

  Prof. Stanley—I did not mention that because I knew he was going to. I did not want to steal
his thunder.

 Mr RAMSEY—I know that may compromise you, by giving evidence in front of him, but I
would be interested in your experience in that area.

  Prof. Stanley—I have not had the problems that Adrian is going to tell you about, except
when we are trying to recruit. This has been particularly so with biostatisticians. We are trying to
recruit these people to come here and we used to have to prove that we could not find these
people in Australia and so on and so forth. So there have certainly been some issues in the past
but I have not had that problem as much. I would like to have the problem more. I would like to
be recruiting more people and be able to get them here. The group that we recruited from
Cambridge seemed to go through fairly easily. There were about five people, only one of whom
was an Australian. The others were all English. But that seems to have gone through very well.

  Mr RAMSEY—It does seem to be a little patchy across the different evidence we have had.

  Prof. Stanley—But it does relate to some of the issues around our colleagues in our region.
We have a very strong relationship with the Institute of Medical Research in Papua New Guinea,
and some of the visa arrangements there have been absolutely pathetic. We have just had an
experience with one of the top PhD students from that institute, an indigenous Papua New
Guinean. We wanted him to go to a conference in Italy on pneumococcal disease, which all of
our people were presenting at, and he had to come via Australia. Australia would not give him a
visa in time to get him to Italy, so he did not go to the meeting. It was just a total stuff-up. I am
not quite sure of all of the details, but I know that it could have been facilitated much more
easily.

  Mr RAMSEY—I suspect it may have much to do with the country of origin.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes. The fact is that he would not become an illegal immigrant. He has been
on a student visa. Now he is a postdoc. It was unacceptable.



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  Mr RAMSEY—In your oral evidence this morning, you talked about one particular area
where Australia is seen to have a good advantage: in our population health data, in the field you
are working in.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes.

  Mr RAMSEY—Can you give me a background on why that is? How has that been
accumulated? What was special about Australia? Was it legislative arrangements for collecting
that information or has it just come as a by-product of something else you were doing? Why do
we have that strong dataset?

   Prof. Stanley—That is a very good question. It is a combination of all of those things. It
started really with Professor Michael Hobbs in population health at UWA, who did his DPhil in
Oxford on record linkage. There was a big Oxford record linkage study at that time. There are
huge advantages in bringing linked data together, which I do not have the time to go into here,
but it means you get 100 per cent of the population, basically. It is done without consent, so they
have some interesting privacy issues, but we have, internationally, best practice in terms of
preventing any release of data that has any identifiers on it.

  He had come back to Western Australia with this particular interest, and then I trained in the
UK, developing registers of things like birth defects and other diseases and looked at total
population collections from midwives, notifications of births, birth certificates, hospitalisations
and so on and saw them knit together. I did some further training in North America, particularly
Canada, and came back to Australia determined to set up for Western Australia a complete
population data linkage capacity. That was 35 years ago.

   Basically we have set this up. We have not actually got appropriate privacy legislation in
Western Australia, so we just go by the NHMRC guidelines and the national privacy principles
and legislation. We have not had one breach of privacy in 35 years, which helps, I think, and we
have had huge public good that has emerged from these databases; enormous. The reason I think
it has been so successful here in Western Australia is that is has been driven by users of the data,
not by bureaucracies or others. So it has been driven by a group of academic epidemiologists,
really: people like myself, D’Arcy Holman, Michael Hobbs and so on. We have driven this as an
activity that is important for the health service, important for the causes of disease and important
for looking at how prevention is probably the most important way forward in many of the
diseases that we are looking at.

  Mr RAMSEY—So this database that you have potentially has individual information on it?

  Prof. Stanley—Yes.

  Mr RAMSEY—But your protocols have been good enough to make sure—

  Prof. Stanley—Yes. It is not actually a database. It is data that is linkable, so for each project
we actually get a de-identified linked database and we have to go through a series of ethics
committees to get into this. The people who are linking the identifying information, which is the
data linkage unit—it is an independent data linkage unit consortium which we all fund—do not
have any of the sensitive information. They just have the identifiers. Then we get the custodians

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of the data, who have got all the sensitive information, and they have the linkages and they give
us, as a group of researchers, the de-identified linked file; so it is all separate.

  Mr RAMSEY—Is the enabler enlightened legislation or lack of legislation?

  Prof. Stanley—It is probably lack of legislation, interestingly, but there are very strict
principles about how we do this.

  Mr RAMSEY—How do other countries do this?

  Prof. Stanley—UK used to have this system, but then what happened was that, as they
became more European and dominated by Germany’s concern about these sorts of issues, the
pendulum swung away from access to information in this way throughout all of Europe; America
the same. So Canada and Australia are the only two countries really that did not have that
pendulum swing. We made the point that this was such an enormous public good that we should
have this information. If you do have information you can improve the health system, identify
adverse events and so on, and you do not use it, then I think that is morally reprehensible.

   One of the linkages we are about to try and get up nationally is a pharmacovigilance strategy
so that we could detect a Vioxx having untoward effects much more quickly. That means linking
all of the PBS data into every single outcome that we have. We have done that for pregnancy in
Western Australia and it has been absolutely superb, so we know it is feasible. We did that to
show that using in vitro fertilisation actually trebled the rate of birth defects in women who had
received IVF. It is not going to stop IVF; it is just going to enable better risk and investigation of
the causes of birth defects in that particular group. So there are a whole lot of huge benefits to be
able to look at this data in this way. But we are always aware of making sure that this
environment is supported and supportive of this kind of work, because it is a unique collection or
ability now.

  Dr JENSEN—Thanks very much, Professor Stanley. I am quite interested in some of the
points that you brought up, not so much in this but in your verbal presentation.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes.

  Dr JENSEN—It strikes me that the discussion about international collaborations is going to
be somewhat moot if we do not actually have the next generation of scientists in there doing the
work that is required. You were talking about the issue of passion and so on with younger
people. I do not have this perception that younger people are less passionate. I would like you to
address this issue: do you think there is a possibility that what is dissuading younger people in
scientific areas is in fact the bureaucratic red tape and all of the paperwork that is required?

   Prof. Stanley—A bit. I think much more is what is happening at the moment and that is, ‘I
can’t apply for a career development award; it’s too competitive, so I’m not going to do it.’ I am
just trying to remember how many career development awards—I think there were 28 from
Western Australia last year and we did not get any; not one. We got one in our institute, but she
happens to live in Sydney. This is the early career path of research and it is so difficult. You have
to be a really advanced researcher with international publications and all the rest of it to even get
on the first rung of a pathway that says, ‘I’m going to be in NHMRC and funded as a scholar, as

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a fellow’—that career path. To get onto that first rung is so competitive now because of the
numbers. They had hundreds of applicants for these fellowships last year and the numbers that
are funded across Australia—I am so sorry I did not bring these with me.

  CHAIR—Do you have any indication of what those numbers might be?

  Prof. Stanley—It is just pathetic how many are awarded and it would be worth getting the
data. You just go onto the NHMRC website and get it. I should have done it.

  CHAIR—We will ask them.

  Prof. Stanley—But it would be really good to do that and you can see that it is just daunting. I
do not know that I would go for it if I were at that age and could think of other things that I
could do with my skills.

  Dr JENSEN—That brings us to issues such as NHMRC funding in itself.

  Prof. Stanley—Exactly.

  Dr JENSEN—Obviously the amount of dollars that are in the system is a problem.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes. If I can go back, I do not want to slam these bright young people. I have
an institute full of bright young people who are trying their hardest to make a go of doing
science as a career and I will do everything to try and enable them to do that. The same with the
scientists at PMH in the clinical areas; trying to help them as much as possible.

  Dr JENSEN—Yes.

   Prof. Stanley—But they are daunted by the intense competition and it would be good if it was
not so competitive. You are absolutely right, Dennis, it goes back to how much funding we have
within both ARC and NHMRC that is allocated to these career paths. When we put this up to the
NHMRC they say, ‘But unless we have grants that they can also get’—and they are right—’then
we shouldn’t have too many people in this career path.’ But I do think that they need to look at
it. For a country the size of Australia, the proportion of grants and fellowships that are given is
way behind every other country in the OECD that I know of.

   Dr JENSEN—I am more familiar with the ARC prizes than NHMRC, but how much of a
problem is there in some of these early career researchers trying to get a grant? It strikes me,
certainly with ARC, that one of the easiest ways in which you can ensure that you continue to
get grants is to have success in achieving your goals and, as such, your goals will be not very
challenging so that you know that you are going to achieve it. For instance, someone in Sydney
pointed out that Warren and Marshall’s and Peter Doherty’s Nobel research was not actually
funded by NHMRC, and I know that there has been some discussion about that. I know this is a
‘life, the universe and everything’ sort of thing, but how much of it is the structure of putting in
grant proposals and trying to get those grants and the way in which you win those grants, and
particularly the fact that early career researchers find those grants very difficult to get, having no
track record, so to speak?


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   Prof. Stanley—It is track record that wins you the grant. How do you get your track record if
it is so competitive to get the grant? We are walking this tightrope with our young people where
I use my track record to get the grants and I go on the grants with them, try and make them the
first CIA, if you like—we call it chief investigator A—on the grant, because if they do not have a
CIA grant they are not competitive for any of the fellowships. You have to have that. So it is a bit
of a catch-22. Then you have to prove that they are independent of me; that they are independent
researchers. So we have to use our track record to get them funded. It is, I think, very hard and it
would be very good if we had more funding for the younger people at earlier stages of their
careers.

  Dr JENSEN—Are you talking about a specific pot of money that is allocated to early career
research?

  Prof. Stanley—Yes, early career researchers, and to have the career development awards so
competitive just puts people off. That is a huge issue for Australia at the moment, and I think it is
worse with NHMRC than it is with ARC—much worse.

   CHAIR—Just to follow up on that, it strikes me that the problem obviously in the early career
stages of someone who has decided they wish to pursue their talent or passion for science or
mathematics—and we have not even spoken about social sciences and that area, which forms I
guess the whole picture of the clever country that we want to be.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes. It has got to have every area of science.

  CHAIR—But in relation to the problem that we all hear about and we know exists of young
people who seem to be uninterested in maths and science—and I have tried to understand it and
we did discuss this in the previous inquiry quite a bit—maybe it has to do with the fact that they
just do not see the relevance of it, let alone that they know already that it is just going to be all
too hard; it is not lucrative, it is not quick. I am amazed by how many young people I know who
are at school at the moment are going into the building industry. Suddenly the building industry
has a myriad career opportunities in addition to the bricklaying itself.

  So we keep going back to: where are young people’s heads at the moment in relation to what
they think is a career path that they should follow? If it is indeed in the more lucrative money-
making enterprise economy, where does that leave our innovation? That innovation itself that I
am talking about is a more academic discipline based innovation. Where does that leave us? It
seems to me that we are trying to develop international collaboration but we recognise we have
got a problem domestically. If we focus too much on the one, do we do it at the expense—and I
asked this question last week in Sydney—of building the domestic capacity? How do we do it so
that it works together?

  Prof. Stanley—You will not be able to do it if you do not have the domestic capacity is the
answer.

  CHAIR—Yes, you will not. You may as well subcontract everything out.




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  Prof. Stanley—You are absolutely right about extending it to all of the sciences, because most
of the major problems that we are facing this century are going to require very competent social
science and innovation in social science.

  CHAIR—Absolutely. They must be in a worse situation.

  Prof. Stanley—It is interesting. We are getting as many PhD students coming in to do PhDs
as we have ever had. We have got about 85 PhD students in our institute now and we have just
had 27 new students come in this year. It is huge. They are still wanting to do science, but the
reality check starts to hit. I think that everyone in our institute that has come in as a postdoc is
now trying to get some kind of fellowship or a career development award or something and,
even though we are a full-time research institute, our success rate is low. It is probably about 10
per cent.

