Education – Policy Forum https://www.policyforum.net The APPS Policy Forum a public policy website devoted to Asia and the Pacific. Fri, 13 Sep 2019 05:52:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.11 https://www.policyforum.net/wp-content/uploads/cache/2017/01/favicon/2924535576.png Education – Policy Forum https://www.policyforum.net 32 32 Podcast: Language barriers https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-language-barriers/ https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-language-barriers/#respond Thu, 05 Sep 2019 23:23:07 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=35821 This week on Policy Forum Pod we take a look at Australian education language policy and ask whether we’re doing enough to give young people the language skills they need. Language is a powerful tool in increasing engagement, communication, and cross-cultural understanding, and could play a vital role in fostering relations between Australia and the […]

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This week on Policy Forum Pod we take a look at Australian education language policy and ask whether we’re doing enough to give young people the language skills they need.

Language is a powerful tool in increasing engagement, communication, and cross-cultural understanding, and could play a vital role in fostering relations between Australia and the Asia-Pacific. So how can we make sure we’re giving students the language skills and experience they need? On this week’s Policy Forum Pod an expert panel – Associate Professor Angela Scarino, Grazia Scotellaro, and Luke Courtois – discuss policy to encourage the study of Asian languages and whether it’s doing enough in the Asian Century. Listen here: https://bit.ly/2km8ANZ

Our presenters – Professor Quentin Grafton, and Lydia Kim – also discuss what the latest twists and turns in the Brexit saga tell us about the state of democracy in the UK, tackle some of your questions and comments, and welcome some new members of our Facebook group.

Angela Scarino is an Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics in the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages at the University of South Australia and is the Director of the Research Centre for Languages and Cultures. She was visiting ANU to take part in the Innovative Language Education Symposium, organised by the School of Culture, History, and Language.

Grazia Scotellaro is the Digital Learning Advisor for the College of Asia and the Pacific at The Australian National University and has a background in Technology Enhanced Language Learning.

Luke Courtois recently graduated from The Australian National University with a Bachelor of International Security Studies completing a double major in International Security/Thai language.

Quentin Grafton is Professor of Economics at Crawford School, an ANU Public Policy Fellow, and Director of the Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Policy Forum.

Lydia Kim is a presenter for Policy Forum Pod.

Policy Forum Pod is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherSubscribe on Android or wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or join us on the Facebook group.

This episode of Policy Forum Pod was produced by Lydia Kim, written by Lilliana Cazabon-Mitchell, and edited by Branko Cvetojevic, with executive production by Martyn Pearce. Special thanks to Gouri Banerji at the ANU School of Culture, History, and Language, and Angus Blackman in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

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Democracy Sausage podcast: Campus free speech, and cheerio coal https://www.policyforum.net/democracy-sausage-podcast-campus-free-speech-and-cheerio-coal/ https://www.policyforum.net/democracy-sausage-podcast-campus-free-speech-and-cheerio-coal/#respond Mon, 02 Sep 2019 06:24:47 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=35738 On this week’s Democracy Sausage podcast we take a look at free speech on university campuses, ministerial discretion in refugee requests, and ask whether nuclear power has a future in Australia. On this Democracy Sausage, we discuss freedom of speech at universities, the new religious freedom bill, and ask whether its time for Australia to […]

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On this week’s Democracy Sausage podcast we take a look at free speech on university campuses, ministerial discretion in refugee requests, and ask whether nuclear power has a future in Australia.

On this Democracy Sausage, we discuss freedom of speech at universities, the new religious freedom bill, and ask whether its time for Australia to say thank you and goodbye to coal. Mark Kenny and our panel – Will Grant, Julie Hare, and Sarah Ison – also take a look at the politics of refugee decisions, and ask whether Scott Morrison has quietened tensions in his party. Listen here: https://bit.ly/2kkHk25

Mark Kenny is a Senior Fellow in the ANU Australian Studies Institute. He came to the university after a high-profile journalistic career including six years as chief political correspondent and national affairs editor for The Sydney Morning HeraldThe Age, and The Canberra Times.

Will Grant is Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at The Australian National University.

Julie Hare is Associate Editor at Wonkhe. She is a freelance writer, editor and consultant with particular expertise in higher education.

Sarah Ison is a political correspondent for The West Australian.

Democracy Sausage with Mark Kenny is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or join us on the Facebook group.

This podcast is produced in partnership with The Australian National University.

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The value of social sciences https://www.policyforum.net/the-value-of-social-sciences/ https://www.policyforum.net/the-value-of-social-sciences/#respond Thu, 29 Aug 2019 01:53:01 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=35664 Science is great at solving problems, but research funding should also reflect the crucial contributions of other disciplines to that process, Merryn McKinnon writes. When President John F Kennedy first addressed the US Congress in 1961 and proposed sending a man to the moon within the next decade, the challenge seemed insurmountable. Yet here we are, […]

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Science is great at solving problems, but research funding should also reflect the crucial contributions of other disciplines to that process, Merryn McKinnon writes.

