Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW Awards 2016

James Cook Medal

Scientia Professor David Cooper, BSc(Med) MBBS (Syd) MD DSc (UNSW) FRACP FRCPA FRCP FAA FAHMS is the winner of the James Cook Medal. Located at UNSW, he is Professor of Medicine and Director, Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity in Society.

Professor Cooper's research has been focused on the understanding and treatment of HIV/AIDS. He introduced one of the first tests for HIV infection to Australia and has made a number of contributions and discoveries in areas such as antiretroviral therapy, complications of HIV treatment, and HIV pathogenesis. His current focus is on dose optimisation in immunotherapy and vaccination.

The James Cook Medal is awarded from time to time for outstanding contributions to both science and human welfare in and for the Southern Hemisphere.

Edgeworth David Medal

Edgeworth David Medal for 2016 will be awarded to Dr Muireann Irish. She is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Psychology, UNSW, a Senior Research Officer, FRONTIER, Neuroscience Research Australia, and an Associate Investigator, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Memory Node.

Dr Irish's research focuses on memory disruption in dementia, and she is considered to be at the forefront of cognitive neuroscience. Her research contributions include, amongst many, establishing the impairment of planning in dementia patients and differentiation among dementia syndromes at initial presentation. She is also a spokesperson for women in science

The Edgeworth David Medal is awarded each year for distinguished research by a young scientist under the age of 35 years for work done mainly in Australia or for contributing to the advancement of Australian science.

Clarke Medal for Geology

This year's winner of the Clarke Medal is Professor Simon P. Turner. He is the Distinguished Professor and Director of Research, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University.

As a geochemist, Professor Turner is an active member of the geologic community. His most notable contributions have involved the application of short-lived Uranium-series isotopes to estimate the time scales of magma formation, transport, and differentiation as well as soil production and erosion rates.

The Clarke Medal is awarded each year for distinguished research in the natural sciences conducted in the Australian Commonwealth and its territories. The fields of botany, geology, and zoology are considered in rotation. For 2016, the medal was awarded in Geology.

History and Philosophy of Science Medal

Emeritus Professor Roy MacLeod will receive the History and Philosophy of Science Medal for 2016. Professor MacLeod is Emeritus Professor, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney.

Professor MacLeod is an historian of science focusing on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the course of his career he has opened new fields of enquiry including: history of British imperial science, history of science in Australasia and the Pacific, Museum studies, and the development of science policy. He also co-founded the international journal Social Studies of Science. A copy of his book "Archibald Liversidge: Imperial Science under the Southern Cross" was presented to the Governor of NSW at the recent celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Royal patronage of the RSNSW.

The Society's History and Philosophy of Science Medal is awarded each year to recognize outstanding achievement in the History and Philosophy of Science, with preference being given to the study of ideas, institutions and individuals of significance to the practice of the natural sciences in Australia.

Royal Society of New South Wales Scholarships

Three scholarships of $500 plus a complimentary year of membership of the Society are awarded each year in order to acknowledge outstanding achievements by young researchers in any field of science. Applicants must be enrolled as research students in a university in either NSW or the ACT.This year's winners are:

Jeremy Chan, PhD Candidate, School of Life Science, Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney. Mr. Chan's research focuses on the impact of maternal smoking on newborn brain injury. His work will provide new insight into how maternal smoking affects the recovery of hypoxic injury in offspring and potential pathways for therapeutic interventions.

Andrew Ritchie, PhD Candidate, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney. Mr Ritchie's area of research is in the investigation of different evolutionary processes across the natural and social sciences using statistical models of diversification over time. His investigations are intended to improve understanding of the evolution of language and determine new parallels between the evolutionary processes underlying biology and human culture.

Isobel Ronai, PhD Candidate, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney. Ms Ronai's concerns solving the mystery of altruistic action by sterile worker bee through identifying the gene that regulates worker fertility. Her research has helped to explain worker sterility by focusing on a particular gene pathway.

Walter Burfitt Prize and the Archibald Liversidge Medal

The Walter Burfitt Prize and the Archibald Liversidge Medal for 2016 will be awarded to Scientia Professor Justin Gooding FAA FRACI FRSC FISE FRSN. He is an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow and Deputy Head of School of Chemistry, School of Chemistry, UNSW.

Professor Gooding's field is surface chemistry. He is a leading authority in the field of surface modification of electrodes, mostly focused on bioelectronics interfaces. He has had a number of pioneering achievements, including understanding electron transfer at surfaces, making silicon compatible with aqueous solutions, advanced electrochemical techniques, and single nanoparticle sensors.

The Walter Burfitt Prize consists of a bronze medal and $150, awarded every three years for research in pure or applied science, deemed to be of the highest scientific merit. The papers and other contributions must have been published during the past six years for research conducted mainly in these countries.

