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Online Expressions of Interest for students to attend the National Youth Science Forum in 2016 opened on 1 March and have been steadily coming in. Rotary clubs should however continue to promote the program in their local areas to ensure the students who will benefit the most from attending the NYSF have the opportunity to consider applying. I also encourage potential applicants to not leave this process until the last minute as there are several key steps involved, including talking with a Rotary club about endorsing applications. Expressions of Interest close on 31 May.

Applications for our 2015 International Programs, which we expanded this year to include a program in Singapore, were again of a high standard making the selection of successful applicants a challenge. Congratulations to the 44 students who have been selected for programs in London, Canada, Singapore, Boston, Stockholm and Heidelberg. These opportunities are invaluable for people interested in building international professional networks.

Thanks to all of the 2015 students who have been able to participate in our Next Step Programs to date this year. The response has been unprecedented meaning that already, we have been able to take considerable numbers of students to Melbourne and Brisbane to visit our partner universities and organisations in those cities. See reports here. My thanks to Corporate Team members, Melanie Tacey and Anneke Knol, for their hard work in developing the programs to date, and managing the logistics so well. I would particularly mention Melanie for being on the ground in both Melbourne and Brisbane.

I am delighted to announce that the two Chiefs of (student) Staff for the 2016 January Sessions have been appointed. Brett Slarks attended the NYSF in 2011 and is now studying Medicine at the University of Adelaide, and will be responsible for the delivery of Session A. Meg Trinder-McCarthy attended the NYSF in 2012 and is studying Psychology at The University of Melbourne. Meg will manage the delivery of Session C. As is the case for all of our student Chiefs of Staff, Brett and Meg are remarkable young people who have a well-developed ethos of service to the community and responsibility for their actions. They are also lots of fun! Both are excellent role models for our developing student staff leaders and the program in general, and I am confident that they will guide their teams to deliver a rewarding program in January. The online training module for student staff began in March, and will continue through the course of this year, including a trek in the bush surrounding sunny Canberra in July. The commitment required to become a student staff member is considerable and none of our candidates takes it on lightly.

Of significance recently is the Commonwealth Government’s announcement that it will be pursuing the development of a National Science Strategy, with the key aim of developing a number of key research priorities to help direct research funding investments. The Prime Minister’s Science and Engineering Council recently endorsed nine new national research priorities: food, soil and water, transport, cybersecurity, energy, resources, manufacturing, environmental change and health. If these priorities are embraced, any investment in them will have an impact on the skills required in a future Australian STEM-related workforce, and is something that the NYSF needs to consider in its ongoing program development.