When President John F Kennedy first addressed the US Congress in 1961 and proposed sending a man to the moon within the next decade, the challenge seemed insurmountable. Yet here we are, 50 years later, acknowledging the anniversary through the theme of National Science Week – Destination Moon – and discussing the next frontier of sending humans to Mars.

Kennedy issued a call to arms for the marshalling of resources and political and societal will to overcome a grand challenge. The grand challenges of the different eras have yielded tremendous outcomes for society. What was once inconceivable, such as a cure for polio or a certain technological capacity, is now commonplace.

We live in an era of yet even more ‘grand challenges’. The National Science and Research Priorities outline some of the most pressing.

But let’s pause and consider that title for a moment. Science is important yes, but is it really a distinct and separate entity from all other research?

Of Australia’s nine research priorities, all will deliver outcomes for society. The development of policy to inform decision making will be based on the evidence collected and curated under the focus of these priorities. Many will require the support of society to be effective, especially those relating to the environment, health, and energy.

This is hinted at in a few of the descriptors which include terms such as ‘trustworthy’ and ‘attitudes’, but overall it is very science-centric.

More on this: From 'publish or perish' to 'collaborate or crumble'

Measuring concepts like attitudes and trust is not the typical task of pure science. They rely on the expertise of the humanities and social sciences, yet the knowledge generated by science appears to be privileged over that which can be gained from disciplines like sociology and history.

This is also seen in the Research Infrastructure Plan which allocated around $25 million out of a total pool of $600 million to social science research linking datasets to transport and infrastructure research.

Supporting scientific research is indeed valuable, but privileging that research and knowledge over other disciplines carries great risk, as perhaps best illustrated by Brian Wynne’s 1992 study involving Cumbrian sheep farmers and the Chernobyl disaster.

In the aftermath of Chernobyl, scientists imposed restrictions on the sale and movement of sheep in the Lake District of Northern England due to soil contamination from the radioactive fallout. Scientists were confident their predictions were accurate and created field-based experiments to formulate further advice.

They did not acknowledge the farmers’ in-depth knowledge of their own land, to their detriment.

Bans that were initially promised to last a few weeks became indefinite. Field testing consistently showed their predictions were incorrect. Farmers suffered extreme financial hardships.

More on this: Cultivating research expertise

It was eventually revealed that the scientists were basing their predictions and advice on how the chemical element Caesium behaved in clay soils.

If the scientists had spoken to the farmers, they would have very quickly learned that the soils in the region were peat, not clay, and therefore reacted entirely differently to caesium.

This knowledge would have helped to formulate appropriate experiments to produce effective advice. But the scientists privileged their knowledge and expertise over that of the farmers.

Aside from the prolonged financial consequences for the farmers, the credibility of the scientists was undermined leading to a loss of trust. Once trust is lost, it is very difficult to regain.

This is an oft-cited example of why engagement with society is vital for science. Aside from the benefit of local knowledge, science and technology can sometimes go wrong or create negative consequences. Having established dialogue and trust may help minimise controversy if and when things do go wrong.

This is embodied within the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach within the Horizon 2020 program in the European Union Programme for Research and Innovation.

More on this: The case for an Asian research area

The purpose of RRI is to involve society in the whole research and innovation process, to foster inclusion and engagement. As a science policy framework, it is seen as a key mechanism to “bring science into democracy, and democracy into science”.

Last year, Professor John Keane from the University of Sydney wrote: “democracy is a living reminder that truths are never self-evident and that what counts as truth is a matter of interpretation”.

The quality of that interpretation will rely on the perspective taken and the body of knowledge underpinning that perspective. Is the singular perspective of science enough?

While science may generate answers, it does not have a monopoly and nor should it. The Academy of Science recognises this, specifically noting “the importance of research in all disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences, to the national interest”.

Our national interest requires us to address several grand challenges, many with society at their core. Understanding society through our history, beliefs, values, along with what makes us quintessentially human will strengthen, not detract from the future we envisage through research and innovation.

Science needs other disciplines to allow us to generate ideas and solutions at our full potential.

As Kennedy stated in his address to Congress “in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon; if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there”.

In our case, our research priorities tell us where ‘there’ is. Policy must support all disciplines to work together in order to reach it.