  CHAIR—That is very low.

   Prof. Stanley—One in 10. What do the other nine kids do? They have to be on our grants,
which means that they look as though they are not independent scientists but dependent on us
when they are going for their awards and so on. It is very tough. But you cannot be at an
international table and have all these things unless you have got really good science, and you
have to try and grow it up and keep on funding it. It is not something that you just have to fund a
bit of and then hope that it will all somehow grow on its own. It is a huge issue.

   When I talked to Michael Good, he seemed to think that the PhD students coming into his area
were not as good. I think they are. I think we are not seeing yet a group of students who are any
less good than, say, 10 years ago. He feels they are not quite as competent and committed as they
were 10 years ago. I am not seeing that yet.

  CHAIR—A different generation and different thinking.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes, they certainly think differently and so on, but I think they are still pretty
smart.

 Mr RAMSEY—Fiona, who auspices the International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects?
Where is it based? How is it funded? Who has access to it?

  Prof. Stanley—It is a WHI funded initiative, and it does not actually cost a lot of money.

  CHAIR—Professor Stanley, thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you.

  Prof. Stanley—Thank you for your interest in this huge issue.

  CHAIR—We have an interest in it, and we would like to be able to be in a position where we
could make some recommendations that are useful, but we recognise that it is a very difficult and
complex area.




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   Prof. Stanley—Absolutely, yes. Have you had the Australian Academy of Science’s
Internationalisation of Australian science? Has that been something that you have had in your
thinking? They will probably bring it.

  CHAIR—Yes.

  Prof. Stanley—I think Suzanne Cory is the new president, which is terrific.

  CHAIR—I met Suzanne in Melbourne.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes. She is outstanding.

  CHAIR—So we had a chat about some of this before the hearing started.

  Prof. Stanley—Yes. Thank you very much indeed.




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[9.25 am]

BADDELEY, Professor Adrian John, Private capacity

  CHAIR—I now call Professor Adrian Baddeley to give evidence. Although the committee
does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that these hearings are
formal proceedings of the parliament. Consequently, they warrant the same respect as
proceedings of the House itself. It is customary to remind witnesses that giving false or
misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. We
thank you for your submission and now welcome you to make a brief opening statement before
we proceed to questions.

  Prof. Baddeley—Understood. Thank you. I thank the committee for conducting this inquiry,
which I think is really important. I endorse everything that Professor Stanley said. I believe it is
really important that Australia should be at the international table in research terms. I am a bit
embarrassed to be talking about what may appear to be such a minor detail in the big picture, but
I would like to explain that an individual scientist can have, in some cases, a huge impact on the
development of science.

  Professor Stanley talked about a single individual giving a course to 50 people. We know of
examples of Nobel Prize winners where a single person has had an immense impact on the
history of science. I think that one reason why Australia does punch above its weight is that we
have allowed room for quirky individual scientists, as well as building up teams, and it is
important to keep both of these things functioning well. That means that it is particularly
important to enable and facilitate individual travel by researchers in both directions. Research
visits, exchange and so forth are actually quite important, and so obstacles to this exchange
become quite important at the coalface. That is why I have made this particular submission.

   If I could just briefly summarise the submission, I think there are three basic problems: the
compliance cost in organising the visa; the delay involved; and what you might call a sort of
resistance to outcomes which would be scientifically desirable, like the extension of a visit when
it is working well.

   CHAIR—While your submission was very much targeted at that level of difficulty with
visas—and we have heard that from a number of other submissions already—and it may appear
to be trivial, on the other hand it is a bit like a car: if it does not have any petrol, it does not go
anywhere. So it is very important. You have obviously thought about this considerably: can you
tell us just how damaging you think the difficulty in processing visas is? I mean not only in
terms of time; some people do not get a visa, and have to make other efforts to try and get the
visa given after it has been initially refused. We were given an example of an academic in China
who was just refused point-blank. The host was actually in China with him at the time and had to
advocate on his behalf and reassure the Immigration people that this person was intending a
genuine visit to Australia. How common is it and, therefore, how damaging is it potentially to
the way people view coming to Australia?




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  Prof. Baddeley—I think it is potentially very damaging. It is difficult to measure. I think that
some of the impact relates to reputation—the reputation of Australia as a willing collaborator in
science. Although it is difficult to measure, these things do matter when a committee gets
together to decide which country should get the next big project—square kilometre array, for
example—and I am sure all these considerations do matter in the deliberations of such
committees at some level. It is difficult to measure on a large scale, but at a small scale I think I
gave a couple of examples in my submission of people who told me that they were less likely to
visit Australia.

  CHAIR—Yes.

  Prof. Baddeley—I regret both of those cases, and I do know of one person who is possibly
the top expert in my field, who told me that he will never visit Australia. I regard that as a
personal problem for me. I am always visiting him rather than the other way around.

  CHAIR—Can you tell us the country of origin?

  Prof. Baddeley—Germany.

  CHAIR—Germany again.

  Prof. Baddeley—Not the same person.

 CHAIR—No. They will never visit Australia because they have made attempts to come to
Australia and have found the process too difficult, or they are aware of difficulties?

  Prof. Baddeley—I have not been able to drill down too far into that particular comment.

  CHAIR—But you believe it is associated with visa requirements?

   Prof. Baddeley—I think that it may tip some people over. People who regard it as a long way
to travel—

  CHAIR—Take offence at being treated like—

   Prof. Baddeley—may take offence. Some senior people—fragile people—may become
affronted by the nature of the processing. It is also a long way to go and there is a large amount
of work required to get the paperwork together. It is hard to say in totality what was the most
pivotal problem.

  CHAIR—Some of the questions that I imagine prospective applicants for visas to Australia
would be asked could be said to be demeaning. They do not necessarily discriminate between a
high-level visiting scientist, for example, and somebody who just wants to—maybe there is
scope for creating demarcations. I think that we would like to explore that; I will and, I am sure,
other committee members too. We recognise that there is a problem here. I have dealt with
Immigration for many years. All of us in our capacity as members of parliament do this. I myself
have had to become a personal guarantor for the Uniting Church. They wanted to bring students
over to a conference they were holding and they were refused, so I agreed to become the

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guarantor because I knew the people involved. We all have got this experience, so we know how
the department works. It does not discriminate. But it appears at this stage that there may be a
need to set aside a special class of visa that refers specifically to visiting researchers, scientists
and the like. What do you think of that?

   Prof. Baddeley—Yes, I would agree with that assessment and I think that would be a good
thing to do. I worked in the UK for eight years and the Netherlands for four years, so I have
experienced several different immigration systems, and I think people entering the US, for
example, understand that it is going to be a bit of a battle and that there is a lot of paperwork.
But somehow it is not quite as—I hate to use the word ‘affronting’, but I think it is for some
people. What may happen is that a distinguished person is invited to visit Australia, let’s say. Part
of the process involves the inviting university, say, writing a nomination letter, which requires
the host to say why this visit will benefit Australia. I think too often that request is forwarded to
the invitee, who is then in the position of having to write a paragraph or a page about why his
visit to Australia will benefit Australia, and I think that is unnecessary. I do not understand why
it is necessary to even have that question asked. I am not sure that anyone actually evaluates the
answer to that question or is qualified to evaluate the answer to that question, and it is really not
part of the essential core of the immigration process. I think that could easily be eliminated or
modified without relaxing Australia’s broader security issues. So I agree that there are things that
could be done to make the process less repugnant to some individual scientists.

   Dr JENSEN—Professor Baddeley, is this something where you have found that the problems
in the processing differ from country of residence to country of residence?

  Prof. Baddeley—So you are asking about whether—

 Dr JENSEN—Someone from China versus someone from Germany versus someone from the
US.

  CHAIR—Is there a difference in attitude?

  Prof. Baddeley—On the part of Australia?

  CHAIR—Immigration.

  Dr JENSEN—Yes.

  Prof. Baddeley—Yes, I think, in the sense that if we are inviting someone from China we
know that more work will be involved. In an average logistical sense, more work is likely to be
involved, but it is hard to be more precise about what exactly the points of resistance may be.
There have been problems in the past with individuals from Asia with medical problems. If we
want to invite someone who has had polio, for example, we know that we are going to have a lot
of work to do.

  Dr JENSEN—I know that this is going to be a difficult one to quantify: in terms of your
experience with visiting scientists who do not have any medical issues or anything like that,
where there may be some legitimate questions to be asked, how long would the typical


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processing time be from the time when obviously the invitation goes out to the time when the
person is formally given permission to come to Australia?

  Prof. Baddeley—If we want to be absolutely safe we try to allow 12 months.

  Dr JENSEN—That is ridiculous.

  Prof. Baddeley—It usually takes between a bit over six and 12 months.

   Dr JENSEN—These are the sorts of interchanges internationally that we really want and we
should be facilitating them as much as possible. Particularly with highly trained scientists, you
want the situation where the answer should be almost an automatic ‘yes’ unless there are
complicating things. It almost appears to be an automatic ‘no’ and then you have got to jump
through a whole lot of hoops. What is your view? I know this a little bit of push polling, but it is
something that I feel very strongly about; that there does not seem to be a recognition that these
interactions are actually highly beneficial to Australia and Australian research. It significantly
value-adds, not only in terms of our science but certainly in terms of our GDP as well ultimately.
What would you like to see done in terms of visa processing?

   Prof. Baddeley—Yes, I think that is hitting the nail on the head. We should proceed from the
understanding that they do have very important benefits for Australia. I certainly do not think
that every individual visit should have to be justified with regard to its benefit to Australia. On
the contrary, I would agree with you that we should assume that they are going to be beneficial
in the main. That makes commonsense. The majority of the scientific community would like to
see almost immediate granting of visas where the nature of the visit is quite clear and there are
not expected to be any unusual problems.

   Dr JENSEN—Just to draw a parallel—and once again it is going to be difficult to quantify
because there will be some variation—you have said that typically you allow about 12 months in
terms of processing here. What is the typical processing time you have experienced the other
way where you or people that you have known have wanted to go to some overseas nation?

  Prof. Baddeley—For a visit of less than six months I have usually turned up at the airport
without any paperwork and been admitted to the UK, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada
and so forth. For some other countries I have been a bit more circumspect to make sure that I
have got some kind of documentation.

  Dr JENSEN—In those other countries, how much time is required to get that documentation
processed?

  Prof. Baddeley—It would be rare for me to take more than a month to get everything
together.

  Dr JENSEN—So what you are talking about are countries where they are perceived to be
perhaps slow and it is taking a month to get the processing of paperwork, yet coming into
Australia, even from countries like the United States and the UK, it is taking up to 12 months, or
you are allowing 12 months to be safe in terms of the processing of paperwork.


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  Prof. Baddeley—That is right. We need to think about different categories of people. So I as a
senior researcher perhaps have fewer hurdles to jump with regard to justifying a visit. As a
senior person in my field it is easy to explain that there are no people in the country who can
replace me, whereas younger people—say people who have recently graduated with a PhD and
have a postdoctoral position or people who are about to graduate with their PhD, so that on paper
they do not have a PhD—may find it a lot more difficult to be granted entry to some countries if
money is involved. Several other countries have rules which do not allow government research
money to be spent on foreign nationals who do not have a PhD degree, so there is that obstacle.
But if we ignore that, then I would say, yes, it is certainly not a level playing field.

  Dr JENSEN—Yes, that is what I was going to say. It certainly appears to me that
unfortunately visa processing is acting as a significant disincentive to overseas researchers
wanting to come and interact with Australian researchers in a way that would be benefiting
Australia.

