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The Physics decadal plan 2012–2021: building on excellence in physics consists of two documents:

The Physics decadal plan 2012–2021: building on excellence in physics, underpinning Australia’s
future contains a summary of the findings of the physics decadal plan process and provides the main
recommendations for addressing the current issues identified within Australia’s physics community.
This document is the Physics decadal plan 2012–2021.

The Physics decadal plan 2012–2021 research report: building on excellence in physics, underpinning
Australia’s future contains the background and foreground research from which the findings presented in
the Physics decadal plan 2012–2021 have been drawn. The data in the Physics decadal plan 2012–2021
research report can also be used for benchmarking future changes in this field.

Both parts may be downloaded from the physics decadal plan website

ISBN 978 0 85847 338 6

Cover image

Physics lies at the heart of science, crossing the          astronomy in Australia and the search for exotic
boundaries of chemistry, biology, engineering and           states of matter such as black holes ultimately led
medicine, and providing us with an increasingly             to a thriving export business in specialised antennas,
quantitative view of the world around us — allowing         the facilitation of wireless computing worldwide,
us to design solutions to outstanding problems and          and a successful bid for the world’s largest radio
invent new ideas that are revolutionising our world.        telescope, the Square Kilometre Array.

The power of physics has recently been highlighted          This report is about ensuring that the process
in the reported discovery of the Higgs boson — a            of strategic investment in teaching and research
prediction of a theory which provides a description         in physics in Australia continues over the next
of three of the four fundamental interactions between       10 years, so that Australia remains a strong member
elementary particles. This theory builds on centuries       of the world’s physics community and reaps the
of work by physicists including Galileo, Newton,            associated intellectual, economic and social
Maxwell, Einstein and Feynman.                              rewards.

But physics has done much more than provide a               The Physics decadal plan 2012–2021: building on
fundamental understanding of the world in which we          excellence in physics is ambitious but achievable. It
live; it has also underpinned huge changes to society       calls for significant investment in invigorating physics
and our quality of life — including the industrial          education at all levels, addressing physics skills
revolution, electricity, electronics, computers,            shortages, boosting capacity in physics research,
medical imaging and aerospace technology.                   and supporting international collaboration in physics,
                                                            particularly with our Asian neighbours.
The search for the Higgs boson is also a wonderful
illustration of what is needed to make such great           In times of stringent fiscal constraints, it may be
leaps in understanding — it was a collaborative             tempting to forego investment in the fundamentals
effort demanding major resources. And Australia             of our economy — education, research and
was there, playing a small but significant role as part     development. But this is a false economy, as it
of a huge transnational effort. This would not have         forestalls building of capacity to meet the challenges
happened, however, without a long-term investment           of the future. In the end, investment in this plan is
in our education system, in our universities, in large      a small price to pay for outcomes upon which our
research infrastructure such as the synchrotron, and        nation will be increasingly dependent: helping us
in our capacity to engage internationally.                  generate and manage diminishing energy resources;
                                                            understanding and coping with climate change;
Just as an understanding of electrons and photons
                                                            developing better medical imaging, diagnosis and
has led spectacularly to many of the electronic and
                                                            treatments; building a high technology industry base;
optical products in our lives today, a deeper
                                                            and interpreting the laws of the Universe and our
understanding of the fundamental laws of our
                                                            place in it.
Universe cannot but lead to a wealth of new
possibilities, both directly and indirectly. Projects       I commend the Physics decadal plan 2012–2021
at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear              to you.
Research) chasing the Higgs and other particles
                                                            Professor Brian Schmidt FAA
have already delivered the World Wide Web as a
                                                            (Nobel Prize in Physics, 2011)
spin-off; only history will reveal what else will come.
                                                            Research School of Astronomy and
In my own research field, astrophysics, we see              Astrophysics, Mount Stromlo Observatory
the same interplay. Long-term investment in radio           Australian National University

                                                 PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS     iii
From the working group convener

                                  Physics is a fundamental science that underpins             by the physics community to survey the discipline
                                  other disciplines such as engineering, computer             of physics in Australia and identify near and far
                                  science, chemistry and medicine. Physics provides           opportunities. It builds on the 1993 review of
                                  the fundamental understanding that allows                   physics in Australia. The 1993 report contained
                                  development of new technologies and tools for               38 recommendations aimed at making Australian
                                  advances in all of science and technology and               physics stronger, and defined a pathway to a more
                                  builds capacity for new industries and business.            competitive Australia. It addressed these issues
                                  Investment in physics provides returns in many              based on five elements: investing greater resources
                                  forms and on many timescales.                               nationally in research and innovation; improving
                                                                                              access to the tools needed for the advancement of
                                  Physicists are renowned for being solution finders.
                                                                                              physics; training for future needs; lifting the status
                                  Solutions can have unexpected impacts in new
                                                                                              of physics in the community; and planning for the
                                  areas of activity. Examples include new phase
                                                                                              future. The 1993 plan contributed to raising the
                                  contrast biomedical imaging techniques and cancer
                                                                                              level and impact of optics research in Australia
                                  treatments, broadband communication, solar cells,
                                                                                              and setting optics as an ARC priority area. This
                                  green energy and power, organic photovoltaics,
                                                                                              has contributed to the very strong present-day
                                  nanotechnology and advanced materials. New
                                                                                              role of optics research in Australian physics.
                                  companies such as Bluglass (LED technology),
                                                                                              Nearly 20 years later the five elements of the
                                  Quintessence (information technology security
                                                                                              1993 plan are still just as important.
                                  systems) and SRL Plascon (electric plasma based
                                  hazardous waste destruction) seek to bring products         The 2011–2012 plan process has been managed
                                  to market. Physicists support interdisciplinary             by the Physics Decadal Plan Working Group under
                                  research conducted on major national facilities such        the auspices of the Australian Institute of Physics
                                  as the Australian Synchrotron, the OPAL reactor,            and the Australian Academy of Science. Throughout
                                  within hospitals and CSIRO, DSTO and other major            the process it was clear that Australian physicists
                                  laboratories.                                               are well connected to the international enterprise
                                                                                              of physics and that there are many opportunities
                                  To face the big challenges of the future, excellence
                                                                                              to better capitalise on those connections. People
                                  in physics literacy is required. Physics graduates
                                                                                              everywhere were concerned about supporting
                                  move into many professions. Some of these, such
                                                                                              our physics teachers. Australia has been relatively
                                  as teaching, research in universities and government
                                                                                              lightly touched by the global financial crisis and
                                  laboratories, and drivers of high technology industries,
                                                                                              that, thanks to the investments made over the past
                                  require discipline-specific knowledge. However,
                                                                                              20 years, makes Australia a desirable place to live
                                  physics graduates are also keenly sought for a wide
                                                                                              and work. Australia has unique opportunities in the
                                  range of government and industry positions in which
                                                                                              competition to attract and develop the best human
                                  their ability to think critically, analyse data and solve
                                                                                              capital into physics. This plan aims to identify and
                                  abstract problems is their key credential for
                                                                                              build on those opportunities.
                                  employment. Australian physicists can be found in
                                  academic institutions, laboratories and industries          Professor DN Jamieson

