Australian Council of
Learned Academies

Through the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) we collaborate with Australia’s other three Learned Academies – Australian Academy of ScienceAcademy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering – on interdisciplinary research projects of national importance.

ACOLA provides a forum that brings together great minds, broad perspectives and knowledge. It is the nexus for true interdisciplinary cooperation to develop integrated problem solving and cutting edge thinking on key issues for the benefit of Australia. Our Fellows and Academy representatives in these projects provide valuable humanities expertise to ensure that social, cultural and community concerns remain central in the advice provided by ACOLA to decision-makers.

Recent reports released from the Horizon Scanning series for the Office of the Chief Scientist draw on the disciplinary expertise from within Australia’s four Learned Academies to consider Australia’s future, the opportunities and challenges. Commissioned by the Commonwealth Science Council, the Horizon Scanning series aims to influence government priorities and inform better practice across many sectors and industries.

Launched in July 2019, The Effective and Ethical Development of Artificial Intelligence: An opportunity to improve our wellbeing report acknowledges that as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more advanced its applications will become increasingly complex in homes, work places and cities. The project co-chaired by leading international ethics expert and philosopher Professor Neil Levy FAHA placed society at the core of AI development and analysed the opportunities, challenges and prospects AI presents, and explored considerations such as workforce, education, human rights and our regulatory environment.

The Future of Precision Medicine in Australia report was launched in January 2018 by the Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP. The report focuses on the possibilities and complexities facing Australia’s engagement with data on genetic and biochemical makeup, technologies for precise management of health and disease and how broader implementation may realise greater medical, health, lifestyle and economic benefits for Australia. We are especially grateful to Professor Warwick Anderson FAHMS FASSA FAHA for championing the role of ethics, access and equity in this project.

The Synthetic Biology in Australia: An outlook to 2030 study recognises the potential this technology has in designing new biological parts and devices and changing natural biological systems. With synthetic biology being applied across Australian health care, climate change control, agriculture and manufacturing, there remains uncertainty. The report significantly contributes to the social, cultural, ethical and regulatory debates on the application of synthetic biology. We congratulate Academy Fellow and philosopher of science with a focus on biology and psychology Professor Paul Griffiths FRSN FAHA for his valued direction on this project.