ASB NEWSLETTER JUNE 1999

CONTENTS

* 1999 ANNUAL CONFERENCE (ASB99)

* MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: S&T AND BUDGET '99

* OILS AIN'T OILS IN BUDGET STRATEGY

* AUSTRALIAN GEOSCIENCE "FACING A CRISIS

* FASTS WELCOMES CHIEF SCIENTIST

* SCIENCE AWARENESS: WHY IS IT SO?

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ASB 99: Sept 30 - Oct 3, 1999

Broadbeach, Gold Coast, Queensland

Combined ASB 23rd Annual Scientific Meeting / 3rd Asia Pacific BioSensor Symposium

Our annual biophysics conference will be held at the Grand Mercure Hotel, Broadbeach, a short walk or monorail ride from Conrad Jupiter`s Casino where the ComBio 99 - Annual Conference of ASBMB, ASPP and NZ Cell and Developmental Biology - will be held from Sept 26 - 30.

Conference Structure

The conference will run over 3.5 days with oral sessions consisting of a 30 min opening talk followed by 3 or more 20 min talks and two poster presentations. The selection of oral and poster presentations will be decided from submitted abstracts with topics including:

Bioenergetics Ion channels

Macromolecules Membranes

Protein mechanics Protein structure and function

New techniques/Experimental results Sports and exercise science

Plenary Speakers

David Adams (UQ) Ion channels

Masuo Aizawa (Tokyo Inst Tech) Bioelectronics

Roger Koeppe (Arkansas) Engineering the gramicidin channel

Chris Lowe (Cambridge) Biotechnology and biosensors

Steve Mayo (Caltech) Protein folding and design

Reinhard Renneberg (Hong Kong) Physiological sensors

Martin Thompson (SU) Sports/Exercise Science

Accommodation

Some 50 rooms have been block-booked at The Mercure. Room costs (breakfast not included) are $120 per day (single) or $60 per day (shared). Self-catered apartments are numerous in the Broadbeach / Surfers Paradise area. Prices range from $70 to $150 per day for 3-6 people sharing, but are cheaper when booked for more than 4 days. This is the final week of Qld school holidays, so book early (Monday October 4th is a public holiday in NSW, ACT and SA).

Please make your own arrangements for self -catered apartments. The following apartments are all within walking distance of The Mercure :

San Mateo Ph 07 5561 0444 Fax 07 5561 0445

Victoria Square Ph 07 5592 1794 Fax 07 5570 1184

Marrakesh Ph 07 5584 7000

Surfers Aquarius Ph 07 5538 9466

King Tide Ph 07 5531 7124

Victoria St Apts: Ph 07 5592 1794

Registration

All registrations received after 1st August will attract a $20 late fee.

Full Member $140

Non-Member $160

Student Member $ 80

Student Non-Member $ 90

Conference Dinner $ 40

DEADLINES:

abstracts and registration due 1st August 1999

Registration forms will be (e)mailed later this month and will be available on the ASB home page:

http://www.anatomy.usyd.edu.au/ASB/

Further Information

Contact:

Dr Tony Colling Ph 02 9413 7148 Fax 02 9413 7200 Email: tonyc@tip.csiro.au

Dr Christa Critchley Ph 07 3365 3470 Fax 07 3365 1699 Email: c.critchley@botany.uq.edu.au

_____________________________________________

MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: S&T AND BUDGET '99

Australia's peak council for scientists and technologists today welcomed

increased expenditure in the 1999 Budget for research in health and

medicine, and biotechnology.

Professor Peter Cullen, President of the Federation of Australian

Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), said this investment will

help Australia become a serious international player, and generate

high-quality jobs in these areas.

"The Government and the community are recognising that new industries and

new jobs in Australia are all technology-driven," he said. "It was good to

hear the Treasurer last night announce the Government's intention 'to build

the nation's education and research capacity'."

"Investment in S&T should be at the top of every Government's shopping list

when it comes to budget time. It should be a fundamental part of economic

planning, rather than a top-up measure when everything else is in place and

the economic signs are good."

But he expressed disappointment that the Government continues to starve the

university system of funds.

"This neglect comes with a price-tag," he said. "Our libraries, our

laboratories, our staff are feeling the effects of a terrible burden. The

$90 million allocated to infrastructure represents a drop in real terms

over previous funding measures.

"How can this be 'an education budget' (as the Government calls it), when

it leaves one entire sector out in the cold?"

Professor Cullen said the increases in medical and biotechnology research

needed to be echoed in other areas, such as Information Technology and the

Australian Research Council.

"Australia needs a massive boost in research if we are to capitalise on our

top-quality research and stay in touch with the nations that lead the

world," he said. "We need to buy our way into the top league.

"The US, the UK, Germany and Japan are putting huge amount of new resources

into science and technology because they know the long-term benefits are

there. They will reap the rewards of new high-quality jobs, better

standards of living, cleaner environments."

Professor Cullen said the Government had begun to move in the right

direction, but there is still unfinished business that needs to be dealt

with in future budgets.