                                  around the globe.                                           July 2012

                                  Building on excellence in physics: underpinning
                                  Australia’s future is the product of a research project

iv                                PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS

Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii      Critical issue 2: realising
                                                                              human capital in physics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
From the working group convener . . . . . . . . . . iv
                                                                              Human capital in physics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Abbreviations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi
                                                                              Physics into industry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Executive summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
                                                                              Physics and interdisciplinary research . . . . . . . . . 33
Key findings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii

Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii   Critical issue 3: building on
                                                                              physics research and investment . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Three opportunities for physics in Australia . . . . . viii
                                                                              The physics track record . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Four critical issues for the future of physics . . . . . .ix
                                                                              Physics research investment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Summary of recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .xi

The review panel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvii           Critical issue 4: engaging in the
                                                                              international enterprise of physics . . . . . . . . . . 42
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
                                                                              Australian physics in the international context . . . 42
Audience, stakeholders and implementation . . . . . 1
                                                                              Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Today: the impact of physics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

The future: three opportunity areas in physics . . . . 4                      Acknowledgements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Four critical areas to securing the role
                                                                              Appendix 1: Presentation
of physics in underpinning Australia’s future . . . . . . 6
                                                                              of the plan process: site visits . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
The scope of physics and the national context . . . 6
                                                                              Appendix 2: The physics
Critical issue 1:                                                             decadal plan process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
achieving a physics-literate
                                                                              The critical success factors
workforce and community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
                                                                              for a vibrant physics community . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
The challenge of physics education . . . . . . . . . . . 14
                                                                              The current operating environment
The primary and secondary sectors. . . . . . . . . . . 17                     of physics in Australia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56

The higher education sector . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21                                                                                       CONTENTS

                                                                 PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS                    v

                AIP        Australian Institute of Physics
                AMSI       Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute
                ANSTO      Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
                ANU        Australian National University
                APA        Australian postgraduate award
                ARC        Australian Research Council
                CAMS       ARC Centre of Excellence for Antimatter-Matter Studies
                CERN       European Organization for Nuclear Research
                CFC        chlorofluorocarbon
                CLFR       compact linear Fresnel reflector
                CO2        carbon dioxide
                CSF        critical success factor
                CSIRO      Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
                DIISRTE Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
                DSTO       Defence Science and Technology Organisation
                ERA        Excellence in Research for Australia
                EU         European Union
                FOR        field of research
                GDP        gross domestic product
                GMR        giant magneto resistance
                GPS        global positioning system
                ICSU       International Council for Science
                IP         intellectual property
                IPRS       international postgraduate research scholarship
                ITER       International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
                LAN        local area network
                LIGO       Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory
                NCRIS      National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy
                NMI        National Measurement Institute
                OECD       Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
                OPAL       Open Pool Australian Lightwater Reactor
                PCB        polychlorinated biphenyl
                PISA       Program for International Student Assessment
                SET        science, engineering and technology
                STEM       science, technology, engineering and mathematics
                TIMSS      Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study
                UK         United Kingdom

                USA        United States of America
                UWA        University of Western Australia

Executive summary

Physics is a core discipline that underpins our              research internationalisation. The current paucity
understanding of both the world around us and the            of funding opportunities in Australia places us at
technological advancements that benefit of our               a serious competitive disadvantage. The urgent
society. Physics is an intellectually demanding              establishment of a replacement for the
science that requires high mathematical and                  International Science Linkages scheme to enable
theoretical literacy, which provides a challenge for         access to major international physics facilities and
the teaching of physics at all levels and for attracting     research opportunities and to enable engagement
the best students into the discipline to maximise            with major overseas funding schemes is required.
the benefits for the nation. More than any other           • A large proportion of senior physicists currently
discipline, much of physics research requires large,         contributing to high-quality research outputs that
often interdisciplinary teams, extensive financial and       seed the physics innovation system, and who are
human capital and strong global engagement in                responsible for training the next generation of
order to make an international impact. In this               physics leaders, are approaching retirement.
Australia is critically dependent on a large cohort          Unaddressed skills shortages in the physics
of early career physics researchers supported by             research sector threaten the maintenance of
research funding agencies. Schemes that support              Australia’s technological capability, our
these resources are essential.                               participation in discovering solutions to global
                                                             challenges, and our ability to work in international
Key findings                                                 and interdisciplinary teams. These are strong and
• Physics is one of Australia’s research strengths,          compelling grounds to implement mechanisms to
  and produces significant spinoffs to industry and          train, attract and retain physicists in Australia.
  society. This success is built on research funding       • Given the importance of physics to other scientific
  from schemes such as the Australian Research               disciplines and to a multitude of industries, the
  Council (ARC), and support of government                   National Mathematics and Science Education and
  research organisations. Continued funding of               Industry Adviser located within the Office of the
  physics research is essential to maintain Australia’s      Chief Scientist must work with the physics
  standing in the international community as                 community to address physics-specific
  punching above its weight in innovation and                challenges.
  technology.                                              • Major benefits can be derived by facilitation of
• There is a worrying decline in the uptake of               cross-sector mobility between higher education
  physics by students at secondary level. This               institutions, government research agencies,
  decadal plan suggests the introduction of a                industry and business.
  requirement that secondary school teachers are           • The current mechanisms and metrics used to
  trained in physics to three years above the highest        measure performance and for career progression
  level at which they are required to teach it. This is      are out-dated and need urgent review. The current
  so that physics teachers will have a perspective           system rewards publication-related activities and
  to inspire students to studies beyond the level at         penalises researchers who engage in important
  which they are being taught. Physics teachers              activities such as entrepreneurial and commercial
  must also be properly supported with the                   activity, and activities that broaden skills such as
  resources needed to do their job, and appropriate          assisting government with policy formulation.
  recognition must be given for the contribution
                                                           • The way physics is practiced is changing and
  made by teachers to nurturing a passion for
                                                             this must be reflected by the science system in
                                                                                                                     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  physics in the next generations.
                                                             Australia. Research funding programs must allow
• Ongoing campaigns to promote the wide                      the participation of physics in multidisciplinary
  spectrum of available career paths to physics              consortia to address problems of national
  students should be initiated as a priority.                importance and to tackle ambitious research
• A critical component of any country’s science and          projects.
  innovation system is government support for

