It’s not every day that you have your work praised by the Prime Minister in person, but Dr Andy Song found himself in just that situation during Science meets Parliament 2016 in Canberra.
Science meets Parliament (SmP) is an annual event that brings together over 200 scientists from all over Australia for face-to-face meetings with parliamentarians and other officials in the nation’s capital.
A Senior Lecturer from RMIT’s School of Science, Song was the university’s sole representative at the event held earlier this month, yet was specially selected as one of only seven scientists to meet the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
"After a round of rather formal introduction and greeting, we sat down and introduced our research one by one," he said.
"Malcolm asked questions to almost everyone and, from memory, there were two scientists working on astronomy and gravitational waves, two biologists and two medical researchers, but I was the only one from computer science.”
SmP is organised by Science and Technology Australia as an opportunity for scientists to experience life on Capital Hill and discuss their research and future projects with political leaders, but Song didn’t expect to meet the most important leader of them all.
“It was slightly surreal, but an interesting experience, and of course a great opportunity,” he said.
Song was invited to SmP after being recommended to Science Technology Australia by CORE, the Computing Research and Education Association of Australasia, who recommended only four researchers in total and funded the whole trip.
"I introduced my work as 'Artificial Intelligence for Industry Applications' and described a few projects that we have been working on, including on road safety, warehouse optimisation and business trust analysis.
“He listened quite carefully, said 'well done,' and then reiterated the importance of connecting science innovation with industry, 'because that is something that we don't do well', which was one of the main topics in the whole event."
As well as listening to the maiden speech of Australia's Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, Song met a number of other politicians and influential industry representatives, including John Brumby, Sean Edwards and Kim Carr, among others.
This was the 16th annual national gathering of selected science and technology researchers and included a two-day program of professional development and networking, aimed at helping scientists better communicate their science to the media, policymakers and parliamentarians.
Story: Dan Walder