Lately, I seem to be developing a serious intellectual crush on Dr Alan Finkel, our current Australian Chief Scientist.
Not only is he an innovative and entrepreneurial scientist, he's a fellow Monash alum, he co-founded Cosmos magazine, and most recently, he's been trying to solve our energy 'issues' in a way that is economically and environmentally rational. What's not to love? But it's what he's been doing to profile and promote Australian scientists that I like about him the most.
Last year Dr Finkel called on all Australians to get to know the names of at least five living Australian scientists during National Science Week. His rationale was that we can all name at least five current athletes, particularly during the Olympic games. I know I can name many more than five highly skilled actors, musicians or artists without a reminder from the Oscars, Grammy's or a trip to the National Gallery.
His challenge aimed to get the nation to recognise Australian Scientists. There were over 800 scientists named in the #5ScientistPledge -which is great! But with a STEM workforce that includes at least 53,271 doctorates (based on 2011 data), is 800 a bit low?? Was this just scientists naming their scientist friends? Did the campaign really reach the nation or just the science twitterati?
His latest tag #AusScienceHeroes has a growing list of amazing Australian Scientists. For those not on Twitter, you can find the profiles online too. These (currently 10) profiles are a step in the right direction to shine a light on the (under-recognised) talent in this country. And I suspect, with their short, punchy format (only 4 key questions and an action photo), a bit more interesting and easy to absorb for any up-and-coming young scientific minds looking for inspiration.
They are certainly an improvement on the dry Australian Academy of Science interviews which were the only collection of Australian scientist profiles I could find easily before Dr Finkel's campaign. While we must continue to celebrate the lifelong achievements of these, our most distinguished scientists (after-all science doesn't happen overnight, it takes a career), it's the current Early Career Researchers and young professional scientists that will entice the next generation of Australians into STEM careers.
We need to make our Aussie Scientists more visable but also more relatable if we're to improve enrolments in STEM and encourage kids to take on science careers (and provide the skills our future workforce desperately needs).
So good start Dr Finkel, keep the profiles coming. From my calculations, there's got to be a few thousand more to come...! Meanwhile, I'm going to get on the bandwagon and start adding a few of my own here http://empiricalresearch.com.au/researchers/