Putting science on the political agenda

Tuesday, 18 September 2018


Leading University of Newcastle statistician, Associate Professor Peter Howley, has been named as one of ten inaugural ambassadors who will help strengthen the understanding and importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at a federal level.

Associate Professor Peter Howley
A/Prof Peter Howley

Launched by Science and Technology Australia (STA), the new STEM Ambassador program will connect experts with members of parliament over the next 12 months to help inform evidence-based policy creation.

Associate Professor Howley will work closely with the Member for Hunter and Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Mr Joel Fitzgibbon, to increase STEM knowledge and awareness.

“This opportunity will provide politicians with increased insight into the types of STEM research being conducted in their electorates and beyond, equipping them with a better understanding of how science can contribute to decision-making and policy,” Associate Professor Howley said.

Already a passionate advocate of science outreach and engagement, Associate Professor Howley aims to use his new role to also increase the appeal and accessibility of the sciences among young people, teachers and other industry.

“Many people have preconceptions and anxieties associated with STEM disciplines, which create greater barriers that first need to be addressed before any progress in these fields can be achieved.

“Engaging in multiple and significant collaborations that span across traditional boundaries is critical for encouraging broader interest and ultimately expertise in STEM. Through this new role, I aim to consolidate such alliances and further this cause.”

Renowned for his research and expertise within statistics, Associate Professor Howley has a keen interest in drawing attention to the potential of data and statistics.

“Whether it is the design of clinical trials, experiments within industry and agriculture, quality control and systems improvement, or mapping the human genome, the discipline of statistics is pivotal.

“Data is powerful in politics and transformational in business and industry, so I feel honoured to be championing the importance of integrated STEM through this new position.”

Associate Professor Howley also received the Statistical Society of Australia’s National Service Award last month for his dedication and national contributions to the field of statistical education.