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Professor Penny Sackett -

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NARRATION (PROF. PENNY SACKETT)

The role of the chief scientist is to provide independent advice to government, about matters of
science, technology, innovation that affect Australia and its people.

Tonight I've been invited by the Australian Academy of Science to give a brief introductory speech.
It's part of a celebration that the academy undertakes yearly to celebrate science.

PROF. PENNY SACKETT

This is a very pleasurable part of my job. I don't get to do it very often but it's really a
pleasurable thing, to be in the company of such eminent scientists.

PROF. KURT LAMBECK

Tonight's guest speaker: Prof Penny Sackett

PROF. PENNY SACKETT

We need the youth of today to become the scientists of tomorrow.

SIR GUSTAV NOSSAL

Her coordinating function, her function of presenting to the Cabinet what's great in Australian
science and what the future priorities will be, is very very important. So I'm thrilled at her
appointment.

NARRATION (PROF. PENNY SACKETT)

My background is in the physical sciences' and as I went through my career more and more I found
myself doing research in astrophysics. I came to Australia about seven years ago to take up the
post of director of Mount Stromlo Observatory knowing that Australia was a wonderful place for
astronomy.

In January of 2003, only six months after I'd started most of the observatory was destroyed by a
massive bushfire. That gives one pause to take stock in what's important and how to rebuild into
the future. I was appointed chief scientist on the 3rd November, last year 2008

I'd like to think that this office is one of the most important links, between the scientific
activity in Australia and the government. I find to really learn the most about science I can't
wait for people to come and knock on my door, I actually need to go out into the field and see what
they're doing.

When I took up this role I knew that climate change was going to be one of the most important
things that I addressed as chief scientist. A piece of that of course is making sure that the way
that we use energy and the sources that we take it from are sustainable going into the future. I
think solar technology, I think what it provides is an example of one of those technologies. And
goodness knows Australia's blessed with plenty of sunshine.

The job can be rather exhausting, but I like to think that I'd rather be busy than bored. And in
this post I've not yet been bored.

PROF. PENNY SACKETT

Contemplative moments like this are rare and treasured. And to be honest I usually bring my work
along with me.

NARRATION (PROF. PENNY SACKETT)

Thinking about science education more broadly is a very big piece of the chief scientist role.

PROF. PENNY SACKETT

Hi how's it going?

DANIEL (PHD STUDENT)

Good it's all finished now.

PROF. PENNY SACKETT

Pretty big day hey? Ok let's have a look

DANIEL (PHD STUDENT)

That's four years worth of work there.

NARRATION (PROF. PENNY SACKETT)

This is a very important part of my job. I don't get to do as much of it as I'd like, I suppose in
many ways I live my scientific life vicariously through students.

DANIEL (PHD STUDENT)

Now that you're chief scientist it's harder to get a meeting, but when we do get a meeting it's
fantastic.

PROF. PENNY SACKETT

It's a very satisfying job in many ways a perfect blend of being able to learn about the forefront
of many sorts of science, and at the same time feel that you are able to do a service to the
country in which you live.

Related Info

Chief Scientist for Australia - Australian Government site