The Archibald Liversidge Medal is awarded at intervals of two years for the purpose of encouragement of research in Chemistry. The prize is awarded in conjunction with the Royal Australia Chemical Institute. It was established under the terms of a bequest to the Society by Professor Archibald Liversidge MA LLD FRS.

See the slides from the 2016 Forum

The slides used by the speakers at the 2016 RSNSW and Four Academies Forum, held on 29 November at Government House, are now available for download.

Sydney meetings in 2016


Wednesday 3 February

Royal Society 2014 Scholarship Presentations – the 1240th OGM and Public Lecture

“Problems and prime numbers”
Adrian Dudek, Australian National University

“How old are flowers?”
Charles Foster, University of Sydney

"Manifestations of dark matter and variation of fundamental constants”
Yevgeny Stadnik, UNSW

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Thursday 25 February

Four Societies Meeting

“Energy sources in Australia’s future”

Professor Robert Clark AO FAA FRSN

47th Floor MLC Centre, Sydney

Wednesday 2 March

1241st OGM and Public Lecture

“How to win an Ignoble Prize: communicating science”

Dr Len Fisher, Bristol University

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Wednesday 16 March

RSNSW and Australian Institute of Physics Meeting

“The science of sleep”

Professor Ron Grunstein, University of Sydney

Venue: Trinity Grammar School PD Centre, 5 Thomas St. Lewisham

Wednesday 6 April

AGM and 1242nd OGM and Public Lecture

President’s Address

Dr Don Hector, President of the Royal Society of NSW

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney


Clarke Medal Lecture

Simon P. Turner, Distinguished Professor and Director of Research, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University

Venue: Macquarie University

Wednesday 4 May

Annual Dinner and Distinguished Fellow's Lecture

“Science policy"

Professor Eugenie Lumbers, UNSW

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Wednesday 1 June

1243rd OGM and Public Lecture

Professor Peter Hiscock, University of Sydney

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Wednesday 6 July

1244th OGM and Public Lecture

"Royal", not "Philosophical" - W.B. Clarke's inaugural address to the Royal Society of NSW

Associate Professor Rob Young (ret'd.), University of Wollongong

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Wednesday 3 August

1245th OGM and Public Lecture

“Celebrating the 200th birthday of Royal Botanic Gardens: a personal history of 57 years of science”

Dr Barbara Briggs, Royal Botanic Gardens

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Wednesday 7 September

1246th OGM and Public Lecture

“A source of inspiration and delight: the Mitchell Library”

Richard Neville, Mitchell Library

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Wednesday 5 October

1247th OGM and Public Lecture

“From sand and rice bubbles to earthquakes and volcanos”

Professor Itai Einav, University of Sydney

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Wednesday 2 November

1248th OGM and Public Lecture

“Finding the right course for the right horse: recent evidence-based advances in instructional design”

Professor Jim Kehoe, UNSW

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney

Wednesday 7 December

1249th OGM and Public Lecture and Christmas Party

Jak Kelly Award Winner 2016 (presented by Irene Kelly)

“Imaging with a deft touch: The scanning helium microscope – a modern pinhole camera!”

Mathew Barr, School of Mathematical and Physical Science, University of Newcastle

Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney


RSNSW & Four Academies Forum 2016

 forum crests

Governor Hosted by His Excellency General The Honourable 
 David Hurley AC DSC (ret’d), Governor of NSW 
 and Patron of the Royal Society of NSW

Society as a complex system: implications for science, practice and policy

Date: Tuesday 29th November 2016

Venue: Government House, Sydney

Note: This event was by invitation only

We live in an increasingly complex world, where the challenges of complexity must be taken seriously. The problems to be confronted challenge existing institutional structures because they cross national and interdisciplinary borders and cannot be reduced to component problems to be solved independently – they are intrinsically inseparable and interdependent. They include:  the world’s developed economies struggling to deliver the growth and prosperity that was achieved in the second half of the 20th century; increasing discrepancies between rich and poor sparking flight and fight; the impact of people on the environment in which they live; the pace of technological change. These “wicked problems” challenge traditional policy making process leading to policy paralysis. Decisions about economic policy, migration and refugees, environmental challenges, health, education and infrastructure development are delayed or abandoned because of the difficulty in gaining public acceptance.  Conflicting philosophical positions, widely differing worldviews and belief-systems, the increasing globalisation of firms and industries, the increased influence of special-interest groups made louder through new social media, the polarisation of political views, conflicting policy objectives coupled with an avalanche of data to make sense of are among the many contributors to this policy paralysis.  The complex-systems nature of these challenges means that small changes can have disproportionate effects, the future is impossible to predict, and multiple feedback loops multiply and accelerate in myriad ways.

How we can understand, cope and adapt to these challenges was the focus of the 2016 Royal Society of NSW and Four Academies Forum.

Click here to see the programme of presentations.

