Australia’s top science agency has pledged at least $100 million each year towards helping the nation recover from coronavirus.
CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall has outlined key missions the agency will focus on so science and technology can bolster the nation.
The areas include boosting preparedness and resilience for pandemics, helping farmers with food security, and monitoring waterways from space.
“We are at one of those rare moments in history where the decisions we make now have the power to change the course of our future,” he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
“Decisions that could be the difference between the future we want or some other kind of dystopia.
“We are living in a real-life, high-stakes science experiment and we need to use evidence to make our next move.”
Dr Marshall is calling on public and private partners to join the science agency as it grapples with the challenges, in what he calls a “Team Australia” approach.
He is urging government, industry, research and communities to work together.
“History has shown us that when we work together to harness the power of science, we can overcome incredible challenges.”
“This generation is living through a perfect storm of bushfires, pandemic and recession. Never in our lifetime has a country, or the world, turned to scientists in the way they are now.
“This is our moment. Our moment in time that will shape our generation.”
Dr Marshall is also optimistic about Australia finding a coronavirus vaccine, but isn’t able to say when it could be available.
“The Australian way is just shut up and do it and, you know, you can shout about it from the rooftops once you’ve succeeded.”
Meanwhile, almost one in four Australian scientists believe pandemic-induced mental stress and anxiety is affecting their work.
A union-commissioned survey of 1467 scientists found a lack of job security was a key source of stress and a drain on mental wellbeing.
Professional Scientists Australia chief executive Gordon Brock said coronavirus had intensified pressure on scientists.
Almost three in five respondents believed Australians placed a greater value on science because of the coronavirus pandemic.