Terms of Reference—National Exotic Invasive Ant Scientific Advisory Group

Purpose

The aim of the National Exotic Invasive Ant Scientific Advisory Group is to provide specialist scientific advice on Solenopsis invicta commonly known as red imported fire ant (fire ant). The provision of advice is in response to science-related issues raised by the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program Steering Committee (Steering Committee) and National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program in South East Queensland Program (the Program). Advice may also be given on other exotic invasive ant eradication matters as required.

The Steering Committee and the Program can seek specialist advice from the Scientific Advisory Group and vice versa. The National Biosecurity Management Consultative Committee, in considering matters relevant to the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement, and other Australian exotic invasive ant programs may also seek advice from the Scientific Advisory Group but the priority focus for the group is on fire ant. The Scientific Advisory Group may also assist the group responsible for the National Exotic Invasive Ant Plan.

This will ensure the Program receives consistent, high-quality scientific and technical support and expert guidance required to increase its likelihood of eradication success.

Authority

The Scientific Advisory Group will report directly to the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee is responsible for providing leadership, guidance and strategic oversight to the Program.

There have also been, from time to time as required, external reviews of the Program, including scientific, technical and operational reviews, efficiency and financial audits, and a Senate Inquiry. The Scientific Advisory Group, through the Steering Committee, may be called upon to provide reports for and input into future reviews across the scope of the Program.

Terms of Reference

  • Advise on the scientific direction of the Program and the scientific basis of the tools (including modelling), techniques, products, technologies and strategies used by the Program and make recommendations to the Steering Committee on their continuing suitability and any essential research that should be undertaken.
  • Monitor domestic and overseas invasive ant and incursion response research and development and update the Steering Committee as required on research and strategies relevant to the Program.
  • Agree on scientific principles for different elements of the Program’s Ten Year Eradication Plan; including: movement controls, risk mitigation, treatment and surveillance (including proof of freedom).
  • Undertake ongoing consultation with overseas and domestic experts on the behavioural biology of fire ant, eradication strategies, control methods, novel technologies and practical implementation.
  • Engage with industry and other relevant stakeholders, as required, to provide pragmatic, practical and implementable recommendations to identified and referred issues.
  • Undertake activities, as mutually agreed to by the Steering Committee and the Scientific Advisory Group, with respect to programs or studies related to other exotic invasive ant species.

Membership

Members should be comprised of a specialist group of local, interstate and international representatives chosen for their expertise and knowledge relevant to eradication programs. These representatives will collectively have expertise and experience in a range of scientific areas.

Scientific expertise will include but should not be limited to:

  • specialists in exotic species/ant management/eradication
  • scientists with eradication expertise for other taxa
  • specialists in surveillance techniques
  • specialists in modelling
  • scientists working on novel technologies
  • scientists with expertise in treatment efficacy.

To ensure an independent view, members will need to declare potential conflicts of interest in specific work projects.

Members must be able to commit the time and resources needed to make meaningful contributions to this activity.

Jurisdictions are invited to suggest members. Members may not necessarily be from their jurisdiction but should have relevant expertise.

If it is necessary to replace or add members of the Scientific Advisory Group, the SAG will consult with the Program and the Steering Committee Chair prior to a final decision on membership. The need to retain any specific required scientific expertise brought to the Scientific Advisory Group, or supplement the existing skill set, should be considered in choosing new member(s).

Expectations of a Member

  • Continuity of guidance and exotic invasive ant and other specialist knowledge is required and can only be provided by consistency of membership. The Scientific Advisory Group nominees will be offered only to those who can, barring unforeseen circumstances, commit to a two-year appointment. Ideally the membership will remain stable through several renewals of these appointments.
  • Members must be active participants in the discussion and resolution of any items that come before the group. They must provide advice on any issues arising from an unbiased, scientific or technical perspective.
  • Members are required to disclose any conflict of interest and to recuse themselves from any decision on which they have a conflict of interest.  A conflict of interest includes, but is not limited to, proposals from individuals with whom the member:
    • has a personal relationship beyond that of a scientific colleague
    • has conducted joint work, published papers, or shared grants
    • has a mentor-mentee relationship.

Chairperson

The Chair will have suitable experience as a committee chairperson and demonstrated eradication expertise and may be a current member of the Steering Committee. The Chair will be chosen by the Steering Committee.

Proxies

Members may not appoint a person as the member's proxy to attend and vote for the member at meetings.

Other Attendees

Should expert advice be required for more detailed consideration of specific matters or to fill a gap created by a member recusing themselves due to a conflict of interest, other attendees may be invited to Scientific Advisory Group meetings at the discretion of the Chair, to provide information and advice to the group.

In addition separate advisory groups or sub-committees may be convened as necessary to provide specific advice in relation to certain technical matters (e.g. spatial analysis, biometric/statistical analysis, mathematical modelling, remote sensing and population (genetic) analysis).

Other attendees participating as presenters or observers are to ensure that discussions remain confidential.  If the attendee is not a state or territory government employee (and therefore covered by standard code of conduct provisions) an agreement will be negotiated which includes a confidentiality clause.

Review

The terms of reference will be reviewed every 12 months by the Steering Committee.

Meetings

The Scientific Advisory Group will meet as required or as directed by the Steering Committee. The aim is to have a minimum of one face to face meeting per year (subject to any travel restrictions) with additional meetings via video conference or teleconference, which may occur out of session depending on member availability.

The Scientific Advisory Group may choose to establish sub-committees, from within its own membership or including external experts, should more detailed consideration need to be given to specific matters.

Decision making

Decisions will be made by consensus.

Quorum

A quorum for the Scientific Advisory Group meeting will include:

  • the Chair, and
  • more than half the number of ordinary/regular members.

Administration

The costs of participation for the Chair will be funded by the Program under the direction of the Steering Committee.

Travel, accommodation, and meal costs will be paid to members of the Scientific Advisory Group.

Secretariat support will be funded by the Program.

A draft agenda for each scheduled meeting will be prepared by the Secretariat. The agenda will be approved by the Chair.

The final agenda and papers will be circulated to all members by the Secretariat at last one week prior to the meeting.

Agenda items may be suggested/led by Scientific Advisory Group members, the Steering Committee or the Program.  The Secretariat will maintain an ongoing register of action items arising from meetings, including both active and completed items, which will record the chronology of scientific and technical advice provided by the Scientific Advisory Group.