In this edition
It was déjà vu in December last year when the PM’s Cabinet reshuffle found science demoted to the Assistant Ministry of Senator Zed Seselja. In 2013, the science community voiced its concern when then PM Tony Abbott failed to appoint a minister for science for the first time since the creation of a science portfolio in 1931. The imperative to ensure the importance of the skills and expertise of scientists and the $330 billion annual value of STEM to the Australian economy are front-row-centre in the Government’s national priorities remains urgent as we face the challenges of 2018.
While the Government was shown to be lukewarm on positioning science as one of the nation’s key priorities, UNSW Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons was awarded the 2018 Australian of the Year signalling the strategic importance attached to quantum physics and nanotechnology by the selection panel. ANU biophysicist Graham Farquhar was also awarded 2018 Senior Australian of the Year for his work on photosynthesis and how it might be harnessed to help address global food insecurity.
We will continue to make the point that science and R&D must be recognised for the crucial role they play in addressing critical global issues as well as economic growth, innovation and job creation. Professional Scientists Australia’s participation in the Research and Innovation Alliance, our affiliation with Science & Technology Australia and our outreach work with Science meets Parliament, Science meets Business and Science meets Policymakers means we can make these points direct to decision-makers in Canberra both independently and alongside other powerful science advocacy organisations. We’ll continue to punch above our weight in terms of profile and influence in what can be a crowded space.
Scientists continue to have a strong presence on the Professionals Australia National Assembly and Board following the recent elections, and the Scientists Division Committee met again recently for our annual planning conference to put together our plan for 2018.
In 2017, we extended our commitment to scientists’ career advancement and professional development with an investment in our Scientists Career Insights webinars. The new titles include Considering a move into science management?, Industry or academia?, Careers beyond the bench, Dealing with a career plateau and Gender equity and discrimination in STEM. We plan to extend our PD offerings into the important area of communication and interpersonal skills for technical professionals in 2018 with People Skills for STEM Professionals and Thinking on Your Feet webinars to be released shortly.
In 2017, over 300 scientist members accessed the organisation’s industrial services. Matters dealt with included contract reviews, advice on contract disputes and termination/redundancy, help with performance management issues and representation in unfair dismissals. Our member survey again confirmed how much our scientist members value this core service.
The Science Upskill scholarship was again awarded in 2017 to mark National Science Week and two members were awarded our annual scholarships to attend the 2018 Science meets Parliament event. These scholarships are a very tangible way for us to demonstrate our commitment to career development for members.
We continued to provide specialised remuneration and employment information to give our scientist members an edge negotiating their salaries with the publication of the recently released Professional Scientists Employment and Remuneration Report, and we extended our gender equity in STEM work launching Stemming the Tide: Addressing the attrition of women from the STEM workforce on Equal Pay Day.
We continued our advocacy work with submissions that reflected the wide range of industries and roles in which our members work and the issues that affect them including the NHMRC Peer Review Consultation and NHMRC Structural Review, Combatting Illegal Phoenixing, the Inquiry into Gender Segregation, Innovation and Science Australia’s 2030 Strategic Plan, the Consultation on the Draft Requirements for the Clinical Governance and Supervision of Medical Pathology Laboratories by the National Pathology Accreditation Advisory Council and the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap - each of these submissions emphasising how critical STEM professionals are to meeting Australia’s current and future challenges.
Professional Scientists Australia advocates for proper respect, recognition and reward for scientists and the serious, high-level work we do, for evidence-base and fair policy-making, for not letting uninformed opinion triumph over science, ensuring STEM professionals are well-represented at the decision-maker level and for measures to address inequality and access as part of our core work. We look forward to continuing to meet these challenges, to keeping the work scientists do front row centre before state and federal governments and ensuring you get the most out of being a member of the Professional Scientists Australia community in 2018.
The latest Professional Scientists Employment and Remuneration Survey Report, conducted in conjunction with Science & Technology Australia, is now available. The report contains detailed analysis of scientists’ remuneration and a range of salary benchmarks for you to reference in your salary negotiations. As a Professional Scientists Australia member, you also have access to our detailed employment commentary which includes analysis of the gender pay gap in science, changes to working hours, and extensive commentary on scientists’ work priorities and employment intentions.