                                                PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS   vii
• Targeted strategies to attract and retain highly       The 2012–2021 decadal plan is deliberately
                      skilled but vulnerable members of the physics          ambitious, but achievable. It speaks to the physics
                      community should be adopted as a priority.             community’s notable strengths and proposes that
                      Vulnerable physicists include women, early-career      these be the underpinnings of achieving and
                      researchers, those who wish to re-enter the            sustaining physics excellence in Australia in the
                      physics workforce after taking time out for family     next decade. With this plan, the Australian physics
                      or to broaden skills, and Indigenous people.           community unites and stands committed to work
                    • The physics decadal plan needs an agency               for the national interest.
                      with the responsibility for implementation of the      Implementation of the plan is the responsibility of
                      recommendations of the plan. This agency will          all contributors to the physics innovation system
                      coordinate the effort of the various stakeholders      (see table 1, page 2). Importantly, the plan will assist
                      and develop the necessary processes to act on          policy makers, politicians and industry leaders as
                      the issues raised in this report. There are many       decisions are made around investments in physics
                      agencies already in existence that have a stake in     education, research, infrastructure, and enterprise.
                      promoting the cause of physics in Australia. The       The anticipated gains will be shared and include
                      agency with the best resources for coordinating        greater commercialisation success and superior
                      the effort is the National Committee for Physics       innovation through the intermingling of pure and
                      of the Australian Academy of Science and this          applied research endeavours. The government,
                      agency is therefore recommended to take custody        business and community sectors are not only daily
                      of the plan and drive the implementation               beneficiaries of the outputs from physics, but they
                      strategies.                                            also play an important role in defining demand.

                    Objectives                                               Three opportunities
                    The Physics decadal plan 2012–2021 presents the          for physics in Australia
                    Australian physics community’s strategic vision for      Extensive consultation with the community
                    the ten years 2012–2021. It outlines future growth       conducted by sub-discipline working groups
                    opportunities taking into account the importance         identified three broad areas of opportunity for the
                    of physics education, physics in our society, the        future of physics in Australia. These are the new
                    importance of international engagement, and that         quantum revolution; the quest for new physics and
                    science and technology are important for our future.     new symmetries; and physics in the society in which
                    Physics always presents challenges and                   we live.
                    opportunities. In the near future these will include
                                                                             1. THE NEW QUANTUM REVOLUTION
                    the implications of the Higgs boson and its even
                    more exotic partners — room temperature                  At a time when we are developing an ability to exert
                    superconductors, dark matter, quantum coherence          control over quantum processes, new applications
                    in room temperature processes, efficient ways to         of quantum mechanics are being revealed in areas
                    transform energy, and sleek devices to interface         such as the storage, transmission and manipulation
                    with the human body.                                     of information. Quantum mechanics is also providing
                                                                             a deeper understanding of biological processes.
                    Today, the impact of physics is reflected in the
                    extraordinary penetration of information technology      In the previous century, quantum physics was
                    into all aspects of everyday life. It is almost          responsible for the invention of the transistor, the
                    impossible to do anything without leaving digital        television, nuclear energy sources, and other
                    footprints in server farms and databases. In a           life-changing technologies. It is anticipated that
                    random café anywhere in the world many of the            the 21st century will deliver a second wave of the
                    clientele will be employing the physics of the element   quantum technological revolution where concepts
                    silicon, properties of electricity and magnetism from    of the microscopic world will again provide
                    Maxwell’s equations, the passage of light through        unprecedented benefits to society.
                    carefully crafted glass fibres, the equations of         Australian quantum physicists engage in research in

                    general relativity that describe how gravity shapes      areas including semiconductors, neutral atoms, ion
                    space and time for the global positioning system         traps, superconducting circuits, opto-mechanics,
                    (GPS), and other fundamental physics principles to       photonics and quantum dots. This amounts to great
                    surf the web, read a newspaper or keep in touch          strength for a country the size of Australia with the
                    with friends and family.                                 challenge to maintain the necessary depth.