  Prof. Baddeley—Yes, I would agree with that: a significant disincentive.

  Mr SYMON—Professor Baddeley, in your experience has this always been the case with a
subclass 419 visa? Have there always been these problems or have they come about in the last
few years? Do you know of anything further back where this process was easier or in fact
harder?

  Prof. Baddeley—First of all, there is a question about which visa subclass should be applied.
In recent years—and I am not sure whether this comes from government or from the university
practices—there seems to have been an increasing use of the 419 visa. So in cases where we
might once have waved somebody in on a tourist visa for a quick visit, that is now frowned upon
by the university HR departments as well as, I presume, by the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship. I have only had limited experience with the 419 visa itself over the last 15 years that
I have been back in Australia; maybe a dozen times. Yes, I have certainly felt that it has been
getting harder and more involved, but I cannot really say that with much confidence.

   But what I can say with confidence is that there appears to be perhaps more second-guessing
by university HR departments and more strict application of the rules of the individual visa.
Once it was sufficient for a university department to issue an invitation letter, which was taken
as sufficient evidence that someone wanted the visitor to come. Now those letters all have to be
signed by the vice-chancellor or another senior officer of the university. I guess in general there
is a drift towards fewer authorised signatories, a more strict and literal interpretation of the rules
of individual visa programs, and also a second-guessing of people in the university system,
perhaps through lack of experience. We have, for example, a very high turnover in HR
departments in universities and one can imagine they would tend to err on the side of the strictest
appropriate visa.

   Mr SYMON—I think it is a given that Australia has a problem with people overstaying visas,
but I think that is probably, from my view, transferred over into the area you are talking about.
The people that you are talking about are senior researchers, PhD students, others that are in
international demand. I do not think, from my perspective, that we have a problem with that
group of people overstaying. Our problem is that they actually leave! It is true. These are
seriously bright people and, if we are going to enhance our international research collaboration,

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we need to have more of them here. We need to make it easier. It would seem to me—and
following the suggestion in your submission—that there should be a separate subclass that,
whilst not getting rid of all the requirements for a visa to be issued, could make the whole
process a lot easier by bypassing some areas that really do not need to be delved into in any
depth.

  Prof. Baddeley—Yes, I would agree with that. I think that would be welcomed fully.

   Mr SYMON—The last thing I wanted to ask you: you did have a section on page 4 of your
submission about international travel and the surrender of a passport to get a visa. I think that is
something that most of us have been through at this end as well. I was interested in your views
as to a possible way around it, because if I apply for a visa overseas I would have to take my visa
off to the consulate or embassy here, or send it off in the post and hope it comes back. In the
meantime, I always get somewhat nervous about whether it will come back or not. The example
that you have given for an applicant from Switzerland having to send their passport to Berlin is
exactly the same. But do you have any suggestions as to how we would get around that, not just
in your field but in our field as well?

   Prof. Baddeley—Yes. With regard to Switzerland, I understand that the Australian consulate
in Berne—I think it is—does process other classes of visa. The 419 visa, since it has more
implications for permanent residence in Australia, is handled in Berlin, as I understand it. A
quick tourist visa or electronic visa can be handled without having to surrender the passport for
more than a few hours in Switzerland, but the 419 visa is the particular class that is processed
elsewhere. I wonder if, in another system, if there is hypothetically a new class of visa
introduced, it would be possible to handle that locally.

  Mr SYMON—It makes sense to me. Thank you.

  Prof. Baddeley—I might also say that it would be good for the local Australian embassy to
have a better understanding of what is going on in exchange between Australia and that other
country. It would be better for them to be seeing those things running over their desk rather than
having them go to another country.

  Mr RAMSEY—Professor Baddeley, this is probably quite serious and it has been raised by
others, and I congratulate you for bringing one single issue to us with some solid
recommendations. I find in lots of things there are so many diverse recommendations that you do
not know where your brain is going, so thank you very much for this. In particular, looking at
page 7 at point 3, I would have thought this is a good idea:

  3. Primary responsibility for verifying the academic qualifications of a research visitor should be placed on the
University, not on the Department of Immigration.

I would have thought that, if we make a recommendation along this line, we should be looking at
some kind of visa class where the inviting organisation takes more responsibility. But, of course,
with responsibility comes responsibility and there would be people I suppose in the system who
would have to stick their neck out and say, ‘Look, this is the right and proper person,’ and there
may be ramifications for the university when they get it wrong. Do you think, by and large, that


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would go down okay through the research world; that they would be prepared to accept more
responsibility for their invitations?

  Prof. Baddeley—Yes, I do. I have not consulted anybody about that, but the university
community has frequently asserted that evaluating an individual’s academic qualifications is a
complicated business. You need to know a lot about the institutional background of different
countries—for example, the different grading system, the different titles, different gradings in a
PhD—and the background about things like prizes and so forth, and it really is universities that
have that institutional background and, I suppose, consider themselves competent to do that. So I
would imagine that universities would welcome this kind of responsibility being given to them,
yes.

  Mr RAMSEY—With the group of universities in New South Wales, I do not know that their
views were well formed, because they were asking for a governmental committee to take over
some of the responsibility for ironing out the visa applications and getting them through. I am
not too sure if they knew exactly where the responsibility for that should stop and end. But what
you have said, I think, is quite pertinent. Can I suggest, Madam Chair, that we invite
Immigration at some stage during our proceedings to go through what their perceived problems
are with these 419 visas. They are all the questions that I have.

  CHAIR—It would be definitely out of left field, but it would not be a bad idea, because this is
emerging as a real issue. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say. Those letters that
have to be written, that prove the intended visit has benefit to Australia: is there any possibility
of getting a pro forma of some of the sorts of things that Immigration deems to be of benefit to
Australia? Maybe we can ask Immigration that. Have you seen any of the stuff that people have
been required to write? You have written them?

  Prof. Baddeley—I have helped to ghostwrite a couple.

  CHAIR—And you focus on?

  Prof. Baddeley—The kinds of things?

  CHAIR—Yes.

   Prof. Baddeley—In the case of a senior researcher, I suppose I would emphasise that his
experience is invaluable and that Australia can learn a lot from him. I have had a couple of
young researchers who are really at the top of their game—they were in contact with novel new
techniques, for example, or new findings, or were well connected with important research
groups—and there I stress the value of the flow of information. The flow of information and the
provision of expertise would be the kinds of things that I normally talk about. Of course, one
could write a page about each individual and I think, if you are honest about this, each such page
is very different; it is specific to the expertise of that individual.

  CHAIR—It would be really up to the institutions, the universities, that invited these
individuals to be the ones that make the case. I think it will be interesting to hear what
Immigration has to say. We want to be able to ask them questions about certainly a lot of the


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issues that you have raised—if we are going to get them in—because clearly it is not a minor
matter.

  Prof. Baddeley—I think I suggest somewhere towards the end of my letter that you could
have multiple choice.

  Dr JENSEN—It seems superfluous though, doesn’t it? Why do it? Honestly, why are you
going to be inviting a person to come and do research here? Are you going to invite them here
because they are of no benefit to anyone?

  Prof. Baddeley—You are putting your money where your mouth is and you could say that
that is sufficient perhaps. Part of the problem, I think, is that people do not really understand
what is required to be written, so we do not know what standards this is being evaluated against.
We do not know how this nomination paragraph is being evaluated.

   CHAIR—The standard evaluation would have to be, from the department of immigration’s
point of view, the risk posed for overstaying. I would imagine that is what they would be looking
at when they make those assessments. That is why all these hoops have to be jumped over—to
ensure that the person coming here is not going to then want to stay. If they are coming from risk
countries—the African countries—that some submissions have already acknowledged could be a
new area of potential collaboration and interest for us, then it is going to severely impede our
international collaborations.

   Mr RAMSEY—It would be good to know what they base that risk factor on; what the
infringements have been over a period of time.

  CHAIR—Thank you. This is one area that the committee is interested in trying to make some
recommendation about. Thank you for your obviously comprehensive thinking about this issue
and I hope that we can come up with some recommendations that can ease this. This is going to
be a real challenge for us, I think, knowing the immigration department. Thank you.

                         Proceedings suspended from 9.56 am to 10.17 am




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O’BRIEN, Professor Brian John, Private capacity

   CHAIR—Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should
advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament. Consequently, they
warrant the same respect as proceedings of the House itself. It is customary to remind witnesses
that giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt
of parliament. Thank you for your submission and I now welcome you to make a brief opening
statement before we proceed to questions.

   Prof. O’Brien—Thank you, Madam Chair. I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak
briefly with you and to answer your questions about that submission of 15 February. Last night I
read the Hansard of one of your previous hearings. I had been intending to have a PowerPoint
presentation here; that dissuaded me. I have a set of photographs instead, so if you have a
question that I can help answer by using a photograph, I will use it and table it. But more
significantly, I think, there have been a few developments since 15 February that I would like to
bring to your attention.

  CHAIR—Certainly.

   Prof. O’Brien—The first point is that my career as a physicist for more than half a century
has been possible only because of international research collaboration. I was a PhD student when
I was 21 and I got my PhD through the US Air Force, flying a high-altitude balloon with nuclear
emulsions. Then in my mid-thirties, as my submission indicates, as Professor of Space Science
at Rice university in Houston, the astronauts put five of my experiments on the moon. Now at
the age of 76, revisiting those measurements, I am repeatedly invited to travel overseas to speak
about recent discoveries, about dust on the moon in particular, and numbers of international
scientists want to come to Perth to join in the research. So the international research
collaboration is a predominant part of my career. But in all of these, each small step—one small
step at a time, if I may use Neil Armstrong’s term—assisting international research collaboration
has been an individual activity. All scientists are scientists, person to person, with the
organisations following on.

   The second point I make is that this submission is individual. Many submissions to you are
from universities and groups of scientists and that is the predominant scientific activity these
days. For example, in the Hadron Super Collider in Europe there are about 10,000 scientists
involved. There are so many that sociologists are studying the whole phenomenon of how
scientists react en masse. But I strongly contend and draw to your attention that individual
scientists are also vitally important for science and international collaboration must allow for
that. The reason is obvious: a new idea or a spark from heaven does not descend on a committee
or a group of scientists; the innovative ideas hit an individual scientist one at a time.

   But individual scientists now seem to be a rare and threatened species. I will not go into detail
about my experiences showing this, but I was the one that discovered the effects of the high-
altitude nuclear explosion, Starfish, in 9 July 1962; the greatest radiation hazard effect that was
ever created, which destroyed seven satellites in orbit. The only one that kept going was the little


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Injun 1 that I built with a group of students, so it was the only source of before and after data for
the Pentagon a few months before the Cuban missile crisis. That was big science, big stuff.

  Small scale is this sort of thing. I have brought along a real-size model of the dust detector,
four of which are on the moon and will be there for more millions of years than we will be
around. If you want to pass it around, it is not fragile. It is just three solar cells which measure
voltage according to the brightness of light and behind each solar cell there is a thermometer to
measure its temperature. So I go big scale—nuclear explosion that destroys three satellites—and
small scale, but in every case it is an individual contribution. NASA and the aerospace industry
were not interested in dust and I had to fight hard to get the dust detectors flown.

   I want to make the point as well that when I invented the dust detector experiment in 1966 my
concerns about lunar dust were actually ridiculed. In fact, the official Apollo 11 preliminary
science report by NASA, SP-214, claimed incorrectly that no appreciable deterioration occurred
from dust blown out by exhaust gases as the astronauts left the moon. The relevance of that is
not with dust, it is the fact that dust will coat something and cause it to overheat and then fail in
the brightness of daylight, lunar day, and that is what happened. I want to update what I have got
in here. Evidence suggests now to me that the new science of dusty plasmas will be a major
scientific energiser of future lunar missions planned by the USA, China, Russia, India, Japan and
the European Union, all for robotic expeditions and some for human expeditions. I want
Australia to be a lead contributor to that scientific energy—very cost effective because we have
got all the data; no more flights needed. We have all the data on hand with PCs. So it would be
very cost effective but with maximum clout internationally, and facilitate international scientists
eager to join the research in Perth.