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Planning for the worst https://www.policyforum.net/planning-for-the-worst-2/ https://www.policyforum.net/planning-for-the-worst-2/#respond Wed, 28 Aug 2019 03:08:07 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=35629 Australia’s policymakers are building a framework to reduce the risk and impact of natural hazards, but there is a need for a complementary education strategy, Annette Gough and Briony Towers write. Preparing responses to natural and human-made hazards starts at an early age. There is no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster, only natural hazards. […]

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Australia’s policymakers are building a framework to reduce the risk and impact of natural hazards, but there is a need for a complementary education strategy, Annette Gough and Briony Towers write.

Preparing responses to natural and human-made hazards starts at an early age.

There is no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster, only natural hazards. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts, and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention.

In 2018 the Australian Government released a National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework. This recognised that natural hazards are becoming more frequent and intense, that essential services are interconnected, that people and assets are more exposed and vulnerable, and that disaster impacts are long term and complex.

The National Framework complements the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which built on previous international frameworks around disaster risk reduction, but significantly broadened the scope to focus on both natural and man-made hazards and related environmental, technological, and biological risks.un

Educating people on how to prevent, mitigate, prepare for hazard events – such as bushfires, cyclones, flooding, and other extreme weather events – so that they do not become disasters is a challenge for all sectors of society.

The National DRR Framework recognises the need to increase awareness of the potential long-term and highly uncertain impacts of disasters through formal and informal education and community-driven engagement. It also identifies disaster risk education as a key priority for action.

More on this: Townsville floods demonstrates need for better disaster planning

Disaster risk reduction and resilience education is particularly important in schools. The National DRR Framework notes that links between policy, research, operational expertise, and formal education should be strengthened to support disaster risk information capabilities.

There is currently no formal education strategy to accompany the National DRR Framework. This is an urgent need at national, state, and territory levels.

Fortunately, there have been developments at the international level that can help guide the development of an education strategy.

The Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction & Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNIDSR) have developed the Comprehensive School Safety Framework, which aims to reduce the risks of all hazards to the education sector.

The goals for Comprehensive School Safety (CSS) are to protect students and educators from death, injury and harm in schools, plan for continuity of education through all expected hazards and threats, safeguard education sector investments, and strengthen risk reduction and resilience through education.

Together these form the basis for the three pillars of the CSS Framework. These pillars need to be addressed by education policy at national, state, regional, district and local school site levels.

More on this: The Brief: Designing for disaster

As GADRRRES argues, CSS must be addressed through education policies and plans aligned with disaster management at national, regional, district, and local school site levels, and incorporating all three pillars. At the moment this is not happening in Australia.

The Australian curriculum includes content that provides opportunities to engage students with understanding disasters and developing appropriate responses to reduce risk.

Curriculum areas with relevant content include health and physical education, humanities, arts, social sciences, and science.

While some of this content is related to disaster risk reduction and resilience, it is generally not related to school emergency management planning.

School disaster management is concerned with assessing infrastructural, environmental, and social risks, as well as developing capacity and planning for educational continuity.

All of this is generally encompassed within school emergency management planning.

Schools in areas that are exposed to natural hazards such as bushfire or floods have specific emergency plans developed alongside their local emergency services.

More on this: Changing the mindset for dealing with natural disasters

However, these emergency plans are often developed without student involvement or incorporation of curriculum considerations, which means that students, and their parents, may be unprepared if an emergency occurs.

A final consideration is the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools (WISS), a government-led global partnership for advancing safe school implementation at the national level which was launched in 2014. The initiative promotes good practices and achievements in school safety for replication in other countries and regions.

It helps identify challenges and offers technical assistance and particular expertise around the three pillars to support interested Governments in implementing school safety at the national level. Currently, Australia has not committed to WISS, so this is another policy challenge.

The sector, however, is not short on ideas. The Disaster Resilient Australia New Zealand School Education Network (DRANZSEN) consists of representatives from education and emergency services, NGOs, universities, local government, and community groups.

On 30 August 2019, the national DRANZSEN forum will be held to explore possible solutions to the issue.

We recognise that a comprehensive approach to disaster risk reduction and resilience education may be yet another pressure on an already overcrowded curriculum, but it does not need to be, as the content is already there.

What is needed is an authentic whole school approach that brings together the three pillars as part of formal education. This kind of approach can hit the sweet spot in the middle of the CSS Framework, ensuring that school communities are well prepared for any emergency.

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From ‘publish or perish’ to ‘collaborate or crumble’ https://www.policyforum.net/from-publish-or-perish-to-collaborate-or-crumble/ https://www.policyforum.net/from-publish-or-perish-to-collaborate-or-crumble/#respond Thu, 22 Aug 2019 01:59:12 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=35490 Over the last three decades, Australia’s government has cajoled universities to collaborate with industry. Their efforts are now having an impact, Roslyn Prinsley writes. The government’s 2015 National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) is proving successful in incentivising Australian researchers to move away from a ‘publish or perish’, and towards ‘collaborate or crumble’ mentality through […]

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Over the last three decades, Australia’s government has cajoled universities to collaborate with industry. Their efforts are now having an impact, Roslyn Prinsley writes.