Continued support for programs focused on                  international levels to radiation therapy and
research excellence, including centres of excellence       oncology, medical imaging, nuclear medicine,
and research fellowships, is required to maintain this     nano-dosimetry and radiobiology, as well as to
strength. Strong engagement with the international         the development of medical devices such as the
physics community through the exchange of people           internationally renowned cochlear Implant. Bionic
and collaborative research projects is also needed to      vision is a near-term goal that will be made possible
enhance Australia’s capability and relevance.              through advances in information processing and the
                                                           machine–human interface.
PHYSICS AND NEW SYMMETRIES                                 Supporting all aspects of physics in the society in
                                                           which we live requires an excellent education system
The electron and photon and their quantum
                                                           that inspires young people to study physics, to
mechanical description were once purely the domain
                                                           choose careers in physics and to make decisions
of fundamental physics, but now form the basis of
                                                           about the future of our society based on sound
multi-trillion-dollar industries in electronics,
                                                           physics principles.
communications, computing and manufacturing.
The investigation of subatomic particles and the
farthest reaches of the Universe, and the theoretical      Four critical issues
explanations required, will probably yield new             for the future of physics
technologies we cannot yet imagine. Studies of the         The physics decadal plan reviews the current
physics of the extremely small and the extremely           position of physics in Australia, and identifies future
large — at the scale of the particles that form the        directions and opportunities for Australian physics
most fundamental building blocks of matter and of          in the global context by exploring and making
the large structures which form the Universe — are         recommendations in four main areas:
the domain of the 21st century.
                                                           1. ACHIEVING A PHYSICS-LITERATE
Mechanisms to allow Australian physicists to               WORKFORCE AND COMMUNITY
continue to test their ideas and collaborate with          Addressing the need to improve the teaching
international teams at experimental facilities (such as    of physics at all school levels is a fundamental
the Large Hadron Collider) and work on international       requirement for achieving a physics-literate
projects (such as the Square Kilometre Array) must         workforce and community. To ensure a steady
be preserved and further developed.                        supply of physicists in the immediate future, we
                                                           need to improve the recognition of the contribution
                                                           made by teachers to nurturing a passion for physics
There will be rapidly increasing opportunities in the
                                                           in the next generations. It is essential that physics
next decade to harness the knowledge of physics
                                                           be taught by well-trained and enthusiastic teachers
to serve our society. Examples include generating
                                                           properly supported by the resources needed to do
electricity with minimal environmental impact,
                                                           their job.
advanced tools for medical imaging, diagnosis and
therapy, and informing government decision making
on issues of long term and global significance.
Increasingly close collaboration in multidisciplinary           DECADAL OBJECTIVES
teams will be required to meet these challenges.                • Attract and retain students in physics
For example, assessing and addressing the                         at all educational levels.
challenge of climate change will require sound                  • Increase the quality and number of
physics and the collaboration of teams with                       appropriately qualified physics teachers
expertise across the innovation spectrum. While                   across the school sector.
low carbon sources of power are becoming more                   • Reduce the gender differential in physics
substantial, they still remain stubbornly minor in                competency at all school levels.
proportion to demand.                                           • Improve physics literacy in the general
                                                                                                                     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The eternal quest to improve health and diagnose                  community.
disease has been a constant driver in the                       • Improve the use of the physics evidence
development of new imaging technologies, most                     base to inform policy development.
of which have their origin in fundamental physics
research. In Australia medical physics has made
substantial contributions at both the national and

                                                PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS    ix
A focus on teaching physics topics in primary school     workforce after taking time out for family or to
                    and the early middle school years is required to         broaden skills; and Indigenous people who wish to
                    reverse the current trend of lower performance of        access and complete advanced studies in physics.
                    female students in physics and mathematics.              Equally, organisations should be required to report
                                                                             on their activities to ensure equitable practices that
                    2. REALISING HUMAN CAPITAL IN PHYSICS                    can lead to the removal of disadvantage for
                    There is significant evidence that by 2020 the           vulnerable sections of the workforce.
                    demand for researchers will outstrip supply.
                                                                             Career management is an essential activity to retain
                    Unaddressed skills shortages in the physics research
                                                                             talented physicists. Employment prospects and the
                    sector threaten the maintenance of Australia’s
                                                                             variety of exciting career paths available to trained
                    technological capability and our ability to work in
                                                                             physicists should be well documented and
                    international and interdisciplinary teams.
                    A significant proportion of those currently
                                                                             Strategies to improve collaboration between
                    responsible for maintaining the high-quality research
                                                                             industry and research organisations nationally
                    outputs that seed the physics innovation system are
                                                                             and internationally must be devised and adopted.
                    currently in senior positions. Opportunities must be
                                                                             Issues such as intellectual property management by
                    provided for the next generation of research leaders
                                                                             academic institutions and improved understanding
                    to continue to produce research outputs of
                                                                             of factors that affect the business environment (such
                    excellence and impact, and train the succeeding
                                                                             as shareholder and customer demands) are central
                    generation. Targeted strategies to attract and retain
                                                                             to improving partnerships between industry and
                    highly skilled but vulnerable members of the physics
                                                                             academia. A key factor to improving collaboration
                    community must also be adopted. This includes
                                                                             between industry and the research sector is
                    women who are less likely to choose and/or
                                                                             recognition of the weaknesses associated with the
                    progress a career in physics; early-career
                                                                             publication-based metrics applied in Australia which
                    researchers who have little job security due to their
                                                                             do not capture or reward entrepreneurialism and
                    high dependence on short-term competitive grant
                                                                             interactions with industry. Currently researchers are
                    funding; those who wish to re-enter the physics
                                                                             not always rewarded for pursuing non-traditional
                                                                             career paths. It is critical to recognise and reward
                                                                             efforts made to partner with industry or other
                        DECADAL OBJECTIVES                                   disciplines, commercialise, or assist government
                        • Address skills shortages in the physics            with policy formulation.
                          research sector by creating a healthy              Strengthening interactions and scientific
                          pipeline of physics-trained professionals.         collaboration with cross-disciplinary teams will
                        • Maintain Australia’s excellent international       provide diverse employment opportunities for
                          reputation in physics and high-quality             graduates and allow industry to boost their research
                          research output.                                   and development efforts and investment.
                        • Train, attract and retain physicists to and
                                                                             3. BUILDING ON PHYSICS
                          in Australia by maintaining and promoting
                                                                             RESEARCH AND INVESTMENT
                          the quality of Australian physics research
                                                                             Research productivity amongst physicists could be
                          groups and Australian research strengths.
                                                                             improved by reducing the time invested in preparing
                        • Attract and retain vulnerable members of
                                                                             and assessing applications for competitive grant
                          the physics community, including women,
                                                                             schemes. Implementation of a two-stage ‘white
                          Indigenous Australians, early-career
                                                                             paper’ system would make the process more
                          researchers, and those taking career
                                                                             cost and resource efficient. ‘Field of research’
                          breaks to develop valuable skills.
                                                                             classifications and related metrics should be used to
                        • Facilitate productive partnerships and
                          mobility between academia and industry.
                                                                             A ‘white paper’ in this context is a brief, authoritative

