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Penny Sackett

Penny Sackett

Born: 1956, Nebraska, US

A physicist by training and an astronomer by profession, Professor Sackett was most recently Director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories (2002 – 2007) at the Australian National University. Other previous appointments include the J. Seward Johnson Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton (USA), Program Director at the US National Science Foundation, and Chaired Professor at the University of Groningen (NL).

As Chief Scientist for Australia, Professor Sackett provides high-level independent advice to the Prime Minister and other Ministers on matters relating to science, technology and innovation. She is the Executive Officer to the Prime Minster’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, leading foresighting activities to identify long-term challenges and opportunities for Australia that can be addressed, in part, through science. Subsequent gap analysis leads to public reports that conclude with whole-of-government recommendations to assist in equipping the nation to meet uncertain and transformational futures. Professor Sackett also holds a number of ex-officio roles including being a member of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) Advisory Board and the Rural Research and Development Council.

Professor Sackett is an advocate for Australian science internationally and a visible contributor to science diplomacy. She also focuses national thinking on science across the states and territories through the Forum of Australian Chief Scientists. An equally important part of the Chief Scientist’s role is to be a champion of science and research in the community, with a special brief to promote science as a career and help break down the cultural barriers that inhibit collaboration between researchers and industry. Finally, Professor Sackett is a communicator of science to the general public, promoting the understanding of, contribution to and enjoyment of science and evidence-based thinking.

RiAus Involvement

Physics to blow your mind! 4 December 2008

Career highlights

1995: Founded the Probing Lensing Anomalies Network (PLANET) collaboration, with Kailash Sahu
2006: As one of a team of 73 astronomers from 31 institutions in 12 countries, discovered OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, a small, cool planet orbiting a star in the inner Milky Way
2008: Appointed Chief Scientist of Australia

More by and about Penny Sackett

Chief Scientist of Australia,
Sackett, Penny D. ‘Strategic Investment in Australian Research Infrastructure. A Submission to: The National Research Infrastructure Taskforce Department of Education, Science and Training’ (PDF). Australian National University, August 2003,
The Age, ‘On a universal quest’, Dan Harrison, October 2008,
ABC Radio National, The Science Show, ‘Forum – Science as a career’, October 2006,
‘Professor Penny D. Sackett”. Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Australian National University.
RSAA News, ‘At Last! A Cool, Rocky Planet’, Australian National University. January 2006,
ABC Sydney, Sunday Profile, Penny Sackett,
ABC TV, Catalyst, Profesor Penny Sackett, July 2009 (video),
ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Open Letter regarding Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories, January 2003,
Science Network WA, An Interview with Australia’s new Chief Scientist, October 2008,


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