  But what I did not make clear in my submission is that dusty plasmas are not restricted to the
moon. The moon happens to be the best and nearest laboratory for them. I can read from this and
enter the reference in the Hansard. In 2001 there was a review of A survey of dusty plasma
physics by Shukla and he says such things as:

Dusty plasma physics has appeared as one of the most rapidly growing fields of science … as demonstrated by the number
of published papers in scientific journals and conference proceedings. In fact, it is a truly interdisciplinary science because
it has many potential applications in astrophysics—

and he goes on in detail; star formation, formation of dust clusters and so on—

as well as in the planetary magnetospheres of our solar system—

Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Mars and he should have added ‘moon’, but in 2001 they
did not know it was fast moving—

and in strongly coupled laboratory dusty plasmas.

This is being looked to for fusion research. The moon and its dusty plasmas are the closest
research laboratory we have got. Quite magnificent opportunities. Two more updates: in about
three weeks time I will be giving an invited paper on this research in Vienna to the European
Union. The European Space Agency is very keenly interested in this. To date, in the past 11
months—and it has been a very rushed period, only 11 months—it has been mainly working

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with America and now it is with the European Union as well. So we can add the European
scientists hopefully, if they are sympathetic to what I say, to the group of international people.
All of this has occurred in the past 11 months without any external funding; it has all been self-
funded.

  Finally, I need to bring my February submission up to date, advising you that my proposal
mentioned in there to the new $40 million Australian Space Research Program was found to be
ineligible because I did not ask for enough money. It did not reach the threshold of $1 million. I
do not want to argue my case on that sort of thing because there are proper procedures to make
those points and I will be making them, and we are preparing a written proposal for round 2. But
that is the sort of thing that can happen. With those, I will be delighted to discuss any matters in
the submission and answer any questions.

   CHAIR—Thank you, Professor O’Brien. Clearly, you were an important element of
international collaboration many years ago. I do not know what Australia’s international
collaboration was 30 or 40 years ago, but we are looking at where we need to go today.

  Prof. O’Brien—Now, yes.

   CHAIR—I would like to know, just in relation to your experience in space research, what is
our contribution today? We clearly started off making a significant contribution. Where have we
come to and in Australia space research is not one of those areas that I often—I do not know
about other committee members—come across expressed as an area of interest by young people.
It is not one of the obvious areas of our research capacity building.

  Prof. O’Brien—Agreed.

  CHAIR—That could be my ignorance.

  Prof. O’Brien—No.

  CHAIR—So I would like you to elaborate on that.

   Prof. O’Brien—No, that is a fair comment. I have a number of examples over the years where
it has been difficult to establish international collaboration with significant Australian activities.
Space does remain amongst the most charismatic features of science that Australian students are
eager about. They rejoice in the fun of the astronauts and so on. But it is principally regarded as
too expensive for Australia to indulge in—that seems to be the theme—and not in the national
interest. That seems to be the mood today.

   The Australian Space Research Program is $40 million, which is significant, and new, and I
congratulate the people that have set it up and are running it, but the only thing that I know of
reliably and accurately relates to my own research. I do not want to generalise elsewhere. I do
know that we are sitting on a treasure trove of unique measurements whose worth was realised
only after I published that peer reviewed paper last year. Overseas scientists are eager to get hold
of that. They are clamouring to join in.



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  The expenses, the $30 billion to get the astronauts to the moon, have been spent. The digital
data are available. It is a resource we could use very cost-effectively, and I would like to really
focus on that rather than on the generalisations, because I know that best. I know the
opportunities best from that angle. It is hard to get even that support, because of much the same
feeling that you detect: the moon is remote.

   The Dish was a very accurate portrayal of Australia’s contribution to space activities. It left a
lot out, but what it had in was accurate satire. The dust detector only got to the moon through my
satirising the absence of it. Of course, they had a bigger experiment. A briefcase-sized radiation
experiment was one of the seven proposals selected by NASA, out of 90, for the entire Apollo
mission. So I had to give formal presentations on my charged particle lunar radiation
experiment, and during those presentations I used to occasionally drop in a comment about the
dust detector, and the dust detector got a ride without ever being formally approved. It was one
of only two experiments on Apollo 11, the very first mission, and it showed what I feared it
would show: that the experiments overheated and died prematurely, through dust. So it has had a
torrid life.

  Getting back to your point, as far as I am concerned there is a need for Australia to make use
of opportunities, and I think it is a person-to-person and a university-to-NASA institute
possibility. There are discussions going on between the University of Western Australia and the
NASA Lunar Science Institute, for example, which began because of the dust detector. It all
hinges on hard stuff, not on touchy-feely possibilities. It is a hard reality.

   Mr RAMSEY—Thanks, Professor. I am interested in your warning against, or raising the
possibility of, intergenerational collaboration, once the original participants and the original
programs are finished. I am not a scientist, but I have had some association with agricultural
scientists before, and one of the great worries we always have is that we are going to
commission a program that most of the work has been done on before and, because of the
collective memory, it has just disappeared. I am aware of some soil sampling things that were
quite extensive, still very relevant, and most people have forgotten where the hell the
information is. That must happen on a regular basis. In your particular experiment, if you had
got hit by a bus 10 years ago, this would not have come to light either.

  Prof. O’Brien—That is true.

   Mr RAMSEY—How do we guard against that, or how do we promote that in the longer term
in a general sense? We must be losing information all the time.

   Prof. O’Brien—We are losing an enormous amount of intellectual knowledge. A lot of it is
good old-fashioned commonsense and it is the year-to-year experience of the farmers. If you ask
the farmers about climate change, they will tell you what they think—that ‘droughts and
flooding rains’ will keep coming back; they always will in Australia.

  The great Federation drought, 1895 to 1902, demolished the primary industry on which
Australia’s industry was based. Those will keep coming. So it is not only the particular issue of
agricultural research or how to till the land or anything. It is—getting back to your point,
actually—the culture of Australia, the cultural knowledge of Australia. I think it is vitally
important and I do not see why, quite frankly, there should not be a consolidated effort to use the

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internet capabilities of Bridging the distance to cultivate that, but it would be hard to do, because
the old-timers are dying off, being hit by buses and all that.

  Mr RAMSEY—Will those not happen again, though, the incidents that you quote? Have we
perhaps gone past the possibility of that happening again—

  Prof. O’Brien—No.

  Mr RAMSEY—because people do post their results on the internet now? Then does it stay
there? I do not know.

  Prof. O’Brien—The internet is too ubiquitous. It is not focused enough to deal with the issue
you are raising. You need the equivalent of the CWA or the Farmers Federation. But one of the
realistic problems is that governments—and it has to be government funding—are not interested
in funding recollections of the old-timers, and the new generations need to have their salaries
paid, so they need to be always discovering new things, even if they were discovered before.
Seriously, that is a very practical, realistic problem. I do not know how you overcome it. There
was the future bank that was established to fund universities and whatever. You almost need the
equivalent of a heritage bank to encourage the newcomers to use old data and to go and talk to
the old-timers. The disappearance of the family farms is another issue—things that the kids grew
up with. It is a major issue. It is an international issue and a major Australian issue.

  Dr JENSEN—Thanks very much for your evidence, Professor O’Brien. One of the points
that struck me in your submission is that you say, with regard to comparison with the sixties:

  Whether such management practices would be accepted by modern-day Australian researchers is for them to say.

That is on page 3 of your submission.

  Prof. O’Brien—Yes.

   Dr JENSEN—This strikes a bit of a chord with me, because I am very concerned at the way
we are headed with scientific researches. We are becoming bogged down by paperwork. I will
give a couple of examples. In the late 1950s it was known that the U2 was going to be vulnerable
to surface-to-air missiles, so a replacement was designed. It was the SR71 Blackbird. Everything
about it was breakthrough. It was mach 3.5 at 85,000 feet. The designer, Kelly Johnson, laid $50
on the table if any worker could come to him with anything about that program that was
relatively simple to solve. With that program, it was four years between when Lockheed won the
contract and when the thing was in service. Now we have a situation with the Joint Strike Fighter
where we are getting a substandard capability and it is going to be 14 years between winning the
contract and the thing being in service.

  Another example is the Apollo program. Eight years after the first manned space flight, people
were walking on the moon. We had never done it before. Then you have Project Orion, where it
was announced in 2004 that it was planned to put men on the moon in 2020, and it has now been
cancelled because of problems.



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   I am wondering how much of this is bureaucracy and paperwork. You would be an invaluable
person to ask the question: what was it like back then in terms of operating? You talk about the
fact that we have become so much more bureaucratised. What was it like then to operate and
what sorts of lessons could we learn from that in trying to remove some of the constraints that
we now have on research and actually push the boundaries in a more time-efficient and cost-
efficient manner?

  Prof. O’Brien—I could tell you what it was like then: it was great fun, exciting and very
productive. I saw my first aurora in the Antarctic on the back of a bucking icebreaker and was
just blown out of this world at the sky dancing and all that stuff. I had a photometer that the
Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition had built. There was no way I was going to
waste my time pointing the photometer at this magic stuff. I decided then that I would get hold
of one of these new-fangled satellites and get on top of the aurora, point the photometer down
and see the light, and point particular detectors out to measure what was causing the light—
cause and effect.

   Within two years, with a team of students at Iowa, I had that operating. But that was because
we hitchhiked a ride on a classified vehicle, and then the spring separated in orbit, so it was
unclassified. There are ways to get around that but only if you have program managers in the
system who are interested in outcomes. Unfortunately, most of the processes that I know of now
require bureaucratic support in order to make approaches to meet other bureaucratic responses
and the message sort of gets lost in there somewhere. I do not know how you beat that, because
it is not just in science; it is pervasive. That is a very long story.

   This one could be fun, it is fun and it is creative and it applies to plasma physics,
astrophysics—all sorts of things—but it is a long, hard road and my superannuation is sick and
tired of paying for all of it, and cannot afford to pay for it, so it has got to be broken free. At 76 I
will fight but I am not as feisty as I used to be.

  Dr JENSEN—How would you contrast the way we go about international collaboration now
with the way we went about it in the past? Is that entire process also far more bureaucratised?

  Prof. O’Brien—Yes, it is, because the way I started is to contact an individual scientist. You
have to have an individual responsive scientist at the other end. In America, they are stuck with
the bureaucracies, as you say, and in Australia we are stuck with bureaucracies. So the two
creations, the two sparks from heaven, have to go up through this and they have to meet before
funds can come back down again. I really want to be able to phone up, as I do now, somebody in
Cleveland—taking account of the 12-hour time zone—and get his response and I give him my
response, and it is done. I do not think this is the forum for pleading about this whole process. I
do not know what is, because we see, day by day, headlines in the newspaper. It does not matter
what is happening, the process is the thing, not the outcome.

  Dr JENSEN—So we are becoming process driven instead of outcome driven?

  Prof. O’Brien—Not ‘are becoming’; are. It is a fact of life. And there are a lot of people
depending for their livelihood on process. If you eliminate the process, the unemployment rate
would go right up.


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  CHAIR—We were having that discussion just before about the bureaucracy. I think it is an
important area to look at.

  Prof. O’Brien—I think the culture has to change and that is a generational process; that is not
an item-by-item process.

  Dr JENSEN—Is it something that can be driven from the top? What is required?

