Two Eureka Prize winners for Sydney
18 August 2010
Dr John Forge, from the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Science, and Honorary Professor Bruce Sutton, from the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, have both won Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, announced on 17 August 2010.
The prestigious Eureka Prizes - billed as the Oscars of Australian science - were presented at a black tie dinner attended by over 800 of the country's top thinkers, politicians and celebrities, held in the Randwick Pavilion at Royal Randwick Racecourse.
Dr John Forge won the Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics for his research and book The Responsible Scientist: A Philosophical Inquiry, which examines the social, moral and legal responsibilities faced by scientists across all areas of scientific enquiry.
"It means a great deal to win the Eureka Prize, especially with such strong opposition. I was fortunate enough to also win the David Harold Tribe Prize for Philosophy earlier this year," said Dr Forge.
"Scientists must take responsibility for the outcomes of their work, both in a material and intellectual sense - it is not simply up to those who apply or fund the work. Of course, many scientists do take this responsibility."
Arguing that scientists carry a moral obligation for their research, whether they are engaged in applied or pure science and where the end use is unknown, Dr Forge lists two key tenets in a scientist's ethical responsibilities.
The first of these he describes as the 'two-tiered view'. The 'first tier' requires that scientists do not provide the means to harm; the 'second tier' encourages scientists to provide the means to prevent harm.
His second approach is that of the 'wide view'. The argument suggests that all science has implications for society and there is a requirement for scientists to take heed of such possibilities. Scientists are responsible for practical outcomes, whether they intended them, foresaw them or should have foreseen these outcomes.
The Responsible Scientist has a clear and engaging style, making it an ideal text for tertiary students in both the sciences and humanities, and has already been used in a number of academic courses.
The $10 000 Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics is awarded for the investigation of theoretical or practical ethical issues that contributes to an integrated body of work represented by a book, monograph or a series of related articles that contributes to the understanding and development of ethical standards. It is sponsored by the Australian Catholic University.
"With the prize money, I will give half to charity, most probably for the floods in Pakistan, and maybe the rest will go on a holiday!" said Dr Forge.
Honorary Professor Bruce Sutton won the Eureka Prize for Water Research and Innovation, along with Associate Professor Greg Leslie, from the UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology at the University of NSW, for their work on the Reverse Osmosis Subsurface Drip Irrigation System.
The innovative irrigation system lets plants draw water through salt filters in irrigation pipes at their roots, using the tiny amounts of energy naturally created by evaporation at their leaves.
The system is able to determine if there is enough suction energy created at the roots of plants by natural evaporation to draw the water through a reverse osmosis (semi-permeable) filter. While farmers already use reverse osmosis filters to remove salt from brackish water, until now the water has had to be pushed through the filter using high pressure. For the first time, there is a potential passive biological alternative to the existing high-cost, high-energy desalination options.
Using the Reverse Osmosis Subsurface Drip Irrigation System in future droughts, farmers will be able to efficiently tap into brackish groundwater that would otherwise be inaccessible. Professor Sutton and Associate Professor Leslie were also 2009 Eureka Prize finalists for their research.
The $10 000 Professor Peter Cullen Eureka Prize for Water Research and Innovation is awarded in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the sustainable use and management of Australia's water resources. It is sponsored by the National Water Commission.
"Once again, Australia's scientific community is showing that it can punch well above its weight when you consider the scope and influence of the work of the 2010 Eureka Prize winners," says Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum.
"The rigorous science celebrated by the Eureka Prizes demonstrates the vital work being done by our scientists in offices, laboratories and in the field all year 'round. They are devising solutions to the problems we face in realms as varied as defence, water use, climate change and the treatment of cancer."
Read about all the 2010 Australian Museum Eureka Prize winners at: http://eureka.australianmuseum.net.au/enter
Contact: Katynna Gill
Phone: 02 9351 6997