Imagine… the future of science and publicly-funded scientists

Imagine… the future of science and publicly-funded scientists

Margie Atkinson

Imagine a world where knowledge is the prime currency for all, irrespective of education level and socio-economic background, and where adoption of knowledge across business and the community drives the economy in Australia. A world where all people are encouraged and supported to be curious and embrace diverse and critical thinking and innovate. Imagine a world where publicly-funded scientists are embedded across the innovation ecosystem and have social licence to operate because they are trusted to collaboratively deliver evidence-based solutions that have a measurable positive impact for Australians and the economy.

In this world, the next generation of scientists graduate with domain expertise as well as competency in design thinking and essential skills such as creativity, critical thinking, effective communication, collaboration and experience working in cross-cutting teams. At the same time, existing publicly-funded scientists embrace the opportunities that employers provide for them to upskill in these areas recognised as critical for success in solving complex problems to deliver impact.Imagine that publicly funded science research organisations (including universities) are the connection points for local innovation ecosystems.

Bringing together specialist clusters of kit, technology, capability and knowledge alongside the knowledge and experience of the industries and communities seeking to co-create transformative solutions for complex problems. Imagine that this public-private partnership approach is well understood as being a ‘value chain’ where people and institutions play to their strengths to generate new ideas and take ideas and solutions from concept to reality. In this scenario the role of public investment in research infrastructure, science training and research is widely recognised as a critical de-risking component to enable further private investment in science-based innovation.

Now consider the increasingly wicked problems we face globally and imagine that we solve these by putting together the very best mix of people and facilities. Using design thinking principles to deeply and rapidly understand the problems before they try to solve them, these trans/ multidisciplinary, cross-sector teams build collaboration from shared strategic purpose and an assumption that more can be achieved together than via each on their own. Putting together these ‘dream teams’ is achieved through the integration of technology and people who are boundary spanners and connectors, to find the kit and capability needed at various points along the pathway from ideas to impact. Obstacles to effective collaboration have been removed or minimised – administrative systems and processes are more interoperable allowing people to move fluidly across organisational boundaries to work in these teams.

In this world, a triple bottom line lens is taken to achieving impact; effective cross-sector partnerships share risk and reward; planning, monitoring and evaluation of impact and partnership health is routine; and behavioural motivation is based on a ‘win: win’ approach, not a ‘zero sum’ game.

Margie Atkinson is the Executive Manager Collaboration at CSIRO.
She has a marine and environmental science background, and more than 18 years practical experience developing policy and strategic programs, and as a knowledge broker and change facilitator. Highlights during this time have included working in multidisciplinary, cross-sector teams: to rezone and manage the multi-use, iconic Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; to develop climate change adaptation strategies with the Queensland fishing industry;
to bring together opposing points of view to co-create new management arrangements for a politically sensitive fishery in a World Heritage area; developing research partnerships to support the sustainable development of Northern Australia; developing a novel industry-PhD partnership program; and building an evidence-based planning, monitoring and evaluation framework for supporting strategic research partnerships that deliver transformational impact for end-users and other key stakeholders.

 

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