Our survey shows that over the past year, remuneration for scientists has increased by 2.4 per cent, outperforming both the cost of living increase and general wages growth. This increase underlines the value that scientists deliver every day at the enterprise and sector levels.
While average remuneration for scientists grew, the survey also found continuing dissatisfaction around pay levels. 34.0 per cent of respondents reported being dissatisfied with their current level of remuneration. 31.6 per cent of respondents had received no pay increase at all in the previous year. 41.7 per cent said they were concerned that their remuneration package was falling behind market rates for those undertaking similar work and 40.5 per cent said their package did not reflect the level of responsibility they undertook in their day-to-day work.
There was broad concern about maintaining science capability with 67.9 per cent of respondents saying cost-cutting was impacting their organisation and 25.3 per cent said there was a decline in service quality at their workplace. 41.7 per cent said a decline in the number of scientists in decision-maker roles was evident in their organisation. Read the report here.
Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton welcomed the release of Innovation and Science Australia’s Australia 2030: Prosperity Through Innovation plan on 30 January but cautioned that policy around research funding and higher-ed could get in the way of implementing the plan and building our innovation capability in the long-term. Read the media release in full here.
The 2018 Science meets Parliament event was held on 13 and 14 February 2018 while Parliament was sitting. The scholarship covered recipient members’ conference fees, travel and accommodation. This year’s scholarships were awarded to Katie Havelberg and Ryan Hopprich, two very worthy winners. Click here for more info on Science meets Parliament, to read the winning essays or see the photo gallery.
In conjunction with AAMRI, Professional Scientists Australia has successfully argued that Award coverage of medical researchers in the MRI sector more appropriately sits with the Professional Employees Award than the Higher Education Academic Staff Award because of the scientific basis of the research MRI researchers conduct, and the fact that MRIs have a range of functions that distinguish them from universities. Read the full media release here.
If you’re a scientist operating in a consulting or contractor role, Professional Scientists has a range of information and services that might interest you. There’s our Guide to Getting Started in Business, our contract templates and follow up contract review service, advice on operating via an agency, information on how the Personal Services Income rules work, exclusive access to Rob Tonge’s How to Become a Successful Consultant in Your Own Field and help with determining whether you’re an employee or contractor. Register free for updates and newsletters as part of your membership here.
Professionals Australia has professional indemnity insurance for scientists working as independent contractors (rather than employees). Because of the variation in the work scientists do, some policies are written locally while others not well covered by the local market are offered via Lloyds of London. The policy coverage is very similar to a standard PI policy we sell to our engineering members. To talk about your Professional Indemnity needs, you can contact Greg Hansen, Director - Professional Risks on 03 9835 1376 or mobile 0437 410 810, or for an obligation-free quotation, go to Professional Indemnity Insurance Proposal Quotation form.
Graduation from the tertiary studies that enable you to begin your career as a professional is a major learning milestone. It is also the start of another learning journey – your continuing development as a professional. ‘Continuing professional development' commonly abbreviated to ‘CPD' refers to the work-related learning and development that should continue throughout your career. Professionals in some fields must complete mandatory CPD requirements in order to maintain their registration. For others it is entirely discretionary but no less important. CPD is one of the key mechanisms by which high standards of professional practice and the relevance and currency of qualifications and experience are maintained. Read more here.
The Professional Employees Modern Award is the national Award for Professional Scientists employed in the private sector. Along with the National Employment Standards, the Professional Employees Modern Award constitutes the safety net of minimum employment entitlements which is applicable to employees and which employers must observe. To read the Guide, click here.
Student internships in science
Student internships are a legitimate and vital part of gaining professional experience but employers can take advantage of a student’s need to get this experience to have on their CV. Read this guide to understand when alarm bells should ring, and when to contact our Workplace Advice and Support Centre.
Professional Scientists Australia welcomes your feedback. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions and comments.