10 November 2020

Physicist Dr Cathy Foley to become next Chief Scientist

| Dominic Giannini
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Dr Cathy Foley

Dr Cathy Foley is Australia’s next Chief Scientist. Photo: CSIRO.

Physicist and passionate advocate for women in STEM, Dr Cathy Foley, has been named Australia’s new Chief Scientist. She will take over the role from Dr Alan Finkel.

Dr Foley, the current Chief Scientist at the CSIRO and Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) board member, said science is absolutely critical for the country’s future.

“This is an extraordinary honour for me, not just to be in the role of being Australia’s Chief Scientist,” she said.

“It’s going to be terrifying leaving CSIRO after 36 years … but the thing that’s really exciting from my perspective is that it’s a chance to serve the nation in a way which will allow science and technology to be able to assist the government in addressing the many challenges which we’ve already seen are confronting us right now.

“I hope that I’m going to be in a position to support the government, to be able to find the best information, the best knowledge from across all the science sector in Australia.”

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Dr Foley was thrown in the deep end at her first media conference today (9 November), being asked to weigh in on the government’s climate change strategy and the push for Australia to adopt a net-zero emissions target.

“I think everyone agrees that climate change is something that has to be dealt with and it’s something which has not just a single solution, we’re going to have to see over a long time a whole range of different things and approaches that have to come together,” she said.

“Alan Finkel, our current Chief Scientist, has identified gas as a transition to being able to deal with the future, and my role is to see how to build on that, to be able to make sure that we’ve got what’s needed into the long term because it’s not as though we can swap things over overnight.”

Dr Foley is best known for her work in superconduction, developing devices using superconductors to detect magnetic fields and locate valuable mineral deposits.

She will be the second female Chief Scientist after Professor Penny Sackett held the role between 2008 and 2011.

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Her appointment was welcomed by the ATSE.

“She is well-placed to provide high-level, independent advice to governments on science, technology and innovation,” ATSE Chief Executive Kylie Walker said.

“Dr Foley is also a strong champion for women in STEM and we hope her appointment inspires a new generation to consider careers in science, technology and engineering.”

She will hold the role for three years. Her tenure officially starts in January 2021.

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Stephen Saunders11:33 am 10 Nov 20

After Finkel, I hope she is a little less brimming about “Net Zero” and the “Electric Planet”.

Those pipe-dreams should be left to the politicians and economists.

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