Image: Professor John Shine AC FRS PresAA
Science research at universities has a proud history in helping us to understand, protect against, and prevent many infectious diseases, from influenza to the viruses that cause some cancers. But university science goes far beyond medical innovation. In the 2020 pandemic, university science has quickly mobilised to model, trace and track the virus behind COVID-19. It has also focused research on cheaply manufacturing safety equipment, better directing our response to the pandemic through social distancing, improving our mental health research, assisting in the schools’ education transformation and rapidly sharing data.
Across the country, university science was able to draw on its teams and collaborations in the rush for a vaccine, with some strong candidates under development in Australia. Moreover, working with organisations such as the Australian Synchrotron, national supercomputing facilities, Australian industry and the CSIRO, potential vaccines are being scaled up and tested at a great level of detail.
As a repository of knowledge, networks, infrastructure and smart, agile people, university science has the capacity to address global challenges.
University scientists work in a knowledge-sharing capacity that relies on scientists’ deep networks of collaboration and scholarship. Scientists share their data and knowledge nationally with each other and with industry, and also with international researchers, stakeholders in state and federal governments, schools and the wider public.
People trained by university science and working within the research sector are the people whose expertise will deliver on this global challenge because this is what they do. It’s the capacity to innovate in our university science that will bring us through this crisis.
Professor John Shine AC FRS PresAA
President, Australian Academy of Science