    Prof. O’Brien—It is both from the top and the bottom. If you use sports and the Olympics as
an example, the processes were simplified by getting the special—I have forgotten what they call
it, but the advanced sports training capability.

  Dr JENSEN—The Australian Institute of Sport.

   Prof. O’Brien—The Australian institute. That was designed to cut across processes. I am sure
that there are equivalents, led from the top, like that, and then you can feed that back into the
students and train your scientists, as they are doing in the Institute of Sport.

 Dr JENSEN—You do have a significant history with science and scientific processes. What
were the stages that developed into us becoming so process driven?

  Prof. O’Brien—I ignored the processes generally; went around them. That may be part of the
problem, of course.

  Dr JENSEN—But in general terms how has science and the scientific research establishment
become so process driven?

   Prof. O’Brien—Well, for the Hadron Super Collider you have got billions of dollars
involved; you have got 20-odd nations; you have got 10,000 scientists, all with different
individual sparks from heaven that they think are better than the other fellow’s. You have got to
join those in some way to cost-effectively spend your two to three billion dollars and get the
outcome. That has not been a happy history. It started up and then died for a year or so. I still
always come down to individual to individual, because that is where the creative ideas come,
that is where the 100-metre runners or swimmers come; the pole vaulters. It is the individual
performance that counts. Something has to be done to facilitate that before they die. It comes
back to your point as well—the generational gap. That will be aided by the high-profile people
doing that sort of thing as well.

  Dr JENSEN—You brought up quite an interesting comparison with the AIS, for example. The
problem that we are finding with, for instance, the ARC et cetera is the business where you have
people that have ‘a proven track record’ who have access to the grant money and some of the
very talented people that are very early in their careers do not. There are probably some very
important lessons to be learned from how we identify sporting excellence early and foster those
people. You get people that are identified in their early teens as being a very good talent, or even
earlier, and they are given significant support. We can clearly do the same thing with students
and yet, apart from things like stipends and so on that PhD students get, there is not really that
same level of support given, and particularly once they have got their PhD. I mean, postdocs is
not a great process to go through. I would like to get your feeling, given that you identify the

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sporting analogy, on how we could go about facilitating some of those young talented people and
keep them engaged, rather than switch them off and maybe send them elsewhere.

  Prof. O’Brien—I do want to suggest that there are indications of more encouragement of both
younger scientists and outstanding scientists around. But I think it comes back to what the
chairman was saying right at the start: it comes back to the culture of Australia. Governments
can afford to take short cuts, if the outcomes are popular—vote-getting, let’s face it. There is a
culture in Australia of sporting excellence. There is a historical record of scientific excellence
which has not quite fed into the culture yet, I do not think. The story goes that there are more
column inches spent in most newspapers to astrology than there are to science reporting. I make
no value judgement but—

  CHAIR—But it is true, too.

  Prof. O’Brien—Yes. Newspapers and media are in the business to make profits, as well as do
the other things they do. It comes back to the Australian culture and I do not know the answer,
quite frankly.

  CHAIR—I will come back to that later.

  Mr SYMON—Professor O’Brien, I would like to go back to the archive data, in particular
accessibility for that archive data and—the example you give in your submission—data that was
recorded on tapes and can no longer be read.

  Prof. O’Brien—Yes.

   Mr SYMON—Obviously that is not a unique situation nor is it a unique format. I suspect that
there would be vast reams of data accumulated over many decades, if not centuries, that are
either filed away and not publicly accessible or are filed away in formats that we cannot access,
and that would not be just an Australian problem. I am certain that is worldwide. In terms of
research collaboration internationally, I must say up to this point I had only thought of the
present and the future. I had not put my mind to the past and there has obviously been a huge
amount of very good work done by so many people over so long that it would seem to me that
there should be almost a public good in trying to collect as much of that as possible, digitising it
and making it available for researchers of today and the future. I would like your comments on
that, please.

   Prof. O’Brien—I support all of that. I think that it bears to Mr Ramsey’s point as well. The
notebooks of the farmers are not digitised; they are hard to get; they are lost. It is a real problem,
but it is now being gradually recognised. It is recognised by a special program in NASA, but that
is lumbering along for various reasons—practical reasons, such as tapes were stored in the
basement at Rice university and Houston has floods; the tapes were flooded. I was lucky that my
tapes were looked after by John DeLater, a colleague here at Curtin university. He stored them
and, when I wanted them after 35-odd years, I could wander in and get them.

  They are now stored with the group SpectrumData, who are in the business of extracting and
correcting and updating data storage. There are numbers of groups around. I had never heard of
them before they phoned me up. They had seen the newspaper thing—’Can we help?’—and it

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was their excitement about the tapes that actually as much as anything contributed to me waking
up and looking at them again, looking at the data again. They are world leaders, but there are
many such groups, and they are competing actively worldwide. I think it is a very real issue. You
can look at it as heritage or you can look at it as straightforward practical reality, the sort of thing
that we need to make use of past history, but of course you have got the old classic that the one
thing that mankind is really good at is ignoring past history, whatever it is.

   Mr SYMON—That is true. We have a National Film and Sound Archive, for instance. It goes
without saying: people accept that we should have it. When it comes to scientific data, I do not
think there is that same sort of approach.

   Prof. O’Brien—It is not just scientific data. Phil Law, the director of the National Antarctic
Research Expedition, had about 20 years of his personal notes on all the expeditions for
Australia, which gave Australia the so-called mandate over 40 per cent of the Antarctic. He
could not get those published; it broke his heart. But there are people around and, if they are
lively enough, they will make contact when the opportunity arises. But they are flat strap; they
are all over the place.

  Mr SYMON—As you said before, that relies on an individual rather than there being a
systematic collection and publication.

  Prof. O’Brien—Yes. In the systematic side, you start getting bogged down by process again.

  Mr SYMON—But that should not override data being mislaid or unused.

  Prof. O’Brien—Agreed. But the reality is that NASA set up a national space data centre and
they misplaced the Apollo tapes. The first high-resolution film of Neil Armstrong coming down
the ladder was made in Australia by an individual at Tidbinbilla, or at Honeysuckle Creek, and
that has been misplaced.

  Mr SYMON—It is incredible.

  CHAIR—What a loss.

  Prof. O’Brien—On a lighter note, Madam Chair, can I just give one more space
reminiscence. The Australian movie, The Dish, is my delight, as is The Castle. The first
photographs of Armstrong coming down the ladder were transmitted by Goldstone in California
as the reception was being lost and transferred to Australia. They showed, as the Australians
were quick to point out, Armstrong coming down headfirst. He was upside down. So the
Australians told the Goldstone people, ‘Please flip switch XYZ,’ and they flipped it and
Armstrong came down the right way. That was not in The Dish. But things happen.

  CHAIR—It has been a very interesting exchange, Professor O’Brien.

  Prof. O’Brien—Thank you. I hope it helps you in your important task.

   CHAIR—It is part of a series of submissions that are raising similar issues. If we can narrow
it down to some significant ones that we can make recommendations on, then I think that will be

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useful. The whole issue of culture, which I understand to be Australians’ attitude towards learned
people, probably needs its own little examination and hence we prefer to read astrology in the
newspapers rather than other things. I believe that that undermines our efforts in many ways.

   Prof. O’Brien—Madam Chair, I hope it is proper for me to make a point on that. Culture is
not an issue of learned people; culture is often just sheer commonsense. I met more wise truckies
in my hitchhiking days than I met wise professors.

  CHAIR—It is a very good point. Thank you.

  Prof. O’Brien—Thank you.




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[11.00 am]

CAKIR, Associate Professor Mehmet, Private capacity

  CHAIR—Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear?

  Prof. Cakir—I am from Murdoch University but appearing in a private capacity.

   CHAIR—Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should
advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament. Consequently, they
warrant the same respect as proceedings of the House itself. It is customary to remind witnesses
that giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt
of parliament. We thank you for your submission and now welcome you to make a brief opening
statement before we proceed to questions.

   Prof. Cakir—Thank you. It is really a great honour to have this opportunity to be with you
and to provide some feedback from my experiences, particularly in the last 20 years, having
lived over three countries. I am originally from Turkey. I left at 25 and lived in the US for about
eight years and then moved to Australia in 1998, so enjoying the world in different ways, I
suppose. This gives me a lot of pleasure and advantage in fact to be able to deal with my work,
my environment and my family and it is a great enjoyment for me to be able to have that
opportunity.

   It was a coincidence for me to find out about this inquiry a few weeks ago in Canberra and so
it was a great opportunity. In fact, that was one of the reasons that I went to Canberra, to try to
engage with colleagues there to build up international relations and collaborations, and I thought
this was the perfect opportunity and timing to exploit my experience and to be beneficial to the
committee. Thank you.

  CHAIR—You do not want to make any further statements?

  Prof. Cakir—I did not know the full proceedings here so I prepared a little presentation for
you from my hands-on experiences.

  CHAIR—You have prepared?

  Prof. Cakir—Yes, on a memory stick, but I do not see any computer presentation here.

  CHAIR—Are you able to speak to it for a little while?

  Prof. Cakir—Certainly. How much time do I have, if I may ask, so I can pace myself?

   CHAIR—A few minutes for the presentation, because then we will go to questions; about half
an hour, so that we will have an opportunity to ask questions, because a lot comes up in that
interaction as well, and we can get an idea of where your thinking is. Your submission is very
comprehensive.

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   Prof. Cakir—Particularly in the last eight years I have been actively involved in research
development in Australia and I have been engaged in quite a bit of collaborative activities
throughout Australia, as well as overseas. In the last three years I have built up quite a network
of collaborations across literally 10 countries and even more, depending on the level of
collaboration. One of the reasons I had to do that, especially in the last few years, was that I
started one major project that was funded by Grain Research and Development Corporation
towards pre-emptive breeding of wheat and barley—grains crop—of Australia against an insect
that does not exist in Australia but exists everywhere else in the world.

   Our aim is to introduce the resistant genes into our germplasm so we actually have a certain
level of resistance and protection in germplasm in case the aphids—it is aphid actually—come to
Australia, otherwise we could have the experiences and losses that other countries had of
literally hundreds of millions of dollars. It is a very deadly insect. In fact, in our work in the last
couple of years we have been testing our existing cultivars in Australia and they are all
extremely susceptible. As soon as we put aphids on them, they are dead. So investment is right
on target and obviously this is one of the pests that is a priority for our industry and there are a
few others that probably need to be studied in a similar fashion.

   Particularly for this sort of research, international engagement is a must, otherwise I could not
really do my work. Half of my work is actually done with overseas partners, for example,
because I cannot bring the insect here so I take my germplasm there and they test for me and we
work together. So we ask scientific questions and address the issues. I had linkages with three
countries in Africa, Argentina, US, France, Turkey, Iran, Syria—literally every continent
established a network. When we talk about developing international linkages and relationships, I
have established a capacity for myself at the moment, but beyond my capacity really. The issues
at the moment just deal with this particular problem, but I have the opportunity now to explore
any problem with our partners that we want to deal with, because establishing the relationship is
really the most fundamental step. I must admit, having money is not necessarily the only
solution. The issue is how we actually spend the money.

   In my submission—I looked at a few other submissions later on—there are lots of details there
and lots of dot points, but later on I went back and I said, ‘Look, Mehmet, there are too many
here. Can I take some of them out?’ But I looked at it and read each and every one of them and I
tried to make a point, really, about how we can explore those relationships and spend our money.
It is not that we do not have money; I think we have enough money in the system, but how we
spend it is the key. I tried to think again from top to bottom, or bottom-up approach, what is the
most important, and I still feel that it boils down to personal linkages; skills, expertise that we
need to have on the ground that can link us with the people overseas. To me, that is really the
starting point and then having institutions focused on international emphasis and encouraging the
scientists and staff to ensure that these linkages have been further developed through investment.