                        • Enhance industry-driven applied and
                                                                             proposal that helps solve a problem as the first stage
                          commercial research.
                                                                             of a funding round. The white paper is used to inform
                        • Ensure greater participation of physics in         the readers and help people make decisions about
                          interdisciplinary research.                        which proposals are selected for submission of a detailed
                                                                             research proposal to implement a new research project.

DECADAL OBJECTIVES                                         DECADAL OBJECTIVES
    • Improve efficiency of funding agency                     • Consolidate existing bilateral schemes
      processes to maximise impact of public                     and develop new schemes for
      investment and improve agility                             international collaboration, including
    • Increase the global competitiveness                        schemes to allow Australian researchers
      and impact of the Australian physics                       to become funded partners in US and
      research sector by long-term investment                    European Union initiatives
      in research infrastructure and human                     • Strengthen international collaboration
      resource capabilities                                      with countries in the Asia–Pacific region,
    • Diversify physics research funding                         including China, India, Japan and Korea
      sources                                                  • Make international research participation
    • Find ways to support ‘shovel ready’ ARC                    central to Australian physics.
      proposals with a sustainability theme
      assessed as worthwhile by the rigorous
      ARC processes through liaison between               infrastructure that is often beyond the means of
      the ARC secretariat and the managers of             any single nation to build and maintain. Ongoing
      the Clean Energy Finance Corporation                coordinated effort and government support are
    • Ensure overhead and operational                     necessary to establish and maintain research
      costs of infrastructure are included                relationships with leading research organisations
      in infrastructure funding schemes.                  and nations, and to build and expand relationships
                                                          with emerging nations.

                                                          Collaboration within the Asia–Pacific region is an
reflect accurately the current physics sub-disciplines    increasingly important policy issue for Australia.
and more importantly, their different publication and     Of particular importance is collaboration with China
citation modalities.                                      and India as Australian research competencies
                                                          complement the technological needs, strengths
Maintaining and expanding research infrastructure,        and capacity of these nations.
including super-computing infrastructure, is essential
to attract the world’s best and brightest physicists      Consistent with the Australian Academy of Science’s
and national and international collaborators. Staff,      position paper, Australian science in a changing
operational and maintenance costs must be factored        world: innovation requires global engagement 1,
into infrastructure investment for Australian physics     it is essential that resources are provided for
research to remain at the cutting edge and to             collaborative innovation projects, for programs
maintain international collaborations.                    supporting early to mid-career researchers, and
                                                          for building strategic partnerships in branches
In some sub-disciplines of physics, such as               of physics. In addition, investment is required
theoretical physics and mathematical physics,             in improved awareness campaigns, improved
physical infrastructure is not required. However,         governance and improved diplomacy for Australia
theoretical physicists do require a critical mass to      to adapt to future changes in the global landscape
sustain capability and ensure international visibility.   of physics.
Small postgraduate numbers at any one institution
makes teaching advanced graduate courses
                                                          Summary of recommendations
uneconomical. The establishment of an Australian
                                                          Each recommendation in this summary is addressed
Theoretical Physics Institute would provide the
                                                          in the four critical issue chapters that comprise the
necessary infrastructure to support and coordinate
                                                          body of the plan.
theoretical activities in physics. The current
infrastructure funding guidelines should be amended
                                                          RECOMMENDED ACTIONS AND PATHWAYS
to provide for this type of investment.
                                                          a) Quality teaching — quality students
                                                                                                                   EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

4. ENGAGING IN THE INTERNATIONAL                          • Establish a scholarship scheme to encourage
ENTERPRISE OF PHYSICS                                       excellent physics graduates into a secondary
A high level of international collaboration has             education teaching career.
enabled Australian physicists to capitalise on
international investments made in existing research

