Experts have questioned the new cabinet formation announced by Tony Abbott today, disappointed that it may not include a Minister for Science.

Secretary for science policy at the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Les Field, told ABC's PM the academy is surprised about the lack of representation so far.

"It's very disappointing that we haven't seen science at least mentioned anywhere yet with an identified minister," Professor Field said.

"We hope that [Tony Abbott] might make such an announcement within the next few days.

When asked about it, the Prime Minister-elect said the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), for instance, would answer to the Industry Minister.

"Science, as in the CSIRO, that will be in Industry, where it's been," Mr Abbott said.

But according to Professor Field, that left questions about academic science, and about various other scientific organisations.

"CSIRO is one aspect of science by all means, and it would be good if science research, and even if higher education or at least the university sector, were linked as closely as possible with CSIRO," he said.

"One is still waiting to see if, when the full details of the portfolios are announced we find that science does fit in under the industry portfolio. But I think we don't know that at this time."

Professor Field, who is also the deputy vice-chancellor for research the University of New South Wales, says having the higher education sector aligned strongly with science research would be "a logical thing".

"In the last throes of the last Labor government, one of the things that I thought was an interesting development was that Kim Carr did actually have all those bits in the one place," he said.

"That was the first time that that's been in existence for some time.

"I think it also allows you to get the cross-fertilisation that you need across the various organisations involved in, let's call it the innovation cycle: things like major infrastructure, the various linkages through to industry though CSIRO and through the other parts of the portfolio.

"We must wait and see what the final layout of the portfolios are. But I do hope that we do have a logical grouping of the different parts of the portfolio [so that] we do get alignment of the cognate parts of science, higher education, and research all in the one place."

Science and Technology Australia's chief executive Catriona Jackson says scientists around the nation are asking, "where's the science minister?"

"The nation's scientists are confused and disappointed by today's announcement of the new federal government ministry," she said in comments released by the Australian Science Media Centre.

"Science and technology are central to virtually everything Government does, from industry to universities to agriculture to health to creating the kind of jobs that will ensure a prosperous future. 

"We await the release of the Government's administrative arrangement documents which will hopefully give further clarity about who is responsible for science."


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