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Eureka Prizes Interviews -

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Mark Horstman
Welcome to the 2013 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes here in the splendour of the Sydney Town Hall. Gathered in this room are some of the best scientific minds in the nation celebrating excellence from a broad cross-section of all the sciences.

Dr Maryanna Demasi
So we thought we'd take advantage of this captive room of experts and ask them what they believe are the most pressing science issues facing the nation.

Professor Michael Archer
It's a question about the sustainability of Australia. We've already got 23 million people in Australia. Number's going up. It frightens the life out of me that somebody would suggest we're gonna get 50 million people here. We don't value Australian animals, plants. We only value things that are brought in from outside. That's costing us the earth.

Professor Steve Simpson
Our rates of obesity and associated comorbidities, diabetes and so forth, are rising. That's an enormous societal challenge.

Mark Horstman
In your field, what do you think are the problems facing Australia in the future?

Professor Craig Simmons
We've been through a massive drought. Another one's on its way. It's a case of when, not if, and groundwater has been an absolutely critical part of Australia's water use. It will be into the future.

Professor Michael Archer
Somehow we think we can obliterate the living things of the planet, and that's OK. As long as we've got cows and chickens, what's the problem? If we allow the biodiversity to continue to erode the way it's going now, it's us that's gonna collapse. I'm trying to find another planet to live on.

Professor Geraint Lewis
What is dark matter? What is dark energy? What are these two big major components of the universe? They're in charge, but we really know very little about them.

Professor Michelle Simmons
I think in general people just don't realise how valuable it is to the economy, and the future of our nation is you have to be scientifically smart to lead.

Dr Maryanna Demasi
What are some of the major challenges that you currently face in your field?

Professor Veena Sahajwalla
I think we've got to start to completely redefine what we think about recycling. So it's not just about making glass out of glass, but it is indeed about converting all kinds of complex materials into possibly completely different products.

Announcer
The winner of the 2013 Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science is Associate Professor David Wilson.

Associate Professor David Wilson
We need to forget about some of the issues, the political, the cultural issues that get in the way of people dying. Just look at the facts, even though it might not be politically the right approach for a political agenda, it's the right thing for people who are in need, who are suffering, who are vulnerable and are dying.

Professor Scott O’Neil
Look at the debates that are occurring in Australia at the moment - it's quite depressing to see that scientific evidence seems to have such little currency in Canberra. And we need to do better than that as a country.

Professor Rick Shine
I think the biggest issue we really have is the credibility of science. In the world of the 24-hour media cycle, we're just another voice in the scrum along with the drug companies and the politicians.

Mark Horstman
What do you need most in order to advance your research?

Professor Christobel Saunders
We know that some of the really exciting advances are understanding how cancers actually happen, and therefore developing treatments that can actually treat individual cancers, drugs and other treatments. I guess the real issue for the future will be, how much will they cost?

Announcer
Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir.

Professor Marie Bashir
..together with our centres of higher education to lead the way to progress the ascent of our nation.

Professor Veena Sahajwalla
We've got the intellectual capacity, we've got the ability to do the science, we've got passionate young people, and I think to me that's the most important thing, and of course, when we put all that brilliance together along with our desire to make the world a better place, I think we can make it happen.

Mark Horstman
With change happening so rapidly, how optimistic are you about what the future will bring?

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki
Optimism? I'm very optimistic about the future. Over time, we have now become, on a percentage basis, the most peaceful society that has ever existed on this planet with the least numbers of deaths and injuries against another human, on a percentage basis, ever. I'm very optimistic. Here, guys. They had the fantastic nominative determinism...

Dr Maryanna Demasi
There you go. There's plenty to think about.

Mark Horstman
Here's to the future of science, Maryanne.

Dr Maryanna Demasi
Cheers.

Mark Horstman
Cheers.