The Royal Society and the COVID-19 Pandemic

RSNSW Logo The Royal Society of NSW wishes to assure all Members and Fellows of the Royal Society of NSW that the Society’s Council takes very seriously its responsibility to safeguard the health of its constituency throughout the pandemic, and not only to conform to Government expectations but also to encourage others to do so as well. Therefore, no face-to-face meetings, lectures, or social events can be held.

The Society will use this time to polish its 21st century digital skills. We will continue our usual programs and introduce new ones, all online and cost free. We intend to help you enjoy weeks or months in solitary splendour with:

  1. The Ordinary General Meetings and other lectures to be held online.
  2. The Annual General Meeting and the Council election to be held online, allowing all Members and Fellows to take part in voting—a first for the Society, and an improvement to our election process: previously, it was difficult to vote if not attending the AGM in person.
  3. We were about to invite our Members and Fellows to a new series of occasional lectures titled [email protected]_house, which Her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW, had asked us to hold at Government House, followed by a reception. We hope that these will still be held as online events, but unfortunately, Her Excellency’s generous hospitality cannot be enjoyed virtually!
  4. A new interview series, in which you will get to know Members and Fellows and the subjects they study.
  5. YouTube videos and podcasts of lectures and performances such as the wonderful Speaking of the Music … the Magic of Solo Violin by David Hush with live performances by Anna Da Silva Chen—accessible from the preceding link or via our YouTube playlists.

    This week, the Society made available the videos from the 7th November 2019 Forum Making SPACE for Australia, held in conjunction with the four Learned Academies. The videos and related slide presentations for each individual speaker have been uploaded to the Society’s YouTube channel which was launched on 19 March 2020. You can conveniently access these via the Making SPACE article. This provides the event’s program and speaker list (with links to the video and presentation slide content), together with a report on the day. You are welcome to share these links, or the link to any individual presentation, via your own communication channels.

    It is planned to release new content, including recordings of the events described here, on a regular basis.

    We also encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube channel (for which a Google account is required), and to click on the bell icon to be notified by email when new content is posted.
  6. SMSA-RSNSW joint lectures for this year, On the Shoulders of Giants, will take place online.
  7. The programs of the Hunter Branch and the Southern Highlands Branch will join Sydney programs online, so we all get more programs and tap into a larger pool of talent.
  8. The Annual Dinner, scheduled for May, to our great disappointment, had to be cancelled. Professor Brian Schmidt AC FRS FAA DistFRSN, Vice-Chancellor of the ANU and Nobel Laureate in Physics, was to be our speaker. We have invited him to give his lecture, “Evidence and expertise in a post-truth world“, online.

The year 2020 is a special year as we plan for our 200th Birthday in 2021. We will celebrate our 199th Birthday in June of this year. We want you all to be there in person or, more likely online, to join in the celebration.

We urge all our Members and Fellows to follow the medical advice from the Commonwealth and NSW Departments of Health. Stay well, so we can all look forward to better days and meet face-to-face for our Bicentennial. In the meantime, stay in touch through the Society’s monthly Bulletin and our improved website.

Emeritus Professor Ian Sloan AO FAA FRSN
President, Royal Society of NSW


RSNSW Fellow named NSW Woman of the Year 2020

Professor Maria Kavallaris AM FRSN The Royal Society of NSW is delighted that one of its Fellows and leading childhood cancer researcher, Professor Maria Kavallaris AM FRSN, has been named NSW Woman of the Year for 2020 by the NSW Premier, Ms Gladys Berejiklian.

Maria’s pathway to cancer research, and the development of less toxic treatments for childhood cancers, had a very personal beginning, with her diagnosis of cancer at the age of 21. Speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald, she referred to “getting high doses of chemotherapy, which had many-side-effects” and decided that “if she got through the aggressive treatment, she would do something to improve therapies.” Professor Kavallaris is Head of the Tumour Biology and Targeting Program at the Children’s Cancer Institute and is Director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at UNSW.

The Society warmly congratulates Maria Kavallaris on this recognition of her outstanding, internationally-recognised, 35-year research career.


New editions of the RSNSW Bulletin and Journal now available - March 2020

Cover of RSNSW Bulletin 440 March 2020 Cover of RSNSW Journal 152-2 December 2019 The Society is pleased to announce that the March 2020 edition of the Bulletin (Issue 440) and the December 2019 edition of the RSNSW Journal and Proceedings (Vol. 152-2) are now available on the website and are available for downloading. A table of contents of this issue of the Journal is also available, enabling access to individual articles.