The government’s 2015 National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) is proving successful in incentivising Australian researchers to move away from a ‘publish or perish’, and towards ‘collaborate or crumble’ mentality through two key measures which encourage universities to collaborate with business.

Specifically, a greater proportion of research block grant funding is now focused on collaboration with industry, giving end-user engagement measures equal importance alongside traditional measures of excellence.

Malcolm Turnbull warned universities that their “future is at risk if they do not focus more of their research on business needs”. The OECD reported that Australia ranked 29th and 30th out of 30 OECD countries on the proportion of large businesses and SMEs collaborating with higher education and public research institutions on innovation.

This demonstrates that Australian universities and businesses can and should improve their level of collaboration and its outcomes.

NISA did not come as a surprise to the university sector and was foreshadowed by several plans, reports and reviews.

The Australian Government’s 2012 National Research Investment Plan and 2013 Plan for Australian Jobs and The Australian Chief Scientist’s position paper, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach (July 2013) called for a culture change to enhance links between business and publicly-funded research agencies and universities.

More on this: An evidence-based approach to equity in science

The Watt Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements was released in November 2015, emphasising that ‘excellence and engagement are equally important elements of university research’, and its recommendations were adopted in NISA.

The push for university research to grow innovation and economic prosperity is not new.

In 1988, Bob Hawke called for a “Clever Country” to replace the “Lucky Country”. Eleven years later, David Kemp’s Policy Statement, Knowledge and Innovation, outlined a vision of Australia as a ‘Can Do’ country, turning ideas and invention into income and jobs.

Then, John Howard announced Backing Australia’s Ability: An innovation action plan for the future, and in 2005/6 – Brendan Nelson and Julie Bishop announced the Research Quality Framework (RQF) to commence in 2008 to redistribute block funding on the basis of ratings for research quality and research impact.

Under the new Labor government in 2008, Kevin Rudd and Kim Carr scrapped the RQF and replaced it with Excellence in Research for Australia – a research quality assurance system which did not feature the “impact” measure.

This continued with Powering Ideas: An Innovation Agenda for the 21st Century, a 2009 initiative to encourage a culture of collaboration between researchers and industry.

Lastly, the 2009–10 Budget introduced The Joint Research Engagement Scheme (JRE) to incentivise research collaboration between universities, industry and end-users, rewarding universities that diversify their sources of research income.

While it is difficult to untangle the impacts of this series of policy changes, influential reports and discussions as well as changes in research funding, published data show that HERDC-reported sources of university income have changed.

More on this: Podcast: Building bridges between research and industry

From 2014 to 2017, total Category 3 income, university income for research provided by collaboration with industry or from overseas, increased from $0.8 billion to $1.2 billion – not including income from international higher degree research students. Half of this increase was seen in 2017 alone.

On the other hand, Category 1 income, provided by Australian government competitive R&D grants, decreased from $1.8 billion to $1.6 billion.

Of this Category 1 income, there was a decrease in university ARC funding income from $869 million in 2014 to $698 million in 2017; and by declining Government funding of Research and Development (as a proportion of GDP).

NISA was released in late 2015. The changes to the Block Grants and ERA Impact and Engagement pilot were implemented in 2017. The jump in Category 3 income seen in 2017 is likely to have been a response to these changes.

Increases in Category 3 income from 2014-2016 cannot have been directly influenced in the same way by the NISA measures. Nevertheless, the measures presaged in NISA in 2015, were widely canvassed with the sector before NISA’s formal release.

The knowledge that these incentives were imminent influenced the planning of university leaders so that they would be armed to attract additional Category 3 funding in 2017 and going forward.

The NISA incentives change in a significant and transformational way how university research is rewarded. As discussed above, NISA measures are likely to be at least partly responsible for the increase in Category 3 funding.

In summary, major influences on the increase to Category 3 income include:

Accumulated messaging from the Government to prioritise industry-based research, urging universities to make Australia the ‘Clever Country’, and ensuring that research in universities leads to new industries, increased productivity, and new jobs.

Changes to research block grant funding to reward collaboration with industry.

Changes to government research funding levels, especially a decline in ARC funding, encouraging universities to seek funding from elsewhere.

The Government’s ERA Engagement and Impact Assessment, to assess how universities are engaging with end-users of research, and how universities are translating their research into impact. This is catalysing universities to examine how they measure impact and engagement, and in the process, encouraging them to think about how to do it better.