"The Innovation Summit (due in February 2000) and the Green Paper on

research will afford the Government further insights on what it needs to do

to move towards a knowledge-driven economy," he said.

"We need to enter the new millennium with a plan to revitalise research,

recharge the university system and generate new industries."

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OILS AIN'T OILS IN BUDGET STRATEGY

The Government's commitment and vision for the minerals and petroleum

industry was questioned today (19/5/99) in the light of last week's

Budget.

Close examination of Budget figures reveal a cut of fifteen per cent to the

Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO). This will result in

redundancies and sackings of 100 AGSO staff members.

Professor Peter Cullen, President of the Federation of Australian

Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), said that the minerals and

petroleum sector had been "king-hit" at a time when it most needed

Government support.

"We are puzzled by the Government's attitude," Professor Cullen says. "The

whole sector is facing a particularly difficult time, but Government action

seems to be compounding these difficulties rather than helping them.

"What plans does the Government have for this industry? How does it fit

into Australia's future in a world driven by knowledge-based economies?"

Professor Cullen said the Government's declared commitment to build the

nation's education and research capacity sit strangely with its lack of

support for the sector.

He detailed five major problem areas:

* low international commodity prices

* only one geoscience-based Cooperative Research Centre applicant was

successful in attracting funding in the April 1999 round

* a funding cut of 15 per cent to the Australian Geological Survey

Organisation (AGSO) in the 1999 Budget

* wholesale sackings of exploration and research staff in the petroleum and

minerals industry

* severe financial pressures on the university sector, including geoscience

departments

"The Government is not responsible for all these problems, but it does have

an interest in protecting the skill base of our geoscientists. Instead the

skills base is just slipping through our fingers at the first signs of a

downturn," he said.

Staff losses at AGSO would include many who had been responsible for

building the international reputation of the Australian minerals and

exploration industry as an innovative, high-technology industry.

"This is the worst time for the Australian Government to cut funding to

this sector."

Dr Bob Day, President of the Australian Geoscience Council (AGC), said

annual expenditure on exploration is about $2 billion.

"These decisions do nothing to help an industry which in 1996/97 exported

minerals and petroleum worth $41.3 billion," he said.

__________________________________________

AUSTRALIAN GEOSCIENCE "FACING A CRISIS"

The President of the Australian Geoscience Council, Dr Bob Day, said today

(19/5/99) that up to 50 per cent of Australia's 8000 geoscientists are

currently out of a job.

He said the two billion dollar exploration industry is being brought to its

knees by a combination of low commodity prices, restriction of access to

land in Australia brought about by Native Title considerations, and the

failure of Government to take positive remedial steps.

"I'm pretty critical of the Budget for its failure to support the industry

in tough times," Dr Day said.

"Despite claims that the Government wants to maintain Australia's strength

in research and innovation, it emerges from the fine print of the Budget

that nearly 20 per cent has been slashed from the Australian Geological

Survey Organisation (AGSO).

"This will involve the loss of nearly 100 AGSO staff, many of whom are

amongst Australia's leading geoscientific researchers in their field.

"At a time when the mining and petroleum industries in Australia are under

enormous pressure , the Government should be investing in Australia's

future through additional support to geoscience," Dr Day said.

Access to quality, publicly funded geoscientific information is essential

to successful minerals and petroleum exploration. In Australia, AGSO (in

conjunction with the State and Northern Territory Geological Surveys) plays

this vital role.

The ready availability of modern geoscientific information helps companies

to focus their exploration efforts in areas of greater mineral and

petroleum prospectivitiy . This enhancement of the nation's

competitiveness for attraction of the global exploration dollar has been

Australia's competitive advantage.

Provision of such information has enabled Australia's geoscientists to

unlock our geological treasure chest.

As a bonus, the products of scientific creativity and the innovative

application of Information Technology have become significant exports.

Mincom and World Geoscience are notable examples of this success.

Dr Day said it was particularly disappointing that highly successful mining

and petroleum Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) were also in jeopardy.

These CRCs are effective collaborations between Universities, CSIRO,

Government and Industry, and have attracted some $17 million per annum to

geoscience areas.

However, three of these CRCs, namely the Australian Geodynamics, Australian

Petroleum, and Australian Mineral Exploration Technologies CRCs, had not

had their funding renewed.

"It's tough in the universities, it's tough in private industry, and it's

tough internationally. The last thing the sector needs now is a weakening

of Government support," Dr Day said.

During 1997/98 the mining and petroleum sectors each spent around $1.1 billion.

But recognition of Native Title and its attendant requirements have slowed

the issue of Exploration Titles to a trickle, resulting in a virtual

moratorium on access to land.

"It's small wonder that industry is shedding jobs," Dr Day said.

He pointed out that public and private investment in geoscience in recent

decades had demonstrated impressive results.

During the 1970s and 1980s there was widespread apprehension that

Australia's known petroleum reserves would be rapidly depleted with

Australia's self-sufficiency in oil and gas under threat in the 1990's.

