ASC Online 2021: Research Stream Presentations

Will Rifkin, University of New South Wales –
Are we really talking about ‘communication’ or is it something bigger?

The term ‘communication’ as used in the descriptor ‘science communication’ covers many sins. Some could argue that an impoverished definition of ‘communication’ could be blamed for issues like climate change taking 50 years to be addressed seriously at scale and for historical gender bias in areas of STEM. ‘Science communication’ implies much more than having scientists present information to non-scientific audiences. Alternative terms might include ‘conversation’ and ‘negotiation’, as they both imply a two-way process. Linguists analysing conversations refer to the ‘joint negotiation of meaning and identity’ leading to ‘intersubjective understanding’, a meeting of the minds between two people who are conversing. In this line of work, a statement can be referred to as a ‘speech act’, where an utterance has concurrent layers of explicit and implicit meanings, those implied and those inferred. Some of these interactive dimensions of ‘communication’ are elements in notions of dialogue, which involves an emergent and provisional suspension of control over conversations, where hearing can turn into learning. This flash talk will attempt to connect the dots across a range of linguistic insights into communication and their practical implications for science communication. The aim is to stimulate suggestions from the audience about what we should call ‘communication’ in order to recognise its negotiated and political nature when conversing with scientists and others.

Nic Badullovich, The Australian National University –
The current practice of climate change communication in Australia: insight from interviews with practitioners

Climate change presents one of the most complex and critical global issues of the current time. Despite a grounding in science, a major component of the current challenge is around facilitating effective communication leading to sustained policy solutions. While the scholarly evidence around effective ways to communicate climate change is growing, there has been a general lack of attention given to the people doing this work in practice. This presents a problem that could result in the growing of a divide between research and practice in the area of climate change communication. To address the lack of scholarly attention given to the practitioners of climate change communication, this study presents the findings of nineteen (n = 19) semi-structured interviews with climate change communication practitioners in Australia. Thematic analysis was conducted to shed light onto the dominant themes coming across in the interviews. In short, communicators spoke of current challenges such as political polarisation, competing issue attention, and catering for different publics. They also provided nuanced insight around the goals and outcomes of their work, as well as the role of framing in their communications. Exploring the experiences of climate change communication practitioners in Australia is one step in balancing academic pursuits with the voices of those conducting communication work in their daily practice.

Samantha Papavasiliou – Adopting new innovation

For science and technology innovations to be successful, awareness and adoption is critical within industry and academia. In many cases for adoption to occur a level of organisational transformation is required. Therefore, we need to understand how transformation and adoption is successful broadly. If we look at learnings from case studies on digital transformation and adoption across the use of digital services and technology provided by public sector for citizens and staff: we are able to identify key findings that are generalisable across fields. What we see in this research is the importance of considering the needs of both staff and users when outlining the purpose of the innovation. A framework has been developed, to support the adoption of innovation along with the organisational transformations required to adopt. This framework provides steps for organisations to undergo transformation (including the questions to ask key/affected stakeholders) in order to provide successful outcomes. Through the use of the framework, organisations and industries are able to identify the best way to encourage adoption and support innovation (e.g., innovative culture and adoption) more broadly. Sharing this framework in a flash talk will provide both science and technology academics and industry members an overview of the important steps to take in order to share their innovation and encourage adoption.

Julian O’Shea, Monash University – Adventure for Impact: Sustainable Journeys as an Innovative Approach for Science Communication

One of the challenges faced by science communicators, particularly when engaging a wide mainstream audience, is getting attention. Designing outreach programs that include an adventure component, particularly if done in a sustainable and novel way, is one approach that can attract significant public and media attention.This research uses a Multiple Case Study approach (Yin, 2003) to discover how these projects can be used by science communicators, and then applies the findings in projects created and supervised by the authors. Case one, the SunPedal Ride, a 7,424 kilometre journey across India on a solar-powered electric bicycle. The activity promoted awareness and education of renewable energy, and electric transportation – receiving a Guinness World Record, and significant media coverage along the way (Reddy, 2016). Case two, The Plastic Bottle Kayak Expedition involved 22 young New Zealanders paddling kayaks built from recycled plastic water bottles along the Abel Tasman coast, with the goal to, “make sustainability exciting and educational” (Farrow, 2015). Case three is the Solar Tuk Tuk Expedition – a 3,000+km journey across Australia by solar powered tuk tuk. Further to exploring existing projects, this talk shares the experience of designing and leading an attempt to set a land speed record in a pure solar powered bicycle; and a Guinness World Record attempt on a four-person bicycle (quadricycle). Initial findings include: the potential for wide media interest due to a novel project; ability to create in-person experiences across various sites; and the ability to have different outreach approaches from in-depth to light touch. Authors: Julian O’Shea, Robbie Napper, Rowan Page – Monash University

Kyla Adams, The University of Western Australia – Modern physics in the classroom – The long-term effects on student attitudes towards science

In Australia, and around the world, student interest in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) is declining. Recently, it has become evident that teaching modern physics can improve student attitude and performance in the physical sciences. Einstein-First is working to modernise the Australian curriculum by developing, testing, and trialling an updated physical science curriculum from years 3–10. The first investigation of the long-term effect of the Einstein-First curriculum on student perceptions of science was done this year. It was found that presenting concepts such as curved spacetime to Year 6 students had an impact on how these students later perceived science. Students indicated that they still had an appreciation of the sciences, even ten years after the program. This work furthers the argument that modern physics should be introduced into the Australian curriculum.

Jennifer Manyweathers, Charles Sturt University – Feral pigs in Australia: Friends and Foes and impacts on communication about management

Feral pigs are problematic in Australia, damaging pastures, impacting wildlife, and carrying diseases. Feral pigs are also a source of income and recreation. Understanding the discourse of feral pig management strategies acceptability and feasibility is important. A Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) project looked at using DNA samples to identify populations. This paper reports on the feasibility of such an approach. The feasibility study aimed to understand stakeholder support for a landscape genetics approach to feral pig management, the feasibility of recruiting landholders and hunters, and any other challenges/risks of the approach. This study used semi structured interviews with a cross-section of stakeholders including community groups, producers, industry bodies and government agencies, analysed using thematic analysis. A total of 23 interviews were conducted during March 2021. Themes identified the need to use existing relationships and networks and the flexibility needed with place/time data collection. Using existing groups and networks for data collection, and ensuring adequate resources being committed to understanding and maintaining stakeholder relationships were key to project success. The strong existing networks and stakeholder willingness to engage in the study are strong indicators that the Australian Landscape genetics for feral pig management project would find strong support.

Toss Gascoigne – Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU – What do other countries call ‘science communication’?


“Communicating Science. A Global Perspective” was launched 14 months ago. It’s a 980 page book documenting the pathway to modern science communication by 39 countries, published by ANU Press. But our analysis shows that many different words were used by international authors for what Australia calls ‘science communication’. So what terms were used, and which are the most common? The analysis has been published in a book, ‘Science Cultures in a diverse World: Knowing, Sharing, Caring’, edited by Bernard Schiele, Xuan Liu, Martin W Bauer. This analysis is in the first chapter, ’Communicating Science: heterogeneous, multiform and polysemic’ (I was co-author). Here’s an extract: “[Analysis of the] chapters showed that ‘science communication’ is not a universal term. It has many definitions and from the second half of the 20th century researchers and practitioners have described it variously as an objective, a goal, a process, a result and an outcome. In this chapter we have sought to list every term used by the authors and evaluate their degree of penetration of the field … Close examination showed that 16 different words or phrases were used in the book for what we called ‘science communication’. Some were confined to a single country, others were applied across a number of countries.”