The tragic and destructive bushfires of the 2019-2020 Black Summer across south-eastern Australia pose a range of challenges for the nation’s scientists. In the face of the combined forces of nature, climate, demographics, and limited resources, can science make a real difference? What sort of research do we need to do now to prepare us for the natural hazard impacts of tomorrow?
The value of research in solving such national problems is the focus of an annual oration next month, to be delivered in a live webinar by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel.
The free public talk – Fire, flood, storm and cyclone: applying science to the challenge - is on Wednesday 19 August from 4-5pm (AEST) and is presented by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre as part of National Science Week.
Dr Finkel will draw on his extensive experience in research, academia and public policy when speaking on how science and technology can make a meaningful difference, and how public benefit research in particular can play a role.
The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements is due to deliver its report by the end of August and several other important inquiries and reports at the national level are due around the same time.
The CEO of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, Dr Richard Thornton, said the perspective of the Chief Scientist will be a valuable contribution to the broader public discussion on how to respond to the recent fire season. “Science is only one of many aspects being considered by the many inquiries underway. We look forward to hearing from Dr Finkel on how science and research can be applied to address future impacts of natural hazards on Australian communities,” he said.
As Chief Scientist, Dr Finkel this year took the role as Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel for the CSIRO Report on Climate and Disaster Resilience, which was commissioned by the Prime Minister following the tragic and destructive 2019-2020 bushfire season in southern Australia.
Dr Finkel became Australia’s Chief Scientist in 2016, and his term concludes at the end of this year.
Dr Finkel has an extensive science background as an entrepreneur, engineer, neuroscientist and educator. He did his PhD in electrical engineering at Monash University and worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in neuroscience at the Australian National University.
Dr Finkel’s oration will be held in honour of the former Chairman of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, Dr Laurie Hammond, who passed away in 2018. Dr Finkel’s talk on the use of science to address the real-world issues in natural hazards is a fitting legacy to Dr Hammond’s belief in the importance of transferring science into practice.
Dr Hammond was appointed independent Chairman of the CRC when it began in 2013 and was integral to the growth and development of the Centre.
The Laurie Hammond Oration was scheduled as a key part of the cancelled AFAC20 annual conference in Adelaide in August. This conference is the major knowledge and networking event for researchers, staff and volunteers in emergency management in Australia and New Zealand.