Annual Report 2013

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Coming to the end of the first year of my term as ASSA President I am pleased to say that our Academy is continuing to promote its strengths and raise its profile to government and the wider community. Our place as one of the four learned academies in the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) has placed us in a very important position in relation to the Office of the Chief Scientist, and to the Prime Minister’s Science and Innovation Council. The impact of the social sciences with our colleague academies has been enhanced through our joint contributions to Securing Australia’s Future (SAF), a ground-breaking initiative of Chief Scientist Ian Chubb in collaboration with ACOLA.

The SAF initiative involves a $10 million program that has been charged with identifying the long-range needs of Australia as we seek, as a nation, to become more productive, competitive, and secure. To date, six major SAF projects have focused on a number of key topics, including:

  • Our national comparative advantage
  • Our place in the take-up of science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • The opportunity for an unconventional energy future
  • Our regional embrace of Asian languages and cultures
  • The role of new technologies in our security, cultural, democratic, social and economic systems
  • The role of science, research and technology in lifting Australian productivity.

ASSA Fellows Dennis Trewin, Ruth Fincher, Iain McCalman, Peter McPhee and John Quiggin sit on the SAF steering committee that oversees these projects. Fellows Glenn Withers and Simon Marginson each lead a project, and there are ASSA Fellows contributing to all of the projects. I thank each of these Fellows, whole-heartedly, for making such enthusiastic and important contributions to these important projects. Their contributions make it clear that translating scientific and technological developments into the fabric of public acceptance, policy development and economic gains are critical to securing the future for Australia. Six additional topics are currently under consideration and their framing, execution and delivery will all result, in part, from social science contributions. Fellows are now being recruited to take up the opportunity of being involved in the next round of projects.

Elsewhere in this volume you will read of the works of the ASSA Programs, each of which serves the social science community and the public interest. None of our programs would be possible without the work of our Fellows who contribute through the International, Workshop, Public Forums, Panel, Policy and Advocacy, Early Career Award, Finance, ACOLA, Membership and Editorial committees. Chairs of each of these committees sit on ASSA’s Executive Committee and I thank them deeply for their effort, wisdom and camaraderie.

The Branch Convenor in South Australia has been active in rounding up and engaging local Fellows, and we hope to see the other Branches identifying opportunities to bring their peers together. I would like to encourage recently elected Fellows to consider contributing to one of our working committees. The time commitment is not onerous and the Academy needs regular turnover in its contributors, so we will warmly greet your volunteer spirit and contributions.

I write this report on the tail of ballot counting of the federal election. The ballot counting is not definitive as of yet, but the general outcome is clear. ASSA will be building new relationships with relevant ministers, and with officials and administrators in the public service. We hope to build on past gains and to form strong and productive ties with government. Social science contributions to the public debate, and to the development of public policy are important, and the raising of ASSA’s profile is essential in keeping that in the minds in government.

I look forward to the coming 2013 ASSA symposium Levelling the Spirit, addressing the social impacts of economic inequality . The topic complements an important ASSA publication this year, Towards a stronger, more equitable and efficient tax-social security system , the product of an ASSA Policy and Advocacy roundtable convened in memory of Ian Castles, FASSA. I am sure we all look forward to the Cunningham Lecture, our panel meetings, the welcoming of new Fellows and the Paul Bourke Lecture awardee, and of course the Fellows Dinner.

Deaths

We’re always saddened by the passing of ASSA Fellows, and this year we lost Lado Ruzicka (Demography), Darrell Tryon (Linguistics), Tom Stannage (History), Harold Ford (Law), Harry Edwards (Economics), Helen Hughes (Economics) and Steve Dowrick (Economics). The Academy extends its condolences to the families of the departed. We will miss them. Vale.

Election of Fellows

Sixty-three distinguished social scientists were nominated for Fellowship this year, and nineteen were elected. I congratulate each scholar on this significant honour, and look forward to introducing them to you in November. I also thank the Membership Committee and Panel chairs for their exacting efforts in this difficult task.

Donations

We thank those who have made donations to the Academy this year: Staniforth Ricketson, William Sinclair, Geoffrey Bolton, Nancy Williams, Heather Goodall, Henry Jackson, Lois Bryson, Robert Lingard and Keith Hancock.

In the coming year ASSA will be called on again to provide advice in many forms to government, the non-government sector and industry. The social sciences must remind the broader community that what we do has a direct impact on their lives, our nation and the region. Social scientists, and the knowledge they produce provide the substance and architecture of most of our important public programs, including health care policy, education policy, governance systems, and political and economic opportunities. The reach of the social sciences stretches into business and industry as well, and university graduates in the social sciences populate our public and private institutions perhaps more than those of the disciplines of our sister academies. We need to identify and promote the social science contributions to the public and private sectors more than we do, and this means we need to continue to raise our profile and be demonstrable in identifying what we do as social science.

Finally I would like to thank the ASSA Executive Committee, and the many committee members for their unstinting service to their Academy. I especially thank both John Beaton and Barry McGaw for their support, knowledge and guidance while I continue to grasp the complexity of the Academy and its workings.

Deborah Terry

Contact Information

Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

    ABN: 59 957 839 703
  • Location: 26 Balmain Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601
  • Postal: GPO Box 1956, Canberra, ACT 2601
  • +61 .2 62491788
  • +61 .2 62474335
  • secretariat@assa.edu.au

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