   That is where we need money. Once you establish the set-up then money should not be a
limitation. So there is no limit then; the sky is the limit really. Again, the most important thing is
having the personal link, because you cannot buy people with money. This is my experience. I
started my project with maybe two or three partners overseas that I knew in the last 15 years, but
then we started finding out who was doing what in different countries and started to engage with
them, first just through emails and then I literally travelled to those countries.



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  One thing that has happened is that I have had over 300 hours in flight literally in the last two
years. I had to do this, because one thing I believe is that, yes, we have the technology available
with computers and media, but still nothing replaces that face-to-face engagement. It needs to
happen once and then things move really nice and smoothly. In fact, in my case it really
developed a big community, and now my colleagues in Argentina and Turkey are establishing a
prototype of the same project, trying to encourage their funding agencies to provide funds. So
we are creating a big spiral, expanding similar type of work in different countries.

  In fact, I am organising an international workshop on the matter later this month in
Singapore—because that was the most economical point for us to meet—and invited about 30
scientist partners from all these countries. GRDC have supported that and the CRC for National
Plant Biosecurity have been very supportive of this activity as well, because it is a biosecurity
matter.

  So in a nutshell, these engagements really have been very positive and build strong links. To
achieve anything now with any colleague, between me and that colleague is only a phone call
and email really, and that goodwill is so important. I cannot stress that enough. The issue here
again is how we build capacity in our country.

   We are asking big questions here. Again, I try to point out a lot of strategies that can be built
through state government, through our federal government, through institutions. I actually put a
section there for researchers even, but in the end I did not want to go through here. But there are
things that researchers can do, or encouraged to do, to build these linkages. It is really important.

   The other thing I was thinking was, ‘What have I left, after writing everything down?’ I
thought the other thing that can be done at our federal level probably is establishing a database
of institutions around the world. I look at this as a top-to-bottom approach: global engagement is
our main aim; then we have to look one step down to continental engagement; then regional
engagement in each continent; in-country level; and in each country, institution level. I do not
think this is that hard.

  There may be 1,000 or 2,000 institutions. But we should be able to have this giant computer
idea of where we are linked and who is linked where? What is the research expertise that we
have in Australia that is linked to where? Are we capturing all the knowledge and expertise that
exist in different parts of the world? I think we can ask these questions. Maybe these already
exist. I am pre-empting, I suppose. This would be very useful to have, to provide feedback to our
institutions and scientists—you know, where is the missing link?

   It is all about networking and networking creates superpositive spiralling. I call this ‘positive
spiralling’ because the more you network, lots of opportunities come along the way that you do
not even plan for, so I value it immensely. That is the top-to-bottom approach. I am also a big
believer of the bottom-up approach, meaning we need to start from our little babies and kids, try
to train and educate them, because at the end of the day, with other inquiries that our government
has had—there is a workforce inquiry that has dealt with building science and research
capacity—they are all linked obviously to each other.

  I believe still the key is starting from primary schools and at high school levels, encouraging
kids first to get a higher education and then encourage them to research in areas that we need

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more scientists, more engagement. There can be more work done in that area that I call the
‘grassroots programs’.

   Recently I came across a couple of such programs. One is run by the state government here,
the Department of Commerce. It is called BioGENEius program. It links the upper high school
students to scientists in this state. It is a mentoring program. It is a fantastic way of encouraging
students involved with the scientists and university to get into research. But guess what? My
colleague in the department said, ‘Unfortunately, we have more students wanting to be involved
than we have mentors.’ I said, ‘Why?’ Again, she does not know the answer to that but these are
time-consuming activities, by the way. We have to appreciate that scientists are all busy. You are
all busy, we are all busy, so incentives may be the key.

   I am involved in the program. I am going to take on two students in my lab. What I have done
is talk to one of the honours students in our department and she just loved it. Now she is helping
the program and I will assign one of the students to her. So it takes a little bit of effort to
encourage the scientists and get them involved in these sorts of programs. This can build huge
capacity, I believe, because we need to count every bit.

  The other one I came across is in primary school level, trying to introduce kids into science
and plants et cetera. I am not sure if it exists in other states. I am still finding out which ministry
sponsors that program. It is education, very likely. This particular one that I am contributing to,
or trying to help technically, is Rostrata Kitchen Garden project. What happened is that Rostrata
Primary School, which is in the Willetton area as Dennis might know, got $6,000 from the
government over, I think, three or four years, and they designated an area of one acre of land.

   They are going to establish a garden. They will plant all sorts of crops and trees but the
students will be engaged. They have hired one officer, I should say, and she will also teach the
students a little bit. I thought this is again another fantastic way of getting students involved into
science, getting some quantitative measurements. It excites me to see these sorts of programs.
We need to think of these sorts of bottom-up approaches that can build up capacity and
encourage students at high school level to go into college. That is something we need to work
on.

  My wife is a maths teacher. She used to teach and now she is trying to get into more teaching,
but we know three or four of her friends resigned from the system in the last three or four years,
just because of the conditions and whatever. So we need to be able to think. These are highly
experienced teachers. My wife tells me all these stories of when she was teaching full time.
When you think of that now, life has to be made easier for teachers and we have to support them.
They are fundamental to our future.

  Mr SYMON—Better career structure.

   Prof. Cakir—We are talking here about international collaboration, workforce and everything
else. But we really need to focus on right there, build on our education system. That is where we
start on science and maths. We know that we have a shortage in these areas, specially maths. We
have the resources, but we need to develop strategies: how we can retain the people in teaching
as well as encourage people to choose teaching. That is the other thing, because now a teaching


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job is not necessarily a priority, is it? Probably not. People that could not get into something else
that they want to, they just by default get into teaching.

  I feel these are fundamental issues, so I am very passionate about them. We need to invest in
these areas and everything else will come out. But if you do not, then what is the opposite of
that? I have three nephews from my wife’s side. Two of them already at year 11 quit high school.
The third one is year 10. I talk to her every time when I meet her, ‘What do you want to do?
How can we make you get into college?’ We need to work on these issues, transferring to higher
education.

   Higher education will not guarantee them a job, by the way; not necessarily a higher paying
job. But my principle in life is that people should experience higher education to be better
people. If we have better educated people in the environment, we will have fewer problems in
our society. There will be much less expense by our governments. Then those moneys will go
into even further development. You see how we can generate positive spiralling. We foster a
child from Department for Child Protection and the amount of money they spend for each child
is incredible. As soon as someone gets married, I think government should pay this family so
much money every month just to ensure that money is not a problem for people, to help
problems in life, But other issues are obviously in there, if they have problems; it is not money.

  So it is just social. There is so much need in this society at the moment to foster children; for
example, the social problems in the night-time with young kids walking around with no
connection. I can go on and on here. I just had a great discussion with my mother-in-law a
couple of days ago about the family values. She is 75 years old; mum probably thinks that mums
should think of children and look after kids. Maybe that is old-fashioned but she says, ‘We need
to start from young and build on there.’ I reckon we are going to have a great society. We have
the resources.

   CHAIR—Thank you very much. You have covered an incredible breadth and certainly you
have alluded very strongly to something that everyone on this committee understands because of
a previous inquiry that we conducted. Although we are looking at international collaboration, it
is very obvious to us that we need to concentrate on not only building our domestic
infrastructure—which is our students, which is our young people, and they are the ones at high
school and as far back as primary school, and it is all about teaching—but a whole series of
significant development needs to take place. I am intrigued by a number of things that you have
said. Initially you were talking about your collaborations internationally and how funding was
not necessarily as big an issue as the actual face-to-face and the networks, and they are all very
important. You seem to be very successful in what you do. In terms of funding—because I guess
money makes the world go round, doesn’t it, in many ways and wonderful research loses out
because it cannot get hold of funding—how does that work for you?

  Prof. Cakir—I should be careful here now. If my colleagues read my transcript and it says,
‘Money is not the problem,’ that is probably—

  CHAIR—No, I know what you are saying.

  Prof. Cakir—I use that in a different context, okay?


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  CHAIR—Yes.

   Prof. Cakir—As I said, I can show you one email. It was in my computer; I was going to
show you. This happened just Saturday morning as I was actually preparing for this today. I had
a great visit to England, the University of Manchester, 15 months ago. I have a very nice
colleague there. We do not really have at the moment active collaboration. We do not need to
have active collaboration with everyone. We need to meet people and link with them. That is so
important. That colleague had a postdoc from Mexico. He is now in Mexico, working in one of
the institutions there. With this postdoc, he is developing an international project there and he is
asking me if I want to be the Australian leg because the project will involve plant biotechnology
and human genomics. It is a cross type of project. This email is just amazing. All I did were my
initial contacts and talked to people. Now they are coming at me.

  CHAIR—Are they coming with funding, Mehmet? Are they actually providing funding for
you?

  Prof. Cakir—Sure, because they will apply for funding to the Mexican government.

  CHAIR—So you are not going to have to worry about making applications to the ARC or
anything here in Australia to fund your involvement in this?

   Prof. Cakir—What would be desirable, for example, in a later stage—sure, they will provide
to me some small funding from that project—what would make a really valuable contribution to
the overall project would be if I come up with core funding from my end to contribute to the
pool.

  CHAIR—Do you foresee problems getting that core funding for this proposal? It obviously
sounds very interesting.

  Prof. Cakir—No, this is just an overall statement.

  CHAIR—Okay.

  Prof. Cakir—I do not see the source that I can actually write away, ring and then find.

  CHAIR—The source is not there.

  Prof. Cakir—I do not think. I mention somewhere in my recommendations that there should
be flexible funds somewhere in the system.

  CHAIR—You did, yes.

  Prof. Cakir—This should be trust obviously. Trust needs to be built between scientists and
the system.

  CHAIR—Yes.



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  Prof. Cakir—Otherwise you might have people that are misusing the system as well. It is not
just that somebody justifies. This to me is an opportunity. We can explore this, get the best
overall. One of my visits over the last two years, the most inspiring one was actually visiting
MIB in the University of Manchester. This is a medical centre, five-storey building, and it is
really a modern, architecturally designed, fantastic building. It has a big foyer in the middle and
on one side of the four-storey building they have 400 student desks on every floor, open to grab
postgraduate students, and the other side offices et cetera. When you sit in the middle of that
building you smell something. I told my colleague; he laughed. You smell science in that place—
the postgraduate students. It is producing scientists. So being able to engage with these sorts of
centres for us is invaluable. We have some of those centres. I do not want to undermine our
capacity in Australia. We have very modern facilities in Australia, but we need to access other
people, connect with other people. These are opportunities. So with small funding I can easily
get into this consortium and that is only one of them.

   I can show you another proposal: a colleague in Argentina is doing exactly the same one. She
is applying to her Argentinian agency. I am from Australia, a colleague from UK, a colleague
from Germany, a colleague from South Africa, we are trying to establish an international project.
Really, it is an opportunity there. So what I am saying is that, once you start these engagements,
the limit can become money and that is why how we invest our money—prioritising—becomes
an issue, obviously.

   Mr SYMON—I would like to go to your suggestion of a publication support team, which I
think was on page 7 of your submission, in particular:

... to assist researchers to publish and present their research outputs/products as publications and as presentations in
national and international platforms to make a worldwide impact.


It would seem that there is, as we have heard from previous witnesses, not necessarily that flow-
on at the end of research that is done, where it then gets across to the wider global community.
Are you suggesting with a recommendation like that that it would be a government driven
program from an Australian end of things, but it would also obviously need input from overseas,
so it becomes a two-way flow of information?

 Prof. Cakir—I think I actually made that suggestion under ‘Institutes’. I did not by any
means make a suggestion that government should really support—

  Mr SYMON—I suppose I am making that suggestion.

