MEDIA RELEASE: MATHEMATICS FOR THE PLANET

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Few people realise that mathematicians and statisticians behind the scenes help model the effects of climate change, uncover terrorism networks, improve our biosecurity, bulletproof the global financial system and significantly reduce the causalities of natural disasters.

Few people realise that mathematicians and statisticians behind the scenes help model the effects of climate change, uncover terrorism networks, improve our biosecurity, bulletproof the global financial system and significantly reduce the causalities of natural disasters.

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) along with five government agencies — CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), ABS and BoM — several national and international research organisations, government departments and centres of excellence brought these unseen heroes of innovation together, at the recent Maths of Planet Earth conference in Melbourne.

Though mathematical skills are indispensable to progress, the Australian mathematical population is in serious decline.

‘The problem is, in part, due to the words “mathematics” and “statistics” not appearing in our job titles: mathematical sciences do not appear on the radars of parents, students and career advisors,’ AMSI Director, Prof. Geoff Prince, said.

A communiqué released by conference participants said: ‘Australian policy makers must address declining interest in advanced mathematics and statistics in our schools. Our school children must be engaged to the varied work that mathematically capable professionals perform. And they deserve to have qualified maths teachers.’

Chief Scientist, Prof. Ian Chubb said that mathematics is the only subject whose study consistently enhances performance across all fields.

‘Most of the great innovations that have changed the way people live over the past two centuries were enabled by mathematics,’ Prof. Chubb said.

The conference demonstrated that a solid foundation in the mathematical sciences underpins Australian innovation and high quality science. Mathematics and statistics are critical to the future welfare of our planet.

The communiqué said: ‘As a community of scientists and professionals we have the principal responsibility for the public awareness of our work. We must inspire tomorrow’s researchers by engaging them today.’

‘The entire week has been tremendous. We have discussed new ideas, re-worked some old ones and created new collaborations,’ Prof. Prince said.

Dr Alexander Zelinsky, Chief Defence Scientist and head of DSTO, addressed delegates at the conference dinner on Thursday night.  He said that mathematics is part and parcel of everyday life and as the scientific community we must do more to encourage kids to study science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

‘The breadth of mathematical applications are profound… mathematical skills are essential for our work here at the DSTO,’ Dr Zelinsky said.

To remain the “clever country” we need more innovation to spur productivity.  Too few people realise that mathematics is vital to every step of that process.

Participants agreed that: ‘The development and application of mathematical and statistical research is paramount for us to safeguard and better understand our planet.’

But in order to achieve these goals we need to change the culture in our schools.

‘Outreach is key to making these subjects appealing,’ Dr Zelinsky said. ‘And DSTO looks forward to working with AMSI to promote the importance of the mathematical sciences to a wider public.’

The need for people who are mathematically proficient will not cease; the growing demands of the Australian economy coupled with the critical challenges facing our planet ensures this.

Our mathematicians and statisticians — whether they are known by these names or not — must take pride of place in the shared consciousness.

Conferences that bring together governmental agencies, experts from leading international and national research organisations, governmental departments and centres of excellence are necessary to solve these challenges which are both materially and intellectually urgent.

The communiqué pledges to communicate these points to the Australian community through a variety of channels.

MPE Australia Communiqué

Prof. Chubb’s speech

Dr Zelinsky’s speech

Discipline Profile of the Mathematical Sciences 2013

FOR INTERVIEW: Director of AMSI, Prof. Geoff Prince

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephanie Pradier M: 0424 568 314 E: stephanie@amsi.org.au

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