2016 Dirac Lecture

Dirac image 2016  "Dark Matter in the Universe"

  The Dirac Lecture with the Award of the Dirac Medal

  Duffield Professor Kenneth Freeman FRS, Australian National University

Venue: Tyree Room of the John Niland Scientia Building of the University of New South Wales

Date: 13 October 2016

The Dirac Medal is based on rules established in 1990 by the then Vice Chancellor of the University of NSW Sir Rupert Meyers. It is awarded in the name of Professor Paul Dirac who donated the royalties of his published lectures in Australasia in 1975. In its early years the award was organised by UNSW in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Physics. The first convenor of the awards was Professor Heinrich Hora FRSN, Head of the Department of Theoretical Physics. Of the first eleven Dirac Lectures nine awardees were Nobel Laureates. In 2010 the Governor of NSW presented the award to Lord Robert May of Oxford and the Royal Society became involved. Of the last five awards, two recipients are Nobel-Laureates.

Professor Freeman’s research is about the formation and dynamics of galaxies with a particular interest in the problem of dark matter in galaxies. He was one of the first to point out that spiral galaxies contain a large fraction of dark matter. He is active in international astronomy, as a division past-president of the International Astronomical Union, and serves on visiting committees for several major astronomical institutions around the world.

New webmaster for RSNSW

Chris Bertram has taken on the job of RSNSW Webmaster.

Bertram 2010 cropped

Annual Meeting of the Four Societies 2016

Australian Energy Policy


Four Societies 2016

Professor Robert Clark AO FAA Dist FRSN, 
Chair of Energy Strategy and Policy, University of New South Wales 

Date: Thursday February 25

Venue: Hamilton and Parkes Rooms, Level 47, MLC Centre, King and Castlereagh St.

Professor Robert Clark is the Chair of Energy Strategy and Policy at the UNSW Australia. He has a distinguished career, having headed a research group in experimental quantum physics at Oxford's Clarendon Laboratory and was the Chair of Experimental Physics at UNSW. He has been head of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology at UNSW and has been Australia's Chief Defence Scientist (CDS) and CEO of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

Professor Robert Clark presented the Four Societies Lecture 2016 on the subject of energy policy. The Four Societies Lecture is presented annually by the Royal Society of NSW, the Australian Institute of Energy, the Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia (Sydney Division) and the Australian Nuclear Association.

The agreement resulting from the Paris climate change conference held in December 2015 is one of the most important initiatives to address climate change so far. Some key points that came from a conference that will affect Australia other massive investment in solar energy technology (India and China have committed US$1 trillion to the development of solar energy technology over the next decade or two. Australia has committed to emissions targets of a 5% reduction (compared to 2000 levels) by 2020 and, by 2030, a 26-28% reduction compared to 2005 levels. In addition, Australia has committed to a target of 24% of Australia's generation capacity to be renewable by 2020. Nonetheless, German modelling shows that very large amounts of coal, oil and gas will be required to meet global energy demand at least until 2050 and probably well beyond then. Over the next 20 years, the urbanisation of India's population and the investment in base-load, coal-fired power generation capacity, even taking into account substantial expansion of nuclear capacity will result in a very substantial increase in coal-based CO2 emissions. Australia's energy requirements are characterised by having very large amounts of LNG, coal, coal-seam gas and shale gas but a deficiency in liquid fuels – most of Australia's liquid fuels are imported.

Professor Clark has devoted several years to looking at the number of specific problems in the energy sector and gave several examples of his work. One major user of liquid fuels is freight forwarding. The movement of freight accounts for 194 billion freight-tonne-kilometres per year. Of this 151 billion is moved by B-double trucks (there are 84,000 of these servicing freight routes in Australia). Converting these trucks from diesel (most of which is imported) to LNG (which could be sourced locally) would result in a substantial improvement in emissions (gas produces a little over 70% of the CO2 that diesel emits, for the same energy output) and would have a noticeable impact on Australia's liquid fuels balance and the current account.

Nuclear energy is an area that has been contentious in Australia. In the last few years, there has been a call to consider installation of substantial base-load nuclear generation capacity. Professor Clark noted that the future total Australian electricity generation requirement at the investment horizon is about 250 TW-hours. If nuclear generation capacity were to provide 15% of this, it would require five 1,000-MW nuclear reactors – one near every major city. The political, planning and capital requirements of such an investment are probably insurmountable. On the other hand, if Australia were to export uranium (on a lease, not sale basis, so that the uranium can be tracked, accounted for and ultimately returned to Australia for reprocessing or final storage), the impact on global CO2 emissions by supplying Australian uranium to existing and proposed nuclear generation plants, particularly in China and India would provide 10 times the impact on CO2 emissions compared to building base-load generation in Australia. This case demonstrates the importance of taking a global perspective on CO2 emissions and climate change, rather than a purely domestic analysis.

Professor Clark concluded by observing that there is still a need for substantive policy development in this area. The recent Energy White Paper 2015 is more of a statement regarding the energy situation, than a policy document. An important point that emerged from Professor Clark's wide-ranging talk is that energy policy ultimately will need to address a complex mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.


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