Media ReleaseResearch16 Dec 2020

Ground-breaking research forum set to expand with Minderoo Foundation commitment

Minderoo Foundation is collaborating with the Australian Academy of Science to expand the Rapid Research Information Forum.

Fiona-David-and-Anna-Maria-AAS-MF
Anna Maria CEO of the Australian Academy of Science with Minderoo Foundation’s Research Chair Fiona David. Photo Credit: Australian Academy of Science.

The highly successful Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF), tasked with providing the latest scientific evidence to the Australian government’s decision makers, will continue and expand with support from Minderoo Foundation.

Australia’s success in containing the COVID-19 outbreak, largely based on an evidence-based response, including the work of the RRIF, is the envy of the world.

In April, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold globally, Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel together with the country’s science, research and innovation sectors, began fielding questions from the Australian government about the coronavirus, in what was a rapidly changing situation.

Chaired by Dr Finkel, the RRIF’s operations are led by the Australian Academy of Science. The RRIF is an innovative model that provides the best and latest evidence to government to help drive the country’s response to the pandemic.

The RRIF and its impact on the nation has been publicly recognised by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Minderoo Foundation’s commitment of $400,000 to the Australian Academy of Science will strengthen the RRIF and help lay the foundations for the model into the future.

Australian Academy of Science Chief Executive, Ms Anna-Maria Arabia, warmly welcomed the commitment from Minderoo Foundation.

“This collaboration demonstrates a shared understanding of the need for evidence-informed decision making,” Ms Arabia said.

“The strengths of the RRIF are its multi-disciplinary focus, independence, and ability to rapidly draw on Australia’s best and most relevant experts on any given policy matter.

“The RRIF has demonstrated the critical value of independent evidence to inform social and economic policy and this has been recognised by Minderoo Foundation.

“This grant sees the RRIF model strengthened for the immediate term. The RRIF will continue its remit to rapidly provide the scientific expertise needed to answer questions received from Australian government ministers during the recovery phase of the pandemic.

“We are also working to encourage the adoption of the RRIF as a policy model in the long term to ensure that decision makers are drawing on the best evidence base possible, whatever the policy question.”

Research Chair of Minderoo Foundation Fiona David said the RRIF is fast becoming one of Australia’s greatest research assets, delivering clear evidence on key policy issues at the speed needed to help the country through crises.

“Now more than ever, Minderoo Foundation understands the importance of quality research which can be used to transform and improve the lives of all Australians,” Ms David said.

“Back in May, the RRIF released a report which outlined COVID-19’s devastating impact on Australia’s research sector. In response, Minderoo Foundation launched a fellowship program at the Forrest Research Foundation, to support some of the best and brightest early career researchers in Australia. Our new Prospect Fellowship Program aims to provide stable funding to Australian researchers during this challenging time.

“Minderoo Foundation is thrilled to be working with the Australian Academy of Science to be part of the Rapid Research Information Forum. We eagerly anticipate the publication of the next report.”

Why the need for the RRIF during COVID-19 and beyond?

Few permanent mechanisms exist in Australia for the provision of independent scientific evidence to government or the parliament more broadly to inform their decision making.

Around the world, learned academies routinely provide independent scientific advice to their governments and parliaments and additional permanent mechanisms exist to support decision making. The United Kingdom, the United States and Germany are examples.

The regular and routine provision of multidisciplinary scientific advice from independent, authoritative and trusted sources strengthens decision making, democracy, leadership, and trust in governments. While this has not been a historic practice or feature in Australia’s policy landscape, COVID-19 has triggered a more meaningful relationship between politicians and scientists.

The success of the RRIF points to the potential benefits of structural changes in the way decisions are made in Australia.

Background information about the RRIF

Chaired by Australia’s Chief Scientist and operationally led by the Australian Academy of Science, the Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF) was initially developed to provide rapid multidisciplinary scientific expertise to government Ministers during the COVID crisis.

While Ministers ask the questions, all expertise provided is drawn from completely independent sources including a network of Australia’s national chief scientific advisors and the Fellows of the learned academies – Australia’s most distinguished eminent researchers. A list of RRIF members can be found here.

Since April the RRIF has produced 12 reports on topics ranging from SARS-CoV-2 re-infection, the impact of COVID on learning outcomes and our research workforce, monitoring wastewater to detect the virus, and more.

The RRIF has enabled the evidence base on any subject matter to be provided to government and other decision makers in a timely manner, usually within 7 to 10 days, to inform policy decisions. Importantly, RRIF is independent of government and is uniquely positioned to synthesise the best available evidence without making policy recommendations and without engaging in advocacy.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the RRIF

“Of course, people in government don’t have all the answers. And so I’ve drawn on the best of Australia. At the onset of this pandemic, our Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel established the Rapid Research Information Forum.

“This forum harnesses expertise of our leading scientific institutions and provides factual science-based answers on the pandemic for our Ministers. Without advice from the best minds in our science community, we could not have acted as swiftly, or as confidently or as effectively as we have.”

The Prime Minister spoke about the RRIF during his 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science speech. The comments above can be viewed here.

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with eight key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

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