Today, as a result of substantial private sector investment in exploration,

mainly in the North West Shelf, Timor Sea and Bass Strait regions,

Australia's self-sufficiency in petroleum liquids remains around 80% and in

gas 100%.

Similarly, mineral resources extracted over the past 100 years or more have

in most cases been replaced with the discovery of major new deposits in

recent decades.

The minerals and petroleum sectors continue to be the pillars of Australia

economic wellbeing.

Exports from unprocessed and processed minerals in 1996/97 were worth $41.3

billion. This was 36% of Australia's total exports of goods and services,

and 64% of total commodity exports.

The petroleum sector, for example, is a sizeable contributor to the

Australian economy with an annual value of production of $8 billion, with

net exports of $1 billion.

The petroleum sector alone pays resource taxes on oil and gas production of

$1 billion and contributes another $1 billion in other taxes.

Dr Day said Australia's innovative applications of geoscience and

information management not only lead to the discovery and development of

the Earth's resources. They are equally applicable to water resource and

environmental management and land care.

"Australia must continue to invest in geoscience to ensure that the

research infrastructure in this country - which comprises people and their

skills and expertise - is retained," he said.

______________________________________

FASTS WELCOMES CHIEF SCIENTIST

Australia's peak council for working scientists and technologists has

welcomed the appointment of Dr Robin Batterham as the Chief Scientist of

Australia.

Professor Peter Cullen, President of the Federation of Australian

Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), said he looked forward to

working with Dr Batterham on the Prime Minister's Science Council.

"The Chief Scientist plays a pivotal role in bringing a whole-of-Government

approach to the funding and application of research for the benefit of

Australia," he said.

"Dr Batterham's record in research and industry leave him admirably placed

to capitalise on the considerable achievements of his predecessor,

Professor John Stocker."

Professor Cullen said growing interest in science and technology by State

and Territory Governments opened up intriguing prospects for the Chief

Scientist in his dealings with the more innovative States.

"The recent investments by Queensland in biotechnology underline the

emerging role for regional government in science. Queensland are picking up

initiatives trailblazed by Victoria and West Australia, and some of the

other jurisdictions are not far behind," he said.

Professor Cullen said the appointment coincides with a growing awareness of

the power of science and technology to generate wealth-creating industries

by the Commonwealth Government, although funding for scientific research

was yet to match the rhetoric.

________________________________________________________

SCIENCE AWARENESS: WHY IS IT SO?

Australia's peak council for working scientists and technologists urged the

science community to speak out strongly in a review of a national program

for science awareness. The review is expected to be announced today

(Tuesday).

Professor Peter Cullen, President of the Federation of Australian

Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), said the review should be

seen as an opportunity to set new objectives and a new direction for the

program, and to reverse savage cuts announced in the last Budget.

The Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science and Resources (ISR)

currently spends $2.6 million each year on initiatives like the Australia

Prize, National Science Week, and the Science Olympiads.

"These are all worthy ideas," Professor Cullen said. "But the objectives of

the Program have not always been clear. We need to identify exactly what we

want to achieve from this Program, and the best way to achieve these

objectives.

"How much science do people need to know? What is the best way to get these

ideas across? Where should we spend the money, and how much do we need to

spend?

"It's a crucial issue, one we need to get right."

He said FASTS will actively support meetings planned for Melbourne, Sydney

and Canberra to discuss future directions of the program. The meetings are

to be conducted by the National Science Forum, with venues and dates to be

announced shortly.

Government expenditure on science awareness in 1998-99 was in the following

projects:

Australia Prize $500,000

National Science Week $450,000

Science Olympiads $250,000

ABC Science Development Project $330,000

Michael Daley Awards $48,000

STAP small grants $1,000,000

S&T Communication activities $45,000

Survey and Evaluation $25,000

TOTAL EXPENDITURE $2,648,000 (approx)

The 1999 Budget reduced this to $1.5 million and then $800,000 over the

next two years.

The review has been asked to identify what the science and technology

awareness needs are in Australia, the extent to which these are being

addressed by existing initiatives, and propose any changes to STAP that may

be necessary to take account of current awareness needs and to improve

outcomes.

Professor Cullen said FASTS approved of the broad terms of reference for

the inquiry.

"It's a great opportunity to have a complete rethink about what we are

trying to achieve and the way we are going about it," he said.

Mr Toss Gascoigne

Executive Director

Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies

PO Box 218

DEAKIN WEST ACT 2600

Phone: 02 - 6257 2891 (work); Fax: 02 - 6257 2897

Email: fasts@anu.edu.au (Toss Gascoigne)

Web address: http://www.usyd.edu.au/su/fasts/

______________________________________________________________________

Dr Frances Separovic

School of Chemistry

University of Melbourne ph: + 61 3 9344 6464

Parkville VIC 3052 fax: +61 3 9347 5180

Australia email: f.separovic@chemistry.unimelb.edu.au