INNOVATION STRATEGY A BOOST FOR MATHS

With reforms set to boost the discipline’s innovation impact, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) has welcomed Innovation and Science Australia’s (ISA) vision outlined in Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation. AMSI Director, Professor Geoff Prince, says increasing industry reliance on data, optimisation and digital innovation will see mathematics and statistics play a key role in the strategy outlined in yesterday’s report.

“Front and centre in supporting innovation, we welcome the report’s focus on critical investment to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematical capability and ensure supply of these skills into the future,” says Professor Prince. In particular, AMSI supports recommendations tackling out-of-field mathematics and science teaching and falling participation in advanced and intermediate mathematics. In 2016 only 7 per cent of Year 12 girls and just over 12 per cent of Year 12 boys enrolled in advanced mathematics.

“Out-of-field teaching is endemic in Australia with an estimated 38 per cent of Year 7-10 maths classes being without a maths-trained teacher. The report’s recommendations of professional development for out-of-field teachers and the establishment of school discipline leaders to strengthen teaching of science and maths and to re-engage students are essential,” he says.

The Institute also supports calls for the reintroduction of university mathematics prerequisites for entry into science, mathematics and engineering degrees. “University mathematics prerequisites are critical to send a strong signal to teachers, students and parents about the value and impact of mathematics. They are also part of the universities’ duty of care to their incoming students,” says Professor Prince.

Postgraduate internships are also on ISA’s radar, with the report identifying the need for a national scale program. AMSI is already helping address this gap through the expansion of APR.Intern to deliver 1400 PhD internships across all disciplines and industry sectors nationally by 2020.

“As we seek to build an industry ready research workforce, placing postgraduates at the industry frontline plays a critical role in opening avenues for university-industry collaboration,” says Professor Prince. With ISA’s strategy delivered to support the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, Professor Prince says AMSI is looking forward to ministerial responses to these recommendations.