                                               PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS   xi
• Consult to ensure the physics component of               • Start public campaigns to raise the status of
                      the national curriculum is founded on rigorous             teaching as a profession, modelled on the
                      analytical and quantitative reasoning, and                 successful Victorian State Government campaign.
                      encompasses the fundamentals of physics; and             • Establish a joint-academies taskforce to harness
                      develop a formal process to second physicists              the strengths of e-learning in tertiary institutions
                      to serve on panels developing the curriculum.              with a view to developing the next generation of
                    • Require that secondary school teachers are                 teaching technologies jointly across the sector.
                      trained in physics to three years above the highest        This will include the establishment of a competitive
                      level at which they are required to teach physics.         teaching and learning scheme to aid in the
                      This corresponds to first-year university physics          transformation of education in science,
                      for years 7–10 teachers and a major in physics for         technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
                      years 11–12 teachers.                                      and the development of metrics to evaluate STEM
                    • Endorse an undergraduate science degree                    education.
                      together with a teaching qualification as the            • Identify and address the underlying causes of the
                      preferred qualification option for years 7–12              under-representation of girls in physics at all levels
                      physics teachers.                                          of school education.
                    • Require science education training as an integral        • Promote the spectrum of available career paths
                      part of the teacher training for future primary            to students to enable them to make informed
                      school teachers.                                           decisions about career choices.
                    • Resource universities to provide programs that           • Provide career advisory services particularly for
                      up-skill and update school physics teachers as             school students (but also university undergraduates
                      part of their professional development. This should        and graduates) so they can make informed
                      include resources for secondary school physics             choices about future career pathways, such
                      teachers to take sabbatical leave to participate in        as teaching, research, government or industry
                      undergraduate teaching programs within the                 employment.
                      university sector.
                                                                               b) Internationally competitive Australian physics
                    • Introduce options for science, mathematics and           undergraduate and postgraduate students
                      physics teachers to allow them to study part-time
                                                                               • Broker agreements between Australian higher
                      for a teaching MSc.
                                                                                 education providers to ensure that the Australian
                    • Continue ongoing support for the development               physics PhD is comparable in the breadth, depth
                      and implementation of the Australian Academy               and duration of training to those in the USA and
                      of Science’s primary school program Primary                the EU, particularly by providing the resources for
                      Connections and its junior secondary school                the inclusion of postgraduate coursework as a key
                      program Science by Doing. These award-winning              component for higher degree by research training.
                      approaches to professional learning and school
                                                                               • Merge the Australian postgraduate award
                      curriculum resources have been shown to have a
                                                                                 scholarships scheme with the international
                      positive impact on the quality and quantity of
                                                                                 postgraduate research scholarship scheme to
                      science taught in schools.
                                                                                 open up the scholarship pool to all domestic and
                    • Encourage school programs such as Scientists               international students.
                      in Schools, STELR 2, Science and Engineering
                                                                               • Provide a balance of learning experiences
                      Challenge 3 and SPICE 4 that promote
                                                                                 between theoretical, experimental, observational
                      contemporary quality school science learning.
                                                                                 and computational physics to ensure employment
                    • Reward excellence in physics teaching. A panel of          readiness of graduates not only for research but
                      leading teachers should be convened to identify            also for industry and business. This will include
                      the best process, perhaps under the auspices of            a process for consultation with key employers
                      the Australian Institute of Physics (AIP) Education        to better understand their needs.

                    • Introduce teaching bursaries to support students         c) Valuing and promoting physics
                      interested in teaching physics to gain qualifications.   • Commit resources from the higher education and
                                                                                 research sectors to support high-quality outreach
                    2                                     programs with long-term impact that can reach
                                                                                 and engage Australians.

• Develop programs and commit resources to                • Develop models for facilitating cross-sector
  promote the value of physics and physics                  mobility between higher education institutions,
  education and careers to school students,                 government research agencies and industry and
  parents, industry, universities and government            business. This includes developing mechanisms
  bodies.                                                   and metrics that facilitate entrepreneurialism and
• Ensure the National Mathematics and Science               commercialisation of research within research
  Education and Industry Adviser located within the         organisations without penalising career prospects.
  Office of the Chief Scientist works with the physics    • Convene, under the leadership of government,
  community to address physics-specific challenges.         a summit or workshop with the aim of developing
                                                            an understanding of mutual expectations of
d) Equitable career pathways and removing                   government, industry and academia, and to
                                                            develop more effective modes of interaction and
• Provide equitable access to career opportunities          collaboration.
  by consistently enforcing research opportunity and
                                                          • Better manage intellectual property held by
  performance evidence guidelines in assessing
                                                            academic institutions.
  candidates for research positions and for internal
                                                          • Improve understanding by physics researchers of
  and grant funding.
                                                            factors affecting businesses (such as shareholder
• Implement initiatives to recruit, retain and promote
                                                            and customer demands).
  women and create an environment in which all
  staff can achieve their maximum potential.              f) The power of cross-disciplinary research
• Reassess the standard performance metrics upon          • Encourage the participation of physics in
  which career progression largely depends.                 interdisciplinary consortia to address problems
• Improve the academic preparedness of                      of national importance by encouraging research
  prospective Indigenous students; and improve              funding programs to aggregate critical mass
  personal and financial support once enrolled.             without discipline restrictions.
• Develop alternative pathways into higher                • Develop schemes that support large, coordinated
  education for Indigenous students                         multidisciplinary teams and ambitious research
• Reassess conditions for travel support. In the case       projects.
  of the ARC Future Fellowship Scheme (and its
                                                          g) Efficient, agile, fair and sustainable research
  successors) the restrictions on non-fellow travel       funding
  support are recommended to be lifted. At present
                                                          • Minimise the administrative burden and make
  restricting travel support only to the fellow
                                                            efficient funding agency processes by streamlining
  discriminates against fellows who cannot travel
                                                            the ARC grant application process, with
  because of carer responsibilities. Allowing fellows
                                                            consideration of moving to a two-stage ‘white
  to use their ARC travel funds to support visits of
                                                            paper’ system.
  key collaborators who will advance the cause of
  the project will remove this discrimination.            • Simplify funding schemes that support physics
                                                            research, including a simplified process for grant
e) Partnerships between industry and academia               renewal beyond the initial three years for projects
• Provide joint postdoctoral (as opposed to PhD)            of demonstrated significant achievement.
  positions in industry, jointly funded by government,    • Collaborate with the major funding agencies to
  university and industry.                                  improve agility of the funding process to enable
• Develop a ‘Physics in Industry’ model for                 responsiveness to international research
  constructive and lasting relationships between            opportunities, some of which arise at short notice,
  industry, business and the higher education sector        by the introduction of a new international
  based on the successful ‘Mathematics in Industry          collaborative research scheme.
  Group’ run by the Australian Mathematical               • Ensure that there are funding schemes to support
  Sciences Institute (AMSI) 5. This could be done           large collaborative centres of excellence in physics
                                                                                                                     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  by the Australian Institute of Physics and the            funded adequately at the top end of discipline
  Australian Academy of Science National                    funding. Physics research in areas of global and
  Committee for Physics.                                    technological importance specifically requires large
                                                            interdisciplinary teams to make an international

                                               PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS   xiii
h) Infrastructure investment to remain at the                   • Develop a system to allow small to medium
                    cutting edge                                                      enterprise to access supercomputers to bypass
                    • Provide ongoing funding for the National                        the cumbersome prototyping phase in product
                      Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy                  development.
                      (NCRIS) process to support major national physics
                      infrastructure upgrades and operational costs,                i) Metrics and coding for the 21st century
                      including the provision of qualified support staff.           • Develop metrics for academic activities that are
                    • Broaden the ARC definition of ‘infrastructure’ to               broader than those based simply on publication
                      accommodate the non-physical infrastructure,                    output and citations, including measures of
                      critical for theoretical and mathematical physicists.           interaction with industry, commercialisation and
                                                                                      the commercial impact of applied research.
                    • Establish a ‘Landmark Funding Scheme’ to
                      support participation in major international
                      research initiatives (the order of $100 million or
                      greater) that fall outside the scope of current
                      funding schemes.

