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Diplomazia scientifica

The scientific cooperation between Italy and Australia is regulated by the Agreement for Scientific, Technological and Innovation Cooperation that was signed between the Italian Government and the Federal Government of Australia on the 22nd of May 2017 and that is in force since the 27th of June 2021. The executive protocols to give effect to this agreement are currently under negotiation.

Italy and Australia boast a very cohesive scientific and technological cooperation network, as evidenced by the number of joint publications, which in 2021 reached the significant value of 4,600, equal to 3% of Italian publications and 3.7% of Australian publications. It should be noted that this ratio showed a significant and constant increase over the last decade, indicating a progressive intensification of collaboration (data processed from the Elsevier/Scopus database).

 

The topics on which collaboration is most important are Medicine and Physics & Astronomy, disciplines in which both Australia and Italy excel worldwide. If, by natural affinity, the “Biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology” topic is considered together with Medicine, and the “Earth sciences and planetary sciences” topic with Physics, these two macro areas alone make up more than 50% of the scientific collaborations between the two countries (data processed form the Elsevier/Scopus database).

 

There are 25 operation agreements between universities or individual departments involving 10 Italian and 16 Australian universities, even if, as evidenced by the data of the joint publications, the interactions between researchers involve almost all the institutions in the two countries.

Among the institutional agreements, we would like to highlight the following:

  1. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA): Italy plays a leading role in the construction of the largest radio telescope in the world, located 800km north of Perth and in South Africa. Through the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), Italy is one of the first nations to have joined the SKA project, having been involved in it since its early days and is one of the founding countries of the SKA Observatory.
  2. Space: The Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Australian Space Agency (ASA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2019, following which numerous collaborations have been activated, including joint support for the SpIRIT project, led by the University of Melbourne in collaboration with INAF.
  3. Dark matter: The National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) has a close collaboration with several Australian universities in the SABER project, dedicated to the direct detection of the dark matter. The project is centered around the Italian-Australian cooperation with two full-scale experiments, one in the Northern Hemisphere at Gran Sasso National Laboratories, Italy, and one in the Southern Hemisphere inside the disused Stawell Gold Mine in Australia , converted into an underground laboratory

The community of Italian researchers in Australia is very large, more than a thousand researchers of Italian nationality are working at all levels in Australian institutions, and it is constantly growing.

The Association of Italian Researchers in Australasia (ARIA), which brings together not only the scholars present in Australia but extends to New Zealand and the Pacific islands, born in 2014 in Adelaide, is active throughout the territory and, after the forced inactivity due to the pandemic phase, is currently fast growing, reflecting the positive trend of all the collaboration and cultural exchange activities between Italy and Australia

THE AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH AND INNOVATION FRAMEWORK

At the federal level, three departments manage Australia’s science and technology activities:

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science deals primarily with science and technology transfer

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water deals with research issues related to energy, climate and the environment.

The Department of Education deals with university education, university research and related technology transfer

Furthermore, the federal government makes use of the advice of a special team led by the Australian Chief Scientist. Among his/her duties he/she acts as the Australian Science Ambassador and represents the main link between Australia and the rest of the world in terms of science and technology.

The main government agencies and research bodies are:

  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
  • Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
  • Australian Research Council (ARC)
  • Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)
  • Geoscience Australia (GA)
  • Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO)
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
  • Australian Academy of Science (AAS)
  • Australian Space Agency (ASA)
  • Board of metrology (BoM)

Forty national and two international universities are present on the Australian territory. The Group of Eight (Go8) gathers the eight main Australian universities that contribute to more than the 50% of the national scientific production, and graduate over half of the doctors and dentists, over half of the graduates in science subjects and nearly half of Australian PhDs.

Australia’s Infrastructure Roadmap, released in April 2021, sets out priority issues for 2021-2026 as follows:

  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Next generation omics – integrated genomics, phenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics
  • Quantum technology
  • Synthetic biology – includendo includere lo sviluppo di vaccini a mRNA, l’ingegnerizzazione di virus per colpire batteri resistenti agli antibiotici e lo sviluppo di organismi unici per bonifica ambientale.
  • Advanced climate modelling
  • Earth observation from space
  • Materials science and advanced manufacturing
  • Renewable energy systems

The same Roadmap has identified the following infrastructures in which to invest in the international context:

  • Square Kilometre Array
  • European Molecular Biology Laboratory
  • Global Ocean Observing System
  • Giant Magellan Telescope
  • International Ocean Discovery Program
  • International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium
  • Global Bio imaging
  • Research Data Alliance