The December 2019 edition of the Journal and Proceedings contains six papers (three submitted, two commissioned, and one reprint), together with five PhD thesis abstracts and an obituary for the historian Ann Moyal FRSN who passed away in 2019. In additiion,

The Journal also lists the events held by the Society and its Southern Highlands and Hunter branches during 2019, the Award Winners for 2019, and the new Fellows of the Society (for 2018) that were gazetted by the NSW Government on 31 January 2019.  



Gazettal of 2019 Royal Society of NSW Fellows and Distinguished Fellows

Coat of Arms of New South WalesThe list of Fellows and Distinguished Fellows, elected by the Royal Society of NSW during 2019, was gazetted by the New South Wales Government on 26 February 2020.  


2018 Liversidge Lecture Report

Collage of images from the RSNSW Liversidge LectureThe 2018 Liversidge Lecture of the Royal Society of NSW was delivered at UNSW Sydney on the evening of 20 February 20120 by Scientia Professor Martina Stenzel FAA of the UNSW School of Chemistry.

A report on the lecture delivered by Professor Stezel is now available. 


Hunter Branch News: February/March 2020

Image of Newcastle, NSW The Hunter Branch has just announced its second event for the year, a lecture by Professor Tony Capon of Monash University titled “Planetary Health: Safeguarding Health in the Anthropocence Epoch”, to be held at Newcastle City Hall on 25 March. 

Also, a report on the Branch’s first meeting of the year (31 January) that included a presentation  by Professor Ryan Loxton (Curtin University), titled “Mathematics in Industry: Optimisation in Action”, has just been published.


Vale Dr Brian Spies

RSNSW Logo The Royal Society of NSW records with great regret the passing of one of its valued Fellows, Dr Brian Spies FRSN FTSE.

Dr Spies worked in research and management in the resource and environmental sectors in Australia and the USA, with positions in industry, academia and government.  His roles in Australia included Chief Research Scientist at CSIRO, Director of Physics at ANSTO. and Science Manager at the Sydney Catchment Authority.  Dr Spies was a Fellow of both the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and the Royal Society of NSW, and in 2003 was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for his services to geoscience.


The Bushfire Emergency and Climate Change: a Statement from the President of the Royal Society of NSW

Royal Society of NSW All of us in the Royal Society of New South Wales have been distressed and saddened by the devastating bushfires that have darkened our skies, our landscape, and our spirits over the summer. Some of our Members and Fellows have suffered personal loss of irreplaceable property. Some have been personally involved in firefighting while others have donated generously to the organisations staffing the front lines. All of us are devastated by the scale of the ecological disaster. On behalf of the Royal Society, I want to express heartfelt sympathy with those who have suffered loss, and our admiration and gratitude for all those who have been helping in the efforts to control the fires and their aftermath.

In the community, there is a natural desire to understand the causes, learn the necessary lessons, and take action. To what extent are the fires the results of policies and practices surrounding controlled burning? To what extent can global warming be held responsible for the severity of this and future fire seasons? How can our nation best respond to the resulting environmental, social, and economic challenges that will face us in the future?

The Royal Society is committed to a dispassionate evidence-based understanding of all these issues. In the case of bushfire management, we must listen to fire chiefs and fire research scientists. We must accept the unequivocal conclusions of the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering that the science is in: the climate is changing, in a way that has been predicted by Australian and International organisations for many years; and human activities since the beginning of the industrial revolution are in significant part responsible.

For those who wish to gain a better understanding of the science, I can recommend the statements on climate change from the Academy of Science and the Academy of Technology and Engineering . I also refer you to the more extended (30 page) Academy of Science booklet and informative YouTube videos from the Academy.

We must be prepared to do more to limit further changes, and to adapt to the many challenges that are already apparent. With your support the Royal Society can play an important role in finding solutions.

Ian H Sloan
President, Royal Society of NSW
29 January 2020


Australia Day Honours 2020

Royal Society of NSW The Society is pleased to note the award in the 2020 Australia Day Honours List of a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) to our Patron, The Honourable Margaret Beazley, Governor of New South Wales. Her Excellency received the award for eminent service to the people of New South Wales, particularly through leadership roles in the judiciary, and as a mentor of young women lawyers.

The Society is also pleased to acknowledge the award of an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) to Mr Robyn Williams for distinguished service to science as a journalist, radio presenter and author, and to education.



RSNSW Fellow appointed Chief Scientist of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Rebecca Johnson Dr Rebecca Johnson FRSN, Chief Scientist at the Australian Museum and a leading koala conservation expert, has just been appointed to the highly prestigious post of Chief Scientist and Associate Director at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Johnson referred to her new role as the “biggest and best gig” in the world of natural history, saying that she was both “excited and honoured by the prospect to join an institution which represents the highest level of scientific endeavour.”

The Royal Society of NSW extends its warmest congratulations to Dr Rebecca Johnson on this exciting international leadership opportunity.


