December 4, 2017

new report by Inspiring South Australia and the Department of State Development has just been released, highlighting the need for greater recognition of South Australian researchers.

Earlier this year, Inspiring South Australia compiled a list of STEM research, teaching, communication, journalism and arts awards and SA award winners. The list revealed that South Australian researchers are underrepresented in major, national award schemes, receiving just 5.5% of eligible awards (compared to a national population share of 7%). To address this underrepresentation, more information was sought about SA scientists.

A survey was developed by Inspiring South Australia and the Department of State Development to find out more about SA researchers. The survey was sent to researchers across the state, questioning them about award representation and also media and public engagement.

The survey report has just been released detailing the reasons why South Australian researchers may be underrepresented in major, national award schemes. Respondents to the survey indicated that time was a significant barrier to applying for awards, unsurprising given that many academics complain of – or even boast about – insane work schedules. However, lack of belief in competitiveness, awareness and encouragement from senior researchers were also barriers. Some respondents also indicated that awards criteria do not adequately recognise their research output. So, more awards were suggested to recognise team-based projects, leadership, mid-career researchers and research at a state-level.

While the survey indicated that major barriers need to be overcome to increase award representation, it also revealed that encouragingly, 76% of researchers are active communicators of science. Public lectures, panels, interviews and written articles were all common outreach activities. However, much like applying for awards, time and lack of awareness were significant barriers. But, respondents indicated that more training, awareness and invitations could support higher participation rates.

Respondents also commented on the state of science in South Australia, with several worried about a perceived brain drain happening in the state, where SA-trained scientists and PhD students are leaving to pursue careers interstate or overseas. South Australian researchers also worried about the lack of funding and job security, and also called for closer ties between science and Government.

The survey report provides a source of information for decision makers to enact change to increase the value of South Australian science and research and is now available online.