More on this: Policy File: fitting science into the picture

In 2017 (compared to 2014) Universities had more research income, which they can use to do more research with more impact, and at less cost to the Australian taxpayer.

Much of this change is positive. Australian researchers should be strongly encouraged to have a real-world impact.  But it does raise the question – what is the right balance of government versus other types of funding for research in Australia?

Basic research leads to new knowledge. It provides scientific capital. It creates the pool from which the practical applications of knowledge can be drawn. Is there a danger that the pendulum will swing too far, resulting in insufficient government funding for basic research, with a preference for funding more “relevant” research.

One thing is clear though. NISA is having an impact, and the HERDC income reflects it. The way universities adapt to change matters, and the government is in a powerful position to re-orient the way institutions conduct themselves.

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An evidence-based approach to equity in science https://www.policyforum.net/an-evidence-based-approach-to-equity-in-science/ https://www.policyforum.net/an-evidence-based-approach-to-equity-in-science/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 02:46:11 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=35311 Better evidence-based policy addressing cultural and institutional barriers in science is required to improve gender equity across disciplines, Susan Howitt writes. While science benefits from gender diversity, in reality, only 16 per cent of the STEM-qualified (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) workforce in Australia are women. Within universities, women account for about 40 per cent […]

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Better evidence-based policy addressing cultural and institutional barriers in science is required to improve gender equity across disciplines, Susan Howitt writes.

While science benefits from gender diversity, in reality, only 16 per cent of the STEM-qualified (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) workforce in Australia are women.

Within universities, women account for about 40 per cent of STEM undergraduate completions and Level B academics but at Level E, the proportion of women falls to 14 per cent.

There is considerable evidence that both explains the current situation and identifies what needs to be done. Perhaps surprisingly, since scientists spend their working lives evaluating and analysing evidence, many show a reluctance to accept that there are evidence-based approaches to equity policy.

When the need for action to support gender diversity is raised, many scientists may rely on anecdotes and opinions instead of evidence.

More on this: Tackling gender equity in science?

For example, senior women may feel that their success indicates that there is no problem. But this ignores most of the data – especially of the experiences of women who have left science.

Senior men may only identify a problem when their daughters join the workforce. Again, this privileges anecdote over evidence. No scientist would accept anecdotal evidence or a single sample in their science, so why do so many fail to accept evidence in other areas?

Even more worryingly, when confronted with research reflecting this kind of discrimination, male scientists tend to discount such work as poorly done.

Perhaps the most pernicious view is that success in science is based on merit and that any policies that change current practices would result in a lowering of standards.

This is not only a form of self-justification – one that encourages successful people to think that they are the most meritorious – but it also ignores a large body of evidence showing that unconscious bias and other institutional factors result in discrimination against women.

More on this: To achieve gender equality, we need women entrepreneurs

Two recent reports address the myth of meritocracy, as well as providing examples of potential action. These are just as relevant for science and complement evidence published in high impact science journals showing similar results.

For example, a rigorous and controlled study with a large sample size showed that the same Curriculum Vitae was less successful when it belonged to ‘Jennifer’ rather than ‘John’.

There are also large scale longitudinal studies that examine the proportion of women and ethnic minority groups in organisations after the introduction of various policies designed to address equity.

These studies identify policies that are successful as well as some very common approaches that do very little or even sometimes have negative impacts – compulsory diversity training is one such example. An evidence-based approach to gender equity in science would take account of such studies and identify local factors that need to be addressed most.

Much of the policy debate and action is directed at better support for parents, recognising that childcare responsibilities have a greater impact on women than men. While this is a very positive move that will go some way to addressing gender equity, we also need greater recognition of how career breaks might affect one’s track record but not the quality of their research or potential.

Other policies are needed to tackle cultural and institutional barriers that reinforce existing inequities unrelated to parenthood. This can be seen most clearly by the fact that there is a different representation of women in different scientific disciplines – with the lowest proportion of women in physics, maths, and engineering.

More on this: Podcast: Getting science into politics and public policy

Interestingly, a recent study showed that the proportion of men in a discipline is correlated with the view that success is due to innate talent rather than hard work. This is also associated with the belief that women are less suited to academic work in these disciplines and that the academic environment is less welcoming to women.

These results play to the stereotype of the male scientist genius and are a clear indication of cultural issues within science that must be addressed if equity is to be achieved.

There are, therefore, at least three distinct issues to be addressed: supporting parents, the recruitment of women into secondary and tertiary study in some disciplines, and the retention of women across the board. Some policy directions – such as re-thinking merit – cut across all three matters, but there is also a need for specific actions to address each one.