Media Release: Downplaying the Arts

Royal Society of NSW The Royal Society of New South Wales, one of Australia’s oldest societies, deplores the Prime Minister’s proposed restructure of public service departments, in which Arts is moved to a mega-department with responsibilities for infrastructure, transport, cities and communications—surely an unpromising home for the Arts. And the situation is made worse by the fact that Arts is not mentioned in the title of any department.

The Society’s view is that the Arts play an essential role in Australian society, and that governments play a key role in ensuring their vitality. The proposed changes leave the unavoidable impression that the federal government’s commitment to the Arts is weakening.


Royal Society of NSW Awards for 2019

Royal Society of NSW The Council of the Royal Society of New South Wales is pleased to announce its Awards for 2019. The award winners are:

 •  James Cook Medal — Scientia Professor Matthew England
 •  Clarke Medal — Professor Dietmar Müller
 •  Edgeworth David Medal — Professor Si Ming Man
 •  History and Philosophy of Science Medal — Professor Evelleen Richards
 •  Walter Burfitt Prize — Professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh
 •  Royal Society of NSW Scholarships — Emma Austin, Shayam Balaji,
     Michael Papanicolaou, and Thomas Pettit.

Further information about the awards and their recipients is available on the website.


Report: Fifth Annual RSNSW and Four Academies Forum

Forum Brochure Cover The fifth annual Forum of the Royal Society of NSW and the four Academies was held at Government House, Sydney on 7 November 2019, with this year’s theme being Making SPACE for Australia . A comprehensive report of the day's presentations, prepared by the Forum Convenors, Emeritus Professor Roy MacLeod FRSN and Dr Susan Pond AM FRSN, is now available, together with the Forum Program and image gallery


Society Fellows awarded NSW Premier's Science Prizes

The Royal Society of NSW is delighted that two of its Fellows were named as recipients of the 2019 NSW Premier's Prizes for Science and Engineering, announced at a ceremony held at Government House, Sydney on the evening of Tuesday, 29 October. Scientia Professor Rose Amal AC FAA FTSE FRSN of UNSW Sydney was named as the 2019 NSW Scientist of the Year , while Payne-Scott Professor Nalini Joshi AO FAA FRSN of the University of Sydney was awarded the Prize for Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry or Physics . The Society most warmly congratulates both Rose and Nalini on their achievements and this recognition of their outstanding research.

Scientia Professor Rose Amal AC FAA FTSE FRSN — UNSW Sydney:   2019 NSW Scientist of the Year

Fellow Rose Amal Professor Amal is a chemical engineer and the leader of the Particles and Catalysis Research Group at UNSW Sydney. Previously she was Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials. Rose is recognised as a pioneer and leading authority in the fields of fine particle technology, photocatalysis and functional nanomaterials, having made significant contributions to those related areas of research over the past 25 years. Her research contributions span from fundamental chemistry to applied chemical engineering fields, and from material science and nano-research to a specialised photochemistry field. Rose’s current research focuses on designing nanomaterials for solar and chemical energy conversion applications (including photocatalysis for water and air purification, and water splitting) and engineering systems for solar-induced processes, using the sun’s energy to generate clean fuel.

Rose has published more than 350 journal articles which have cumulatively received more than 17,750 citations. She has successfully supervised over 50 PhD students.She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (FTSE), a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA), a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (FIChemE), an Honorary Fellow of Engineers Australia (HonFIE Aust), and a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (FRACI). She received a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2018 “for eminent service to chemical engineering, particularly in the field of particle technology, through seminal contributions to photocatalysis, to education as a researcher and academic, and to women in science as a role model and mentor.”

Payne-Scott Professor Nalini Joshi AO FAA FRSN — The University of Sydney:   Prize for Excellence in Mathematics, the Earth Sciences, Physics or Chemistry

Fellow Nalini Joshi Professor Joshi was born and spent her early childhood in Burma, before her family emigrated to Australia. She completed a BSc at The University of Sydney and a PhD in applied mathematics at Princeton University. Her research focuses on mathematical methods to study nonlinear systems that arise as universal models in modern physics. Nalini has developed precise definitions of elusive functions, enabling descriptions that extend to the whole domain of existence. They relate behaviours before and after critical transition points in applications such as spontaneous magnetisation in metals, and water waves with surface tension. Her new methodologies have uncovered hidden information across multiple fields, stimulating mathematicians across the globe to take up significant new research directions.

Nalini’s research achievements have led to several distinctions. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW. She was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2008, won an Australian Research Council Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship in 2012, was the 150th Anniversary Hardy Fellow of the London Mathematical Society in 2015, a US CBMS-NSF Lecturer in 2016, and will be taking up a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professorship in 2020.

