‘Take more risks,’ WA Chief Scientist urges researchers

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risk taking concept oncology news australia_800x500By Tony Malkovic – Science WA.

Scientists should take more risks in their research and spend more time communicating with the community and government about what they do, according to WA’s Chief Scientist, Professor Peter Klinken.

The recently appointed Chief Scientist spoke recently to an audience of UWA graduates, sharing his vision for WA science and technology and reiterating his belief that scientists need to think big.

“I would like to think we can encourage our young researchers, support their careers and encourage them to ask big questions,” he said.

“But to ask big questions, you’ve got to take some risks.

Photo: Harry Perkins, Institute of Medical Research

Photo: Harry Perkins, Institute of Medical Research

“I would promote the idea that [young researchers]have the ‘James Cook’ approach to research, rather than the ‘Matthew Flinders’ approach.

“By that I mean James Cook went out in search of a continent, the Great South Land.

“Matthew Flinders, conversely, fine-mapped a continent that was already discovered.

“To me, too much of Australian science is involved in risk-averse, fine mapping, incremental, small improvements, and not enough ‘continent hunting’.

“We need to encourage our bright people to ask the big question, take the risk, and support them when it doesn’t come off. Because with risk there is failure, but we learn from failure. We shouldn’t see that as an impediment.”

As an example of scientists who take risks, Prof Klinken cited WA’s Nobel Prize winners Barry Marshall and Robin Warren and their breakthrough idea that bacteria, not stress, cause stomach ulcers…read more.

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