The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative, which is trialling the UK’s Athena Swan equity accreditation framework in Australia, is a welcome approach, as it raises awareness around gender equity and the value of data-driven approaches. Whether this is enough to convince scientists to take the evidence seriously remains to be seen.

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Science won’t kill philosophy https://www.policyforum.net/science-wont-kill-philosophy/ https://www.policyforum.net/science-wont-kill-philosophy/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 02:49:59 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=35299 With the increasing role that science and technology play in society, the need for philosophers and scientists to collaborate will only grow, Lachlan Walmsley writes. Every so often a popular scientist will, as Stephen Hawking did back in 2011, dismiss philosophy as dead and made obsolete by science. As a philosopher, I want to tell […]

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With the increasing role that science and technology play in society, the need for philosophers and scientists to collaborate will only grow, Lachlan Walmsley writes.

Every so often a popular scientist will, as Stephen Hawking did back in 2011, dismiss philosophy as dead and made obsolete by science. As a philosopher, I want to tell you that the truth is almost the exact opposite.

To start with a philosophical exercise, an intuition pump, how would you feel if the person making a decision that might change your life did not know right from wrong? You’d probably prefer that they were familiar with the distinction and were motivated to make fair and just choices wherever they could.

With the rise of machine learning algorithms, the person making a life-changing decision on society’s behalf might be a computer program.

There’s nothing inherently bad about automation. If a machine can do a job better than a human, it should do it. But while computer programs excel at tasks like identifying patterns in data and calculating probabilities, they are not very good at taking moral and humanistic considerations into account.

More on this: Policy File: Getting science into the picture

Consider the COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions) tool, already used to assist many judges in the United States in their sentencing and probation decisions. Although the algorithm does not explicitly measure race, it measures other factors that often do correlate with race, like geographical location and the marital status of the defender’s parents.

The technology is reported to make racially biased evaluations of the risk of re-offending. Analysis of risk assessments made in 2013 and 2014 in Florida showed that the algorithm’s false positives – those it flagged as likely re-offenders but who did re-offend – were disproportionately African American. On the other hand, its false negatives – those the algorithm flagged as unlikely re-offenders but who did re-offend – were disproportionately Caucasian.

The COMPAS case is just one very salient example of AI-assisted decision-making. AI also plays a role in automated vehicles, resume selection, and surveillance and policing.

A recent discussion paper on the ethical framework relating to AI provides a catalogue of decision tasks where AI is already being used in Australia and abroad. The paper, prepared by CSIRO’s Data61 for the Australian Government Department of Industry Innovation and Science, also identifies domains in which AI will be increasingly deployed in the future.

More on this: The appliance of science

But the aim of this piece is not to make a judgment about AI-assisted decision-making. Instead, I only want to use this topic to show that scientific progress does not put philosophy out of a job.

Instead, it creates fertile new grounds for philosophical enquiry and judgment. More importantly, it shows how science and philosophy need not – indeed, should not – compete, but can – and should –  collaborate.

The Humanising Machine Intelligence (HMI) Grand Challenges Project, which was launched publicly on 9 August, is an interdisciplinary team headed by Associate Professor Seth Lazar from the School of Philosophy at the Australian National University.

The HMI project aims to determine how to build moral machines, figuring out where and why AI is succeeding and failing to promote social justice, how to represent moral considerations to computers, and, ultimately, how to construct programs that can make good decisions in the face of risk and uncertainty.

More on this: Podcast: Getting science into policy, politics, and public discussion

Importantly, it presents a great model for collaboration between philosophy and science within the space of policy development. Along with the Australian Academy of Science, Lazar and Professor Bob Williamson from the Research School of Computer Science – also a member of the project – have already made a submission to the public consultation on AI responding to the discussion paper mentioned above.

Science – and the technology it creates – has, in general, moral and ethical consequences for the public. Philosophy can play a key role in shaping those consequences through policy to ensure that they produce a collective benefit.

Nowhere is this more salient than in the domain of AI, where the technology not only has indirect ethical consequences but is also directly involved in making moral decisions.

Science will not kill philosophy. Rather, science inspires philosophers and creates practical problems that philosophers and scientists can solve together through collaboration on policy.

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Democracy Sausage Podcast: Balance, benches, and boat turn-backs https://www.policyforum.net/democracy-sausage-podcast-balance-benches-and-boat-turn-backs/ Mon, 03 Jun 2019 08:20:01 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=33460 The government and opposition have both announced their Cabinet line-ups, but who will prevail in the individual match-ups of ‘the last profession of amateurs’? Can you sell complicated policy from opposition? Should Andrew Leigh have been given a senior cabinet position? And will a better gender balance change the story for women in politics? These […]

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The government and opposition have both announced their Cabinet line-ups, but who will prevail in the individual match-ups of ‘the last profession of amateurs’?