                        SOLAR CELLS
                        Nanophotonics, the fusion of nanotechnology                 international interest and are the stepping
                        and photonics, is an emerging field offering                stones to a new generation of optoelectronic
                        exciting challenges for fundamental research                devices monolithically integrated with
                        and providing major potential for the delivery of           microprocessor/CMOS-based subsystems.
                        new technologies. The Nanowire Team at the
                                                                                    The long-term aim of the ANU nanowire
                        Australian National University (ANU) is working
                                                                                    research team is to use the physical
                        to understand the synthesis of nanowires, light
                                                                                    understanding of nanowire synthesis and light
                        interaction in these materials and how these
                                                                                    interactions in these materials to explore novel
                        properties can be used to develop a new
                                                                                    optoelectronic devices such as nanowire laser
                        generation of optoelectronic devices such as
                                                                                    arrays, ultra-compact metal cavity nanowire
                        nanowire lasers, nanowire photodetectors and
                                                                                    lasers, microcavity resonators for polariton
                        nanowire solar cells. Fabrification of advanced
                                                                                    lasers, high efficiency nanowire solar cells
                        metamaterial nanostructures with application
                                                                                    and photodetectors, and nanowire optical
                        to photonics is being undertaken with another
                        group at ANU. With 150+ papers published in
                        top international journals, the results achieved            See
                        to date have attracted enormous local and

                          Schematics of high efficiency nanowire solar cell fabrication

                                         (a)                                  (b)                                  (c)

• Develop an expanded set of metrics for university        • The Australian Bureau of Statistics and the
  staff that can be used for tracking progress and           Department of Industry, Innovation, Science,
  process improvements (such as equity-related               Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE)
  activities, achieving diversity of funding, meeting        re-examine field of research codes for their
  milestones in attracting new talent, developing            appropriateness in the current scientific
  collaborative programs etc.). ARC programs, such           environment.
  as Linkage, already recognise this to some extent.
• Ensure that the research metrics and
  classifications used accurately reflect the current
  physics sub-disciplines and more importantly,
  their different publication and citation modalities.

    John O’Sullivan FAA led the Commonwealth               Dr O’Sullivan’s career spans two disciplines,
    Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation        physics and engineering, and work in both
    (CSIRO) system design team for the world’s first       government-funded research and industrial
    802.11a (WiFi) chipset that was subsequently           research. After completing his PhD in Sydney
    developed and commercialised by Radiata                he took an appointment in the Foundation for
    Networks. He received a Bachelor of Science in         Radio Astronomy in the Netherlands (now
    Physics from Sydney University in 1967, and a          ASTRON). He went on to become the head
    Bachelor of Engineering with first class Honours       of their engineering group, making major
    and the University Medal in 1969 and a PhD in          contributions in the electronics and signal and
    Electrical Engineering in 1974, both from the          image processing areas.
    same institution.
                                                           In 1983, he returned to Australia for research
    CSIRO’s wireless invention lies at the heart of        at CSIRO and played an important early role in
    what is now the most popular way to connect            the initial conception of the Australia Telescope
    computers without wires. Forecasters predict           receiving systems. He was primarily charged
    that there are likely to be more than a billion        with setting up a new signal processing group
    devices sold worldwide over the next few years         at the Division of Radiophysics.
    using this technology. The invention came out
                                                           This group under his direction set out to
    of CSIRO’s pioneering work in radioastronomy.
                                                           find applications of processing skills and
    That work involved complex mathematics
                                                           technologies for the wider community and led
    known as ‘fast Fourier transforms’ as well as
                                                           to the group making significant contributions,
    detailed knowledge about radio waves and
                                                           together with various commercial partners and
    their behaviour in different environments.
                                                           customers, in areas such as image processing
    Indoor environments are particularly difficult         for medical and geophysical applications,
    for the rapid exchange of large amounts of             underground mine safety, communications
    data using radio waves. CSIRO solved these             systems and radar processing systems.
    problems in a unique way at a time when many
                                                           After his demonstration of the wireless local area
    of the major communications companies around
                                                           network (LAN) system, Dr O’Sullivan left CSIRO
    the world were trying, but with less success, to
                                                           in 1995 to join News Ltd as their Australian
    find a solution to the same problem.
                                                           Director of Technology. During this period, he
    CSIRO’s invention was granted a US patent              was a member of the Prime Minister’s Science,
    in 1996. There are corresponding patents in            Engineering and Innovation Council working
    18 other countries.                                    party ‘Connecting Australians: opportunities
                                                           for a new wireless age’.
                                                                                                                    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    The technology was first embodied in an
    industry standard in 1999 (called IEEE 802.11a)
    and later in other standards (IEEE 802.11g and
    IEEE 802.11 draft n).

                                                PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS   xv
• j) International enterprise of physics                 • Establish a replacement for the International
                                                                               Researcher Exchange Scheme that promotes
                    • Establish a replacement for the International
                                                                               two-way exchange at the level of individual
                      Science Linkages scheme to enable access
                                                                               researchers essential for rapidly developing fields.
                      to major international facilities and research
                      opportunities and to enable engagement with            • Ensure Australian physicists are able to provide
                      major overseas funding schemes such as the               inputs on international panels and agencies that
                      EU Framework Programs.                                   develop international policy.

