Submission by AMSI Management Committee 4: Mathematics and statistics (including education, training and research) in government instrumentalities, both state and federal

Prof Geoff Prince
AMSI Director

The full submission by AMSI management can be viewed here.

Overall comments
Having dealt with both AMSI’s university and government agency members for a number of years, it is my observation that a closer relationship on a number of fronts between the two sectors is sorely needed. Such a relationship should improve retention of undergraduates at all levels and the retention into postgraduate study. At the moment most of our undergraduates are unaware of the extent and nature of the work of mathematical scientists in public agencies. The days when the opportunity of undertaking a PhD was sufficient to retain talented undergraduates are long gone.
Offering internships in the agencies as part of PhD programs in the mathematical sciences would be an integral part of such a closer relationship.

I believe that this committee should also be considering whether the current range and structure of government instrumentalities is sufficient for the country’s needs. For example, should there be an “Australian Optimisation Service” which would perform efficiency and viability audits on major infrastructure proposals, on public transport systems, etc.?

Theme 1: Establishing and describing the value of the Mathematical Sciences for Australia’s government instrumentalities, and
Theme 3: Creating an environment where the Mathematical Sciences can best contribute to Australia
These themes are relevant to the entire decadal plan. The broad discipline has a public image problem whose root causes are many and varied. The undersupply of maths and stats graduates is now so long established that the effects of the undersupply have become causes. What is certain is that the discipline is not able to contribute fully in the current environment. A necessary condition for improving the environment is the establishment of a long running public awareness campaign which highlights the identity and role of mathematical sciences professionals. Such a campaign is at the top of AMSI’s agenda and has been endorsed by the Chief Scientist. It is at the core of the current Australian Mathematics and Science Partnerships Project (AMSPP) bid by AMSI and its membership in partnership with Australian secondary schools.

At the more concrete level of determining the social, economic and strategic value (as opposed to the intellectual value) of mathematical sciences research, including the value to the public sector, we should consider emulating the recent project in the UK where Deloitte was commissioned to report on this matter.

Further reading:
Deloitte, Measuring the Economic Benefits of Mathematical Science Research in the UK (2012)

Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, Policy measures in the national interest (March 2013)

Further information on some of the relevant AMSI initiatives:
Industry Internships

National Awareness Campaign advocacy

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