Can you sell complicated policy from opposition? Should Andrew Leigh have been given a senior cabinet position? And will a better gender balance change the story for women in politics? These are some of the questions tackled on this week’s Democracy Sausage podcast by Mark Kenny and Marija Taflaga with guests Virginia Haussegger and James Frost. Listen here: https://bit.ly/2QEH5dV

Mark Kenny is a Senior Fellow in the ANU Australian Studies Institute. He came to the university after a high-profile journalistic career including six years as chief political correspondent and national affairs editor for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Canberra Times.

Marija Taflaga is a lecturer in the ANU School of Politics and International Relations. Her major research is on political parties and particularly the Liberal Party of Australia. She has previously worked in the Australian Parliamentary Press Gallery as a researcher at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Virginia Haussegger is an award-winning television journalist, writer, and commentator, whose extensive media career spans more than 25 years. She is currently Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation and Broad Agenda’s Chief Editor at the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA), where she is an Adjunct Professor.

James Frost is currently a PhD Candidate in the School of Politics and International Relations.

Democracy Sausage with Mark Kenny is available on iTunesSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or join us on the Facebook group.

This podcast is published in partnership with The Australian National University.

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Podcast: The Auspolicy issue – what the country voted for https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-the-auspolicy-issue-what-the-country-voted-for/ Fri, 24 May 2019 03:24:24 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=33275 The quiet Australians have spoken, loudly, and re-elected a Coalition government. So what policy promises has the country signed up for? This week’s Policy Forum Pod takes a look at some of the commitments and whether they will deliver on meeting the challenges facing the country. Australia’s election result took many by surprise. The polls […]

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The quiet Australians have spoken, loudly, and re-elected a Coalition government. So what policy promises has the country signed up for? This week’s Policy Forum Pod takes a look at some of the commitments and whether they will deliver on meeting the challenges facing the country.

Australia’s election result took many by surprise. The polls may have been predicting a win for the Labor Party, but instead it is the Coalition led by Scott Morrison that was returned to government. But with Australia dealing with some of the most serious issues it’s faced in decades, will the Coalition’s policy platform be able to provide the reform the country needs? Our stellar panel – Liz Allen, Paul Burke, John Hewson, and Warwick McKibbin – give us their thoughts on the policy commitments and the challenges ahead for the nation. Will the government have to completely rethink its climate policy? How important is framing when it comes to conversations around migration policy? Can Australia’s economy balance revenue uncertainty with the certainty of the promised budget cuts? Tune in for an excellent discussion. Listen here: https://bit.ly/2VLF8xh

Dr Liz Allen is a demographer and social researcher with quantitative and qualitative expertise at The Australian National University.

Associate Professor Paul Burke is an economist focusing on energy, the environment, transport, and developing countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific. His research includes policies for zero-carbon energy in the Asia-Pacific and Australia’s energy transition.

Dr John Hewson is an economic and financial expert with experience in academia, business, government, media, and the financial system. In 2014, Dr Hewson joined the Australian National University as Professor at the Crawford School, and Chair of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute.

Professor Warwick McKibbin is the Director of the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis in the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy and is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Presenters Bob Cotton, Quentin Grafton, and Julia Ahrens also take a look at Trump’s provocative tweets aimed at Iran, India’s massive elections, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. They also discuss several excellent suggestions left for us by you on the Policy Forum Pod Facebook group – keep them coming!

Bob Cotton is a Visiting Fellow at Crawford School. He has a strong interest in public policy issues, including Australia’s engagement in the Asia Pacific Region. He is a mentor at the National Security College.

Quentin Grafton is Professor of Economics at Crawford School, an ANU Public Policy Fellow, and Director of the Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Policy Forum.

Julia Ahrens is a presenter on Policy Forum Pod.

Show notes | The following were mentioned in this episode:

Trump’s tweet against Iran

Policy Forum Pod Facebook group

Democracy Sausage: How did the polls get it so wrong?

SARDI Climate Applications Science Program

Shergold Report

Coalition government’s tax cut promises

Fair Share (book) – Michael Keating, Stephen Bell

Australia’s hidden economy review

Gonski Review (education)

Government’s focus on students with disabilities

Major parties’ education policy

ACT parliament declares climate emergency (SBS)

Coalition government’s migration and congestion-relief policy (media release)

Labor wage increase promises

Murray-Darling Basin and Menindee fish kills

South Australia water commission & federal government silences public servants

Bob Hawke’s legacy

The Familiar Strange podcast

Ensuring better insurance for Australians (Policy Forum) – Gemma Carey

Podcast: Can Australia spark an energy change

Ross Garnaut – Climate & energy change in Australia

To read the transcript of this episode, please click here.

