If Australia is to use science successfully to drive forward its economy and quality of life we must, as a nation, become much more adept at the science of complex systems (e.g., the human body, the Murray Darling basin system, integrated agriculture, national water systems particularly groundwater, mineral systems and how to explore for them in the covered areas of Australia).
Unfortunately our policy settings, and therefore our funding mechanisms, do not facilitate the effective undertaking and implementation of complex-system science. Given the inherent scientific capability that exists in Australia this represents a reckless waste of potential to drive innovation across a broad spectrum of systems, innovation that would have a massive positive impact on our economy and future.
We also require a change in our cultural attitude to "applied science"; an epithet that is used in Australia to imply a lower quality of science not requiring the focus of our best scientific minds. There is no such thing as applied science, there is only science and applications of science. We need to recognise that science undertaken with the specific intent of an application (where others might make decisions worth hundreds of millions of dollars) demands the highest quality and the best minds.
The UNCOVER initiative (more information is available at http://www.uncoverminerals.org.au/ ) is tackling these issues in the specific domain of mineral exploration. The stated goal of UNCOVER is "To create the scientific knowledge and new technologies necessary to lift the success rate of mineral exploration in the covered areas of Australia to the levels enjoyed 30 years ago in the uncovered areas." The UNCOVER program recognises that this goal can only be achieved through substantial innovation carefully targeted at the real knowledge- and technical-impediments faced by Australia's minerals exploration industry. Hence UNCOVER is operating as a collaboration of 28 industry companies, 9 government agencies, 10 academic institutions, and 5 other influential organisations (e.g. the Australian Academy of Science and the Minerals Council of Australia). Yet in Australia there is no policy coverage for initiatives of this type. The PolicyHack conference represents an opportunity to redress these kinds of problems in Australia.

user picture Phil McFadden · 2 years ago · 862 votes · 16 comments
UNCOVER provides an opportunity for Australia to redevelop our competitive edge in minerals exploration and mining. Some of the best innovations in mining software in the world have come out of WA (Vulcan, Datamine, Surpac, etc). Technological innovation has come from the JKMRC - University of Queensland. There are many others. Most of the time this industry feels it is providing the money to build our country with little recognition or support (but there's no need to grizzle, we have broad shoulders). With the right incentives and support the UNCOVER initiative will provide huge benefits to all Australians in terms of driving innovation, science and economic development. Remember we have a great mineral endowment but unless we can find and develop it our competitors (other countries with large real estate) will do it better, first.
Bill Shaw · 2 years ago
UNCOVER is an example of innovative thinking and implementation of Earth System Science (ESS) - it's essential in understanding the linkages and interactions between the various disciplines: and as foreshadowed, the same approach should be adopted for other natural resource studies, such as water. Philosophically, the ESS approach can be likened to Policy Hack - where the interaction of disciplines stimulates innovation.
clinton foster · 2 years ago
I agree with this sentiment.
Matthew Glenn · 2 years ago
Key to the UNCOVER initiative is forming strong collaborations between stakeholders with common research ideas eg. CSIRO and Universities and the best way to do this is through jointly directed programs.
Colin MacRae · 2 years ago
There are technologies available and developing that can substantially improve the success rate of mineral exploration undercover. But this is not easy. And will require focused and collaborative thinking to deliver value to the Australian economy and (through knowledge sharing) to other economies worldwide.
Tim Archer · 2 years ago
A community outreach and education program as part of UNCOVER could also be of high benefit. A lot of misinformation regarding earth science and well as resources exploration and mining initiatives is spread through social media. We need Australians at large to be more onboard and well-educated regarding the way we use our natural resources and their impact on our environment. Community education through the media and other methods should be actively encouraged as products of UNCOVER, so it is not just delivering benefits for industry.
Matthew Zengerer · 2 years ago
requires a coordinated and thoughtful approach, using many geoscience disciplines. needs lots of engineering innovation as well
Desmond FitzGerald · 2 years ago
Uncover is a long overdue initiative to align all the excellent earth-science R&D happening in Australia toward the common goal of bringing forward world class mineral discoveries which will maintian Australia's prosperity, especially in regional areas.
Ned Stolz · 2 years ago
Australia is a long way from becoming the mature economy we might like it to be, i.e. less dependent on natural resources. We'll save ourselves from a very painful shock if we can manage to remain a primary producer of minerals for a long time to come. Yet despite the best efforts of minerals exploration companies to identify additional resources, our recent discovery rate has been in freefall. This comes about in part because the market based structure of industrial resource exploration does not favor the expense and long lead times of genuine innovation. The vast bulk of Australia's mineral resources come from areas where the ores or related host rocks once stuck out of the ground...the other 70% remains mostly unknown to us. UNCOVER is a remarkable initiative to coordinate government, industry and universities to take on the greatest challenge in resource exploration.
Tim Ireland · 2 years ago
UNCOVER is an exciting initiative that has a broader reach than mineral exploration alone. Australia needs to undertake an comprehensive inventory of its Earth resources (water, heat, hydrocarbons, waste storage potential, minerals) if we are to plan effectively (over decades), build appropriate infrastructure, maximise the value of our resources and manage development with utmost social and environmental sensitivity. At the moment, with ~70% of our prospective geology essentially unknown and buried by deep cover, we are trying to organise a party in room with no lights and no idea what's in the pantry.
David Giles · 2 years ago
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