Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are the disciplines that will help solve major world problems, according to Australia's chief scientist.

"Think of things like pandemics, think of climate change," said Professor Ian Chubb.

"Think of agriculture and the claims that have been made somewhat extravagantly that we will be the food bowl of Asia."

Prof Chubb is urging young people to get interested in the subjects.

"I ask you to think very quickly of anything that you can think of that confronts us as a country, as a people, as a planet or as a humanity that won't have some aspect of STEM at the core of the solution we find," he said in his address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

"Or how we manage whatever it is that we can't solve."

Prof Chubb said one of the best ways to tackle these world problems using STEM was to make the subjects interesting to school students.

"How do we devise a system that says - we don't have enough of this type of engineer or that sort of physicist?" he said.

"You can't say to somebody who wants to do sociology - you're going to do statistics because we need you.

It's actually about making some of these subject areas so compellingly interesting that people want to study them, he said.