Nalini has a keen interest in diversity. She was foundation co-chair of the Science in Australia Gender Equity national initiative. In 2016, Nalini was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to mathematical science and tertiary education, to professional societies, and as a role model and mentor of young mathematicians. She was awarded the 2018 Eureka prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers.

She is currently a Vice-President of the International Mathematical Union and a Councillor of the Royal Society of New South Wales.


Distinguished Fellowship awarded to Professor George Paxinos

George Paxinos The Council of the Royal Society of NSW is delighted to announce the awarding of a Distinguished Fellowship to Professor George Paxinos AO FASSA FAA DistFRSN. The honour Distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales is a prestigious award, limited to 25 in number at any time, that recognises internationally-distinguished contributors to science, art, literature, or philosophy. Professor Paxinos, an eminent Greek-Australian neuroscientist, is co-author of the Rat Brain in Stereotaxic Coordinates which, with over 65,000 citations across its seven Editions, it is the most cited Australian publication and the most cited neuroscience publication.

Further information about the achievements of Professor Paxinos is available on the Distinguished Fellows page.


Society Fellow wins 2019 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

Fellow Elizabeth New The Royal Society of NSW is delighted that one of its Fellows and the recipient of its 2018 Edgeworth David Medal, Associate Professor Elizabeth New from the University of Sydney, has been awarded the 2019 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. The Society congratulates Elizabeth New on this momentous achievement, and the recognition of the impact of her outstanding research.

Professor New, a chemical biologist, was awarded the Malcolm McIntosh Prize at the Prime Minister's Science Prizes ceremony held at Parliament House, Canberra on 16 October. This prize recognises exceptional, early-career achievements in the physical sciences made within 10 years of PhD graduation, with the recipient receiving $50,000 in prize money, a medallion, a lapel pin, and a certificate. In the case of Professor New, this recognition was for her pioneering work in developing new chemical imaging tools to observe healthy and diseased cells.

The research of Professor New has led to the development of different types of fluorescent sensors which make possible, at the molecular level, the observation of how cells cycle and change through events and over time. While existing imaging systems such as ultrasound and MRI provide valuable structural information, they are unable to characterise the nature and distribution of chemicals within the cell. It is here that the fluorescent sensors developed by Professor New make possible the observation of complex chemical processes within cells, enabling an understanding of how cells cycle through oxidative events over long periods, and in turn opening up potential breakthrough treatments for diseases associated with ageing (e.g., cardiovascular, cancer, and diabetes) that afflict 50% of Australians and which are responsible for 85% of deaths.

More on the oustanding achievements and portfolio of work of Associate Professor Elizabeth New can be found on the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science website.


Establishment of a new branch of the Society

The Council of the Society is delighted to announce the establishment of a new branch located in the Hunter region of NSW, confirmed recently at its meeting on 16 October 2019.  

This follows an inaugural meeting, held in Newcastle on 9 October, at which a branch committee was elected and an invited lecture by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte FRS FAA FTSE FRSN, was presented.


Inaugural Meeting, Hunter Branch of the Royal Society of NSW

An inaugural meeting to establish the Hunter Branch of the Royal Society of NSW is planned.

Date: Wednesday, 9 October 2019 at 6.00 pm
Venue: Newcastle Club, 40 Newcomen Street, Newcastle NSW
Enquiries: Emerita Professor Eugenie Lumbers, Acting Honorary Secretary, 0416 154 106

Following the meeting, Professor Hugh Durrant-White, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, will deliver an open lecture titled “Industries of the Future”.

For further information, please inspect the meeting notice on the RSNSW website.



New Issue of the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of NSW (June 2019)

The June 2019 issue (Vol. 152-1) of the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales has just been published.

Much of the content of this issue is devoted to papers arising from the November 2018 Royal Society of NSW and Four Academies Forum, the focus of which was “Towards a prosperous yet sustainable Australia—what now for the Lucky Country?”. 

The issue also contains the final paper (“The scientists and Darwin's The Origin of Species in nineteenth century Australia. A re-evaluation”) by the historian Ann Moyal, who died earlier this year, aged 93, together with an obituary on the late Noel Hush DistFRSN (1924-2019), and abstracts of six PhD dissertations.



Message from the President — Appointment of an Executive Officer

The President of the Royal Society of NSW, Emeritus Professor Ian Sloan AO, FRSN, has announced that the Society is seeking to appoint its first Executive Officer.

The Exective Officer will report to the President and will have the opportunity to drive a program of transformation in a well-established, prestigious learned society, based in Sydney.  The position  will provide the appointee with the opportunity to drive a program of operational integration and improvement to ensure well-coordinated support across the society. 

Please click on either of the links below for further information about the position:

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