Alan Finkel

Alan Finkel

EPA/Lukas Coch/Newscom

Neuroscientist tapped as Australia’s chief scientist

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Neuroscientist Alan Finkel will be Australia’s next chief scientist, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced at a press conference in Canberra today.

As the government’s chief scientist, Finkel—president of Australia’s Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and former chancellor of Monash University in Melbourne—will provide independent advice and work to lift the profile of Australian science. Two priorities, Finkel says, are to boost Australia’s poor innovation record and set the nation on the road to a fossil-free future. “It’s important to have a vision of a world without the use of coal,” he told ScienceInsider.

“This is truly the most fantastic news,” says Gustav Nossal, an immunologist at University of Melbourne. “It’s difficult to think of anyone who would do this important job with greater distinction.”

The appointment comes after a rocky period for Australia’s scientific community under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who oversaw deep cuts to research funding, shuttered the independent Climate Commission, and failed to appoint a science minister for more than a year. Finkel will take up the post in January. He says he will build on his predecessor’s efforts, Ian Chubb, to promote STEM education and push for a national science and education strategy. “We need a vision of the kind of economy and society we want to be,” Finkel says.