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Scientific Exchange in Australia

Quick, think of Australia and what comes to mind? Kangaroos, platypuses, koalas, and other bizarre marsupials are some of the usual suspects. Uluru, otherwise known as Ayer's rock, or the Great Barrier Reef are the images called to many people's minds when they think of Australia. Of course, there's also Crocodile Dundee or the seemingly mollusk-inspired Sydney Opera House.

Science probably wasn't on your list. If it wasn't, don't feel bad. After all, Australia has banked more on its tourism than it has on its science. But that's beginning to change.

In this, our Next Wave feature for July 2004, we will explore Australian science via four categories:

  • Science policy and governance

  • Science-related business and industry

  • Australian institutions of higher education

  • "Unique to Australia," a catch-all category that covers scientific research and career opportunities unavailable anyplace else

Although Australia may not be ready to go head-to-head with international research juggernauts like the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany, it is building the capital, manpower, and facilities necessary to compete on the international scientific stage. One such step is the recent, apparently largely successful effort at drawing international science talent. The rigorous, English-style curriculum, which gives students in-depth subject knowledge, is also cited as an advantage. Finally, Australia's government has begun to funnel more money into scientific research and training, primarily through the ambitious and ubiquitous Backing Australia's Ability initiatives, which emphasize commercialization of research.

The same factors that sometimes limit Australia's scientific output--low population density and a lack of infrastructure--also make it an attractive place to live. Australia offers open spaces, pristine beaches, minimal traffic, low crime, and a relatively low cost of living and doing science. And quality of life aside, Australia's unique geology and biology provide scientific opportunities unavailable elsewhere.

If you are a scientist interested in a change of scenery, this month's feature will certainly answer many questions about the outstanding career potential in "the land down under."


Science Down Under

Despite the advantages of staying in Germany or going to the US, Germany's Mirja Hommel decided to go with her gut instinct and do a postdoc in Australia. She reports that Australian science is not as isolated or laid back as one may expect.

NSF Out Back

Next Wave's Jim Austin talks with Christine French of the National Science Foundation's Office of International Programs, who describes NSF-based programs and other resources that offer opportunities from the undergraduate level through the faculty level.

Following the Water

Fighting to save the life of one of Australia's largest and economically important rivers, a Canadian hydrologist Sebastian Lamontagne tells Next Wave's Andrew Fazekas of the rewards and challenges of working down under.

Going Down Under: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience?

Two Dutch students tell Next Wave?s Terry Vreijenhoek about their placement experiences in Melbourne, and about their reasons for staying in the Netherlands after graduation. They both have one thing in common: a weak spot for Australia. However for personal and professional reasons they won't pack their bags and move 'down under' ... at least not soon.

A French Researcher Falls for Australia

French national Patrick Bertolino always dreamed of visiting Australia's national parks and stunning nature but never thought he would end up actually working there and establishing his own research group in Sydney.

Attracting European Scientists to Australia - Funding Opportunities

Australia is keen to appeal to talented early-career scientists from Europe to develop its reputation and international links. Next Wave's Elisabeth Pain gives an overview of the sources of funding available to European scientists to fund their research exchange in Australia.

Working at the Interface of Business and Biotechnology

Peter Goss , a Melbourne, Australian native, discusses the work going on at the Bio21 Institute, where academic research and training, overlaps with clinical trials, and entrepreneurial pursuits.

An Inside Look into Australian Science from a Top Geoscientist

Phil McFadden is one of Australia's most accomplished and decorated geoscientists and the Chief Scientist at Geoscience Australia. He talks about his organization's role, as well as opportunities for foreign geoscientists in Australia. He is also shares his intimate knowledge about the Australian government's attitudes and policies toward science.

Growing Success

David Siddle is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Queensland (UQ). Siddle is responsible for all aspects of the development of the University's profile in research and research training. He talks about UQ's role as one of Australia's top research institutions.

Leaving Los Alamos

After 20 years at the nation's top nuclear research facility, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Jill Trewhella is leaving for a year-long appointment at the University of Utah. Afterward she's considering returning to her native Australia. She discusses how Australia's exceptional educational system prepared her to reach the top of her field and the need for scientific collaboration between fields and nations.


Australia's scientific endeavors and scientists have been covered in the past by Next Wave. The following articles highlight pertinent essays in our extensive archive.

Science policy and governance

Recently Australian science has made an effort to collaborate with its Asian neighbors. A multination program brings Australian scientists together with scientists in Southern Asia and Pacific countries to build research capacity and improve overall health in the region. A patent attorney discusses Australia's intellectual property rights system. Finally, "Comments," published by the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, offers reports on scientific and engineering salaries in Australia.

Science-related business and industry

Australia, like the United States, offers a variety of opportunities for scientists who leave academe for business. While one former postdoc had no idea what he wanted to do when he became a technical support specialist, another planned her future as a venture capitalist.

Australian institutions of higher education

Get a firsthand account of a biologist's struggle for job security in choosing between academia and research.

"Unique to Australia"

Australia offers many unique experiences for researchers; among them is Australia's close proximity and scientific interest in its neighboring continent, Antarctica. An Antarctic researcher offers advice for graduate students considering Antarctic research.

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