                    • Establish co-funding agreements with international
                      grant agencies (e.g. EU and the US National
                      Science Foundation) to allow Australian
                      researchers to be partners in major international

The review panel

The exposure draft of the physics decadal plan was reviewed in 2012 by a panel of leading physicists and
scientists 1. Their advice and guidance is gratefully acknowledged.

Professor Aidan Byrne           Dean, Faculty of Science                      Australian National University, ACT

Professor Peter Drummond FAA    Centre for Atom Optics and Ultrafast          Faculty of Engineering and Industrial
                                Spectroscopy                                  Sciences, Swinburne University of
                                                                              Technology, VIC

Dr Marc Duldig                  President, AIP                                School of Mathematics and Physics,
                                                                              University of Tasmania, TAS

Dr Bob Frater FAA               Vice-President, ResMed                        ResMed Innovation, Bella Vista, NSW

Professor Bruce McKellar FAA    Chair, ICSU Regional Committee for Asia       School of Physics, University of
                                and the Pacific, President-Designate of the   Melbourne, VIC
                                International Union of Pure and Applied

Professor Gerard Milburn FAA    Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for        School of Mathematics and Physics,
                                Engineered Quantum Systems and ARC            University of Queensland, QLD
                                Federation Fellow

Professor Mary O’Kane           NSW Chief Scientist                           Office of NSW Chief Scientist and
                                                                              Engineer, Sydney, NSW

Dr Adi Paterson                 Chief Executive Officer, ANSTO                Australian Nuclear Science and
                                                                              Technology Organisation, Kirawee, NSW

Professor Geoffrey Taylor       Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for        School of Physics, University of
                                Particle Physics at the Terascale             Melbourne, VIC

Professor Anthony Williams      Associate Director, Centre for the            School of Chemistry and Physics
                                Subatomic Structure of Matter, Chief          University of Adelaide, University
                                Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence        of Adelaide, SA
                                for Particle Physics at the Terascale,
                                Executive Director, Australian Research
                                Collaboration Service

Further reviews were provided by the National Committee for Physics listed in the acknowledgements.

                                                                                                                        THE REVIEW PANEL

1   Affiliation at May 2012

                                                 PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS    xvii
‘Physics is a foundational and fundamental field that makes a significant contribution to the health
            of the Australian economy for its ability to generate the new knowledge, technology and high-quality
            human capital underpinning the innovation system. The last strategic overview of physics in Australia
            was conducted back in 1993 under the guidance of the Australian Research Council. For such
            a dynamic and fast-moving research field it is essential that a review of the current status of physics
            in Australia is conducted to evaluate the opportunities available for the future growth of the discipline.
            Importantly, this will allow us to reposition ourselves and determine what is required to make physics
            an even better contributor to Australian and global science.’

            Professor Michelle Simmons FAA
            Chair, National Committee for Physics, Australian Academy of Science


The physics decadal plan presents the Australian             technology and innovation have been the primary
physics community’s strategic vision for the ten             drivers of [American] economic growth and
years 2012–2021 and beyond. This plan builds on              productivity growth for decades..... No matter how
the 1993 review of physics in Australia. Much has            severe the fiscal constraint, this is not the time to
progressed since 1993 and physics continues to               stop investing in the drivers of the economic growth
give rise to new technology and be a key enabling            we need for recovery, for job-creation, for economic
science.                                                     growth going forward.’
Australian physicists continue to make fundamental           Australian Government measures also provide a
contributions to international efforts to understand         new landscape. Significant amongst them are policy
the natural world. At the same time, physics is              targets of 40 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds attaining
contributing to society and the economy in Australia,        a bachelor degree or higher by 2025 with the
to build high value exports, improve health, public          milestone of 35 per cent already reached in 2011.
safety and community services, increase national             These policies present opportunities to broaden and
security, and devise wiser policies which can guide          deepen knowledge of physics in our society.
sustainable economic development while protecting
                                                             One of the goals of the decadal plan is to provide
the environment for future generations.
                                                             policy makers with a vision of a vibrant future for
Since the 1993 review the landscape has changed              the Australian economy and for Australian society
significantly. In 2011, Australia celebrated the award       resulting from an environment in which physics
of the Nobel Prize in Physics to Professor Brian             continues to thrive.
Schmidt, the last Australian Nobel Prize in physics
                                                             The decadal plan also aims to stimulate wider
being in 1915. In the recently announced discovery
                                                             deliberations on the future direction of Australian
of the Higgs boson at CERN, the role of Australian
                                                             education, science, research, and innovation. As
physicists has been acknowledged. Australian
                                                             such, it highlights three areas of opportunity for
physicists have also supported the successful bid to
                                                             physics in Australia: the new quantum revolution;
have a significant part of the Square Kilometre Array
                                                             the quest for new physics and symmetries; and
in Australia and will be critical to its implementation
                                                             physics in the society in which we live.
and long-term operation.
                                                             The Australian physics community is united in its
This review of the current status of physics
in Australia was done in the light of major                  support of this decadal plan and in its belief that
achievements such as these. The review seeks to              physics has a major role to play in the national
identify major opportunities for the future contribution     interest.
of physics to society, the economy and the
advancement of knowledge.                                    Audience, stakeholders and
Such a review must acknowledge the opportunities
                                                             The physics decadal plan sets a strategic framework
for stronger engagement with our Asian neighbours.
                                                             for funders, practitioners, users, teachers and
The present transformative growth in Asia presents
                                                             students of physics. Implementation of the plan is
opportunities for stronger engagement in science,
                                                             the responsibility of all contributors to the physics
technology and education 1. Internationally,
                                                             innovation system (table 1). Importantly, the plan
knowledge generation and technology are seen as
                                                             seeks to assist policy makers, parliamentarians,
tools for recovery from the global financial crisis.

                                                             and industry leaders in the setting of policies and
US President Obama’s Chief Science Adviser,
                                                             decisions on investments in physics education,
John Holdren sums this up eloquently: ‘Science,
                                                             research, infrastructure, and enterprise.

                                                  PHYSICS DECADAL PLAN 2012–2021: BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE IN PHYSICS    1
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