Policy Forum Pod is available on iTunesSpotifyStitcherSubscribe on Android or wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or join us on the Facebook group.

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More than a cash cow? https://www.policyforum.net/australian-higher-education-more-than-a-cash-cow/ Mon, 29 Apr 2019 04:47:40 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=32595 Amidst a lack of discussion around higher education policy, the Australian Greens’ proposal to make undergraduate studies free, though unlikely to be passed, might be the key to sparking greater interest, Margaret Thornton writes.  Very little is heard about higher education in the daily stoush between the leaders of the political parties, nor does it […]

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Amidst a lack of discussion around higher education policy, the Australian Greens’ proposal to make undergraduate studies free, though unlikely to be passed, might be the key to sparking greater interest, Margaret Thornton writes. 

Very little is heard about higher education in the daily stoush between the leaders of the political parties, nor does it feature more generally in discussion of the big ticket items ─ ‘the economy’ and climate change ─ although it clearly informs both.

The invisibility of higher education in 2019 contrasts markedly with the situation in 2014 when deregulation of fees was proposed by the Coalition and the prospect of $100,000 undergraduate degrees provoked a strong community reaction. Although the policy was defeated, deregulation continues to be a Coalition policy, but it is clearly an electoral loser and has not surfaced again.

More on this: Where to now?

Unless a higher education policy is radical, it does not strike a chord with the electorate. Primary, secondary, and TAFE education are perceived to be of greater interest to ordinary voters. Provided that their children can attend university with the prospect of a good job upon graduating, most people regard higher education policy as esoteric and of little relevance.

In any case, radical change in the sector is unlikely as far as the major parties are concerned. Higher education is unbelievably lucrative, adding approximately $140 billion to the economy a year. It is also the third largest export earner behind coal and iron ore.

In view of the extent of this profitability, any reduction in fees, let alone their abolition, is almost unimaginable, despite it being advocated and even taking place in other OECD countries. Indeed, it is notable that Jeremy Corbyn has promised abolition of fees if British Labour is elected to government, Germany has abolished fees for undergraduates across its states, and New Zealand offered the first year of an undergraduate degree free from 2018.

If higher education were free in Australia, it would, of course, have to be paid for out of the public purse. Given the present frenzy over tax breaks and securing a budget surplus, it is difficult to see Australia moving away from the user-pays philosophy any time soon.

More on this: What My School data tells us about Indigenous students

With no up-front fees, the deferred repayment system – FEE-HELP – conveys the appearance of fairness. However, the system can disguise substantial student debt, particularly in the case of full-fee courses, which universities feel compelled to offer to counteract recurrent government underfunding and periodic freezes.

With the major parties resisting any change in tuition fees, it is notable that abolition is a key plank of the Greens’ policy. In recognition of growing student debt, the Greens propose that all undergraduate university courses, in addition to all TAFE courses, be free.

As the Greens are a minor party, the policy has little chance of being implemented, but putting it on the agenda is an important initiative and could signal the beginning of a serious conversation. They also propose augmenting the funding of all Commonwealth-supported places in recognition of systemic underfunding that has resulted in the widespread casualisation of teaching.

The Coalition, on the other hand, suggests an increase in bachelor level places for universities, commensurate with population growth in 2020, but while also making access to additional funding conditional on academic performance. The criteria are yet to be determined, but an expert panel has been established and a process of public consultation proposed.

The education sector has already been appraised of the fact that all publicly funded research is conditional on the need to establish a ‘return for taxpayers’ through its National Interest Test. However, the proposal that there be more money to increase higher education participation by rural and regional students does not appear to be conditional.

More on this: Reimagining retention for rural, regional, and remote students

Labor’s main policy element, which distinguishes it from the Coalition, is to uncap places across universities. This resurrects its previous policy that was frozen by the Federal Government in 2017, and is likely to be viewed positively by the sector – particularly the regionals, as they have limited ability to raise alternative sources of revenue.

In accordance with Labor’s social justice agenda, the party also proposes to reinstate equity places for students from low socio-economic backgrounds and from underrepresented groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples, as well as students with disabilities.

It is also notable that One Nation has pledged its support for public higher education ─ provided that it is offered at a reasonable cost and Australians are preferred over ‘foreigners’.

The Greens’ policy to return to free university education, which Australia experienced briefly between 1974 and 1989, is the most interesting of the policies, but it is unlikely to be accorded serious consideration. Nevertheless, it could enliven the agenda of Labor’s proposed National Inquiry into Post-Secondary Education ─ provided that the party is elected.

This article is part of Policy Forum’s Australian Election coverage, and published in partnership with The Australian National University.

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