  CHAIR—Yes. We are making the suggestion.

   Prof. Cakir—I probably put that there as really considering my own situation. I have got so
much engagement that I do not have time to write lots of papers. Unfortunately publication is the
key. I think that probably I put that down there to create awareness within the institutions that
having that sort of support could help really busy people because unfortunately, when you come
to a certain level in the research, in the science, you spend most of your time with the
communications, engagements and writing projects, unless you have PhD students and honours
students, and that is where it would require support funding. That is what happened in the US.
Most of the publications in the US are written by the students, by postgraduate students; and

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here the same too, by the way. There is no question about that. But I think that just having that
awareness—probably that is why I put that down—that would really help the system to enable
people to produce more.

  Mr SYMON—So in some ways it would be a bit of an administrative service, in that a lot of
the dotting of the i’s, crossing the t’s type of stuff could be done; take some of the load off
researchers but you are making it easier, without impacting on the quality of the paper in any
way, to get it published.

   Prof. Cakir—Yes, that is true. Still a scientist needs to be obviously in charge, but writing
really involves several steps—you write a draft and another draft and another draft—so along the
line I think that if somebody has a high level of writing skills, for example, that could certainly
speed up the process, especially for people like me where English is not the mother language, I
have to admit that. So I always find, after 20 years, writing perfect English is not necessarily
easy. I also have to admit that I find trying to write something in my own language, in Turkish, is
taking me even longer now. That is the reality.

   Mr SYMON—The other question I wanted to ask was about something on the previous page.
I have not seen anyone else suggest it so far, but I think it is quite good—that is, the provision of
grants or funding:

   ... for retired, renowned scientists to visit research groups and postgraduate students so
students can benefit from their ... experience.

  I am surprised that we have not seen anyone else put that down in writing.

   Prof. Cakir—That is so important. I read this whole thing, I read this so many times, and
when I come to that one I say, ‘That hits the line.’ You know, you have ideas when you talk to
people. I have a very respected colleague here in Western Australia, Neil Turner—I have to
mention his name; you should know. He has been invited to China very frequently to assist
students in China. When I was a student, I used to read Neil’s papers in the US, by the way, so he
is a very well known colleague worldwide. He is retired now and he does a little work still,
through the University of Western Australia, and every now and then he goes to China, stays a
month there and he goes to the students, because in China every student needs to publish at least
one paper before they can graduate, so they just sponsor him—and they take him around and he
has a holiday. I talked about this quite a long time ago and I made the same comments to my
colleagues in Turkey. They asked me for some recommendations—not in this capacity—and I
made similar suggestions; I am not sure if they have taken them up. But I believe there is a great
value there.

  Mr RAMSEY—Thank you, Professor Cakir. You make reference in here to Murdoch’s
success in the last 10 years: 22 to 43 per cent of their journal articles are based on international
collaboration or have an international collaboration component. What have you been doing at
Murdoch to be so successful—and given that some of the earlier evidence we took would
suggest that our performance in agriculture research in Australia is very strong? They must be
doing something right at Murdoch to have that kind of growth.




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   Prof. Cakir—Yes. I have to acknowledge and admit that our university is quite active in the
international collaboration area. This was obviously a personal submission, in a way, and I really
did not have time to exploit and explore my learned colleagues. I know one colleague, for
example, receives a good amount of funding from the US, from the Gates Foundation, and
several colleagues in Murdoch are leading international researchers in the genomics area as well
as agronomy, and connections to African countries are very strong. So I am certain that those
numbers have been impacted by those engagements. I ended up having these numbers here. At
the time that I was preparing this, our vice-chancellor sent an email around and I saw the
numbers there, and I just put it there.

  Mr RAMSEY—The other thing is not connected, but you have listed the number of
collaborations and whatever, and we have taken evidence this morning and previously about the
visa system in Australia, the difficulty with getting visiting researchers in and it taking up to 12
months to get them through the system, when for other countries they can get through in a month
or less. Have you any experience with that? Is it frustrating?

  Prof. Cakir—A very timely question. This might cost me $500 or $600 right away! I
mentioned to you the workshop that we are organising in Singapore in two or three weeks time.
A colleague coming from Argentina has to stay two hours in Sydney to go to Argentina and she
needs to have a visa. She went to the consul once—and I do not know the full details, so I do not
want to make any false statements. I think she is supposed to go back on the 16th. She lives in
La Plata, which is an hour and a half from Buenos Aires, where the consul is. So I think probably
there is room to improve. She is an experienced professor at the university there. Why would we
even worry about a visa in those sorts of situations? Obviously these are government policies
and I have to be careful of what I am saying, but there are situations where things should be
made easier.

  Mr RAMSEY—Have you run into similar frustrations trying to go to other countries when
getting visas for you or your students to go and work—

  Prof. Cakir—Actually, no, I must admit. The countries that I have visited, no. The only visa
that I had to get from here was the one when I was going to China a few months ago. Otherwise,
every other country that I went to, if there was a visa, I got it on the border. It was just quick,
yes; no problem.

  Dr JENSEN—There are two things that I would like you to have a bit of a chat about here,
Mehmet. One is: you are clearly very effective and very experienced at establishing and
maintaining relationships with international colleagues. How do we foster that sort of ability
with other researchers? Science can be quite insular in some ways and some people are not
particularly good at doing that now. It seems to me that you would be a resource in this area that
could potentially be used elsewhere. How do we foster that sort of thing?

  The other thing that you mentioned was the issue of flexible funding. Obviously the ARC is
way too rigid in the way that it funds. I would like your view on that and your view on the form
that that flexible funding would take and how you would go about not only setting it up but,
indeed, facilitating that process.




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   Prof. Cakir—Yes. On the first question, I actually made somewhere, I think, the suggestion
that we need to make sure that existing capacity helps others. How can we do that? I guess it is
still through engagement within our country. A strategy can be introduced there. It should start
locally. I made another suggestion somewhere about the institution of an international
collaboration focus group. Establish an international research focus group, the idea being that it
can foster relationships. This can be expanded into the institution of a regional focus group in
Western Australia. I reckon this can be done very well. I can tell you that many of my colleagues
in Australia have a lot of international experience. They are, some of them, more senior than
myself, and these colleagues are very effective, and their experience and our experience can be
utilised through these—focus groups? I do not know what we would term them. Yes, I can see
the opportunity there, but I think starting from local universities, state-wide, interinstitutional,
and moving upwards.

   I think we have to develop programs carefully. We have to remember that in Australia we are
also very competitive amongst ourselves. There is no way of hiding that. The way our funding is
established leads to that competition, in a way, even within states, and competition is not a bad
thing, at the same time. So it is all about balance, I think: creating and fostering the relationships
that help everyone so that the institutions, and the researchers that do not have the ability and
opportunities, can actually engage. We have to create open minds, because there is sometimes
scepticism as well, to ensure that people will benefit from it. We are sometimes territorial, in a
way. I believe there will be opportunities to establish regional focus groups, international focus
groups, and we can make these relationships better. There is room there. Your second question?

  Dr JENSEN—Flexible funding and the ARC.

  Prof. Cakir—Unless ARC allocates such funding, I see more opportunity within Innovation,
Industry, Science and Research—Kim Carr’s department—because, in government, each
ministry probably has flexible funding for it. We are not thinking big dollars here, probably. The
more the better, but I suppose just some funds show that you are there, and I can give you,
honestly, several more examples of trying to establish research collaborations in Africa. I did not
go into it too much there. There are so many opportunities and it is not that expensive in Africa.
With a small input we can generate lots of output.

   CHAIR—We do not have time, unfortunately, but it has been a very interesting conversation
and it has had the length and breadth of this committee’s experience in its previous inquiry and
certainly in its current one. So thank you very much and I am hoping that we can all come up
with recommendations that could go some way to addressing some of the issues that you have
raised and certainly a lot of others have raised as well.

  Prof. Cakir—Thank you again for the opportunity.




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[11.41 am]

BEVAN, Associate Professor Alexander William Robert, Head, Department of Earth and
Planetary Sciences, Western Australian Museum

JONES, Ms Diana Susanne, Executive Director, Collections and Content Development,
Western Australian Museum

   CHAIR—Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should
advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament. Consequently, they
warrant the same respect as proceedings of the House itself. It is customary to remind witnesses
that giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt
of parliament. We thank you for your submission and now welcome you to make a brief opening
statement before we proceed to questions.

  Ms Jones—I do not know if you have had many museums appearing before you.

  CHAIR—No, we have not yet.

  Ms Jones—Especially in the science area, people are often not understanding about remits.
Our remit is to study the geodiversity and biodiversity of Western Australia. That is actually in
our Museum Act, so we employ scientists who are specifically meant to do that. We have been
established since 1891 and we have large collections. We are the largest collecting institution
obviously in Western Australia. Our research is based on our collections and collecting around
the state to actually showcase to people through education and exhibition the wonders of
Western Australia. Alex, would you like to add anything to that.

  Prof. Bevan—Yes. In terms of what we actually do, we are a very diverse organisation. In
addition to those kinds of sciences we do materials conservation, which is also part of science;
maritime archaeology; maritime history; and historical inquiry as well, all of which really
require research.

   CHAIR—Obviously this inquiry is about building international research collaborations and
you were present when the former speaker spoke significantly about the quality of the
relationships being fundamental to actually having success in developing the networks. Can we
have some response from you in relation to the importance of building those networks in order to
enhance our collaborational research internationally? Where are we at as a country from where
you view our international collaboration? Where are some of the fault lines?

  Ms Jones—I think we are at the beginning of things rather than a long way in. From our
experience, in the museum world it is often through individual people having relationships with
overseas institutions or our staff or ourselves who have gone to work in those institutions and
formed those relationships. So they tend to start off on a rather informal basis. People in our
industry too have found that we have not until recently been able to really participate in ARCs as
partners. So there have been a few prohibitive measures as well.


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   Prof. Bevan—In our submission we point out that we currently have 33 international
collaboration projects, with 49 international partners from 20 countries, I think, which is quite a
large amount for what is a relatively small organisation. We are obviously looking to increase
that collaboration whenever we can and I think it is on the increase. Of the total number of
projects that we undertake, those international ones account for a fairly large percentage.

   CHAIR—Do you see any shortages in our current domestic capacity—that is, our younger
people or younger academics or researchers—in that field that may impact on our capacity to
develop those international collaborations. If so, can you identify some of the areas that you
think there are some difficulties.

  Prof. Bevan—One is taxonomy and I will let my colleague talk about that.

   Ms Jones—Taxonomy is the naming of species and identification of species. That is the big
problem. There is virtually no university now who actually teaches taxonomy. There are very
few young people coming into that area and, in terms of succession planning, that really does not
exist in most areas. The EU and the USA in particular have very good schemes where they have
recognised that as a problem and they are training people, but in Australia we are not, so our
average age of taxonomists is probably 60, 65 plus. People might say, ‘Why just naming
species?’ but taxonomy underpins biodiversity, which underpins lots of—you can look at
changes of species over time, so things like global warming. It has great application in things
like medicine. We do a lot of work with doctors, with people who have poisonous stings or bites;
you have to identify the species that has done that, like mosquitoes. There is great economic
importance to lots of these things. We do a lot of work on introduced pests, either invasive
marine pests or terrestrial pests. So there are huge economic benefits of being able to name
species and this seems to be a whole area which has been really missed, or we are not planning
into the future for this.

  CHAIR—Are there any other areas? Taxonomy is a very unique area, isn’t it?

