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Australia Forms Science Council

The Australian government is forming a 10-expert council to advise on science policy and increase its return on investment in the sciences, the Nature News Blog reports.

The Commonwealth Science Council, announced as part of a new competitiveness agenda, includes five business leaders and five researchers and will be chaired by Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane will serve as deputy chair.

The agenda, the Nature News Blog adds, also calls for the creation of five industry growth centers to enhance collaboration and promote competitiveness of the mining, oil, and medical technology industries, at the cost of AUS$188.5 million over four years.

The Australian government's commitment to science has recently been in doubt as the science minister post was folded into the industry portfolio and as cuts are being made to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation budget.

Macfarlane, the Nature News Blog notes, has been saying that this competitiveness agenda would highlight how the government is tackling these issues.

Ian Chubb, Australia's chief scientist who has expressed concerns regarding science in Australia, welcomed the news. “This is about improving the impact, focus and prioritization of Australia’s investment in science and research," he says in a statement. “Our national strengths, our future needs, our comparative advantages, and our shared ambitions must connect."