   Prof. Bevan—Throughout the activities that we do, if you look at our staff at the moment,
most of them would be of our age, looking towards retirement in not too many years ahead. I
think all of us look to see where the next generation of scientists is going to come from,
particularly with our expertise, and it takes a considerable number of years to gain that expertise
over and above tertiary education qualifications. So succession is a major concern for us for the
next generation.

  Mr RAMSEY—This issue has come up a number times and it has really only just occurred to
me. Is that a symptom of our changing workforce, where we have had many more females stay
in the workforce for a much longer time, to very good effect, has actually created a lack of
opportunity at the bottom end for a number of years and now we are paying the price for that?

  Ms Jones—In terms of museums, I think a lot of it is actually financial. I think the place of
museums has been not really recognised in terms of science and it is very hard to compete with
some of the big scientific institutions in terms of job opportunities, of equipment and those sorts
of things. That is why we work collaboratively because we need to get those negatives—

  Mr RAMSEY—So we have had vacancies for a long time in some of these fields?

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  Ms Jones—Yes.

  Mr RAMSEY—That was the crux of the question.

  Ms Jones—Getting back to taxonomy which, although it is a specialised field, is something
that is in every natural science museum in the world and everybody is finding the same problem,
we have less than 50 per cent of our curatorial force now because of not being able to fill
vacancies, which in itself can be a driver for us to go and look in different directions.

  CHAIR—Yes.

  Ms Jones—One of the things that we have been very successful in is working with industry
here, because certainly we have got all the extractive industries here and when they want to have
a new mine—whether it is on the land or they are mining in the ocean—they have to do
environmental impact surveys, so the museum then has to get involved in that aspect in verifying
the species that are found. We have found it very productive to work with BHP, Woodside,
Chevron; we work with all of those major players. They are great benefactors to us. We actually
do get positions, albeit they are three-year temporary positions, but it does give us a chance to
give some employment to people.

   We have got most of our major equipment in the museum through these grants as well. So we
have had to be, in that sense, entrepreneurial and that has taken us very much into the
international spectrum. For instance, we have had a huge relationship with Woodside and we
have had a $3 million project with them in the Dampier Archipelago. Through that we used 85
scientists around the world in that project. It was a truly international project and we could not
have done it without the funding from Woodside. We could not have done it any other way.

  Prof. Bevan—There can be a little bit of a downside to all of that. You can become victims of
your own success, in the sense that a lot of money comes in and it can outstrip our core capacity
to carry out the work sometimes. So we take on more and more contract staff, there are fewer
and fewer permanent staff and you can see, as projects come and go, that eventually your core
actually starts to shrink, not grow.

  Dr JENSEN—One of the previous people giving evidence—who is actually in this room—
was mentioning that there is a lot of data and information out there that is not digitised at the
moment—in other words, it is in handwritten form and so on. How much work is the museum
doing in terms of getting that information, which could be incredibly important and incredibly
meaningful in terms of some of the scientific research, particularly when you are looking at
changes over a long period of time? How much work is the museum doing in terms of digitising
some of that information?

   Ms Jones—We do it according to our capacity and our staff. That is the basic answer. It is a
very slow job and it is also a very tedious job obviously because of all the checking. A lot of our
stuff is in very old handwritten registers. We have got a way now to scan and digitise the written
registers and we are doing that. Again, I can quote Woodside, because we are now doing a
second work with Woodside in the Kimberley to do with the Browse Basin area and looking at
the biodiversity in that whole area. As part of that project we said, ‘We want to database all the
historic records’—not just in our museum but we asked all the other museums in Australia who

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had those data records to come in with us. So that is being done at the moment and is an
absolutely massive job.

  Dr JENSEN—How do you go about identifying that stuff? Obviously you have data in your
museum, and records, that you want to prioritise in terms of digitisation, but there are also
records out there that are probably not part of any museum but which may well be as important
as, if not more important than, what you have got out of there. How do we go about getting those
records and digitising them? What measures do you take to find out, in effect, what is out there?

   Ms Jones—It would be purely project driven at the moment. So if somebody has a research
project, part of their research is to go outside of our records and find all the records, but on a
day-to-day basis. Basically, we digitise as much as we can. That means that stuff that is coming
in at the moment, contemporary things, are beginning to be digitised, but there is a huge backlog
from 1891. It is interesting that there are no Commonwealth initiatives at the moment to help us
with that. You might have heard of the ALA—the Atlas of Living Australia. There is money
there for doing everything but databasing and digitising records and, to me, that is really starting
at the rather high end when really what you want is this data below.

  Dr JENSEN—Is this something where there is a lot of work done with museums, both within
Australia and overseas, as to what is the best way to go about this? Is there discussion between
the museums about what sort of information and records are probably the most important to
digitise on a global basis?

  Prof. Bevan—At a departmental level, we are currently putting digitisation of the records as a
quite high priority. But as Diana says, there are a lot of records that are not and it is going to take
us a long time to do that. There are huge demands on the records that we have already digitised.
We feed information, largely biological information, to NatureMap, which is run by the
Department of Environment and Conservation. We have a collaborative—

  Ms Jones—It is a collaborative project.

 Prof. Bevan—memorandum of agreement about that. We feed then that information to
OZCAM—which is actually a museum?

  Ms Jones—It is all the museums from Australia.

  Prof. Bevan—It is all the museums in Australia.

  Ms Jones—And their digitised information is in the one spot.

  Prof. Bevan—And now we are probably going to get demands from the Atlas of Living
Australia as well to feed our data through to them. So it is a huge undertaking. It will take us
quite a while.

  Ms Jones—From there it can go into the Global Biodiversity Initiative—GBIF—so it can go
higher out into those things. Even though we have got that initiative, it is still a very small
proportion of our information. In terms of talking with other museums internationally, we do, but
again it tends to be on a museum-to-museum basis. As is the same with all computer things,

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people cannot agree on programs to use, databases to use, and you have to be able to have things
that talk to each other. That is now happening through things like OBIS and GBIF. So there are
international conventions for that now, but it still takes a long time to get that going.

    Dr JENSEN—Thanks.

   Mr SYMON—On page 9 of your submission under the heading of ‘Impediments to
international collaboration, and practical measures to address them’ there is a line that is a bit
orphaned from everything else and that is:

•    Lack of matched funding from Australian agencies.
I am trying to get you to expand upon that so that I know what you are highlighting.

  Prof. Bevan—I was thinking particularly in relation to funding specifically set aside to
encourage international collaboration, whereby we could demonstrate to a funding body that we
were prepared to put an amount of money into this, detail the nature of the project and then
obtain an equivalent amount of money from some funding agency. I do not know whether any of
that exists anyway. I looked very hard. It may, but I could not find it.

  Mr SYMON—I do not think that I have heard of that either. That is probably the first time it
has been mentioned here; that there may be an amount available from an institution that is
waiting to be matched by a grant from government or other source for that particular purpose. So
that is good. Thank you.

   The other one I wanted to ask about is on the same page as legislative restrictions, I suppose in
a museum sense more than in a university sense, about impinging on the freedom to send or
receive materials. I would also suppose in some ways that legislation may assist as in, as you
mentioned before, the issue of Woodside. Particular legislation might actually require some
companies to engage in research in particular areas, so possibly that legislation is a two-way
street. I would like to hear your views on that, too.

  Ms Jones—In terms of the sending and receiving of scientific materials, a lot of that is to do
with the dangerous goods legislation, because if you have material it is usually preserved. I am
really talking about preserved material mostly here, but it is preserved in what can be conceived
as noxious chemicals or explosive chemicals.

   With people now working on DNA, the trend is that, if you have got DNA samples, you send
them in alcohol. Some areas, some legislations, let you send specimens if you reduce your
alcohol to 25 per cent, others 35 per cent. Some want it down to two per cent. With some
legislation, if it comes in, it will be sent back to the country of origin and you cannot get it into a
country. So there are some things like that which are quite difficult. I think people now are really
trying to work to find a non-noxious substance to send material in so that you do not destroy the
actual genetic components of it.

 Mr SYMON—So that is not a local Australian problem; that is dealing internationally,
whether by air or sea transport?



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  Ms Jones—Yes. We do have some problems with AQIS with different officers who do not
understand why you are sending specimens between museums and again you get things opened
or actually sometimes destroyed, which can be a bit embarrassing if you have borrowed
something from another museum. But I really think that is probably more a matter of education.

  The legislative thing that we are finding most difficult at the moment is to do with
bioprospecting—that is, where you have active molecules, molecules which you could use for
drugs, say for curing AIDS or cancer. People are looking in marine invertebrates in particular for
these active molecules so there is a lot of interest in them. One of the problems, if you do find a
biologically active molecule, is to do with the profit sharing if you did develop something at the
end; a drug. At the moment in Western Australia we do not have a legislative framework and
background for that and that is hampering research because it is hampering people investing in
the whole process.

  Western Australia, we are finding in the marine environment, has a hugely diverse
environment, especially in areas like sponges, which are at the moment the animals that people
are looking at for these drugs; so that is really holding back that in this area. At the moment they
are looking at the Northern Territory legislation and I think they are hoping that something can
happen, but we have been pressing for something to be happening there for the last four or five
years.

  Mr SYMON—You mentioned the Northern Territory legislation. Are there any other states
that have legislation in relation to bioprospecting, or other countries overseas?

  Ms Jones—Yes, there are. Obviously the United States has, and there are various other
countries overseas. Queensland and the Northern Territory have legislation here.

  Mr SYMON—They are the only other two jurisdictions you are aware of?

  Ms Jones—As far as I remember. We could take that on notice and I could definitely come
back with a definitive answer.

  Mr SYMON—Thank you.

   Prof. Bevan—I have listed here the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act, which of
course prohibits the unauthorised export of certain categories of materials, including scientific,
usually class B materials. We operate under a general permit which allows us to send out
material for loan. If we are going to send out things permanently, then we would have to apply,
like anyone else, for an export permit. That is in there not because of the scientific materials
themselves, but it could be a problem if you wanted to do scientific research on say cultural
materials, which would require obviously the consent of communities as well as regulatory
bodies like the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act. So I could foresee that, although
not much research is done at the moment, in future it might be. That is one aspect.

  Mr RAMSEY—You have largely answered what I wanted to ask, because I was interested in
that bioprospecting as well. So you are telling me that none of the states in Australia, maybe the
Northern Territory, have laws that are really capable of dealing with this issue?


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  Ms Jones—It is a very new area.

  Mr RAMSEY—Given that state limits are 12 miles in the water—is that right? Territorial
waters?

  Ms Jones—Yes.

  Mr RAMSEY—There are also Commonwealth issues there, I would have thought.

  Ms Jones—Yes, as well as state.

  Mr RAMSEY—Given that anything between 12 and 200 will probably be the
Commonwealth’s responsibility.

  Ms Jones—Yes.

  Mr RAMSEY—That is interesting, because obviously not all science is funded by those
seeking to make a profit, but a lot of it is.

  Ms Jones—Indeed, yes.

 Mr RAMSEY—And it is a good way to get things moving on the fast track, so I think we
would be wanting to get prepared for that.

  Ms Jones—There is a huge amount of interest, because we have a library of sponges, sponge
samples, which we could lend out and let people use but we cannot at the moment with the
legislation.

 Prof. Bevan—Exactly. But, although it has not happened yet, we are positioning ourselves for
when that time occurs.

  Mr RAMSEY—I have a mate who reckons he comes from a family of sponges, so you might
be interested in them as well!

  CHAIR—We need to draw this to a close. Thank you very much for presenting before us
today.

  Resolved (on motion by Dr Jensen, seconded by Mr Ramsey):

   That, pursuant to the power conferred by paragraph (o) of sessional order 28B, this committee authorises publication of
the evidence given before it at public hearing this day.


                                      Committee adjourned at 12.07 pm




                                   INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION

								
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