First published Proceedings of an Australian Science Communicators Conference are now available online

Thank you to Nancy Longnecker for the update and for kindly editing the Proceedings!

Professor Nancy Longnecker – Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

The first published proceedings of an Australian Science Communicators conference are now available online at ASC Publications. The 200-page volume includes full papers and presentation abstracts as well as summaries of keynotes, plenaries, panel discussions, workshops, the Spectrum Science Art exhibition and other special events as a record of this noteworthy conference.

Many people played important roles in this undertaking. Authors submitted their work for review and waited patiently for the review process and publication to be completed. The Program Committee (Claire Harris, Kali Madden, Nancy Longnecker and Jesse Shore) went through each abstract and proposal submitted and allocated all those accepted to thematic strands to strengthen coherence of sessions at the conference.

Without reviewers, there is no peer review process and thanks for reviewing efforts go to Emma Bartle, Jenny Donovan, Jean Fletcher, Mzamose Gondwe, Will Grant, Nancy Longnecker, Jennifer Manyweather, Vicky Martin, Jenni Metcalfe, John O’Connor, Lindy Orthia, Will Rifkin and Miriam Sullivan.

Editing the ASC2014 Proceedings was my parting gift to ASC after almost two decades of membership. Editing any volume is a big but satisfying job. Incorporation of a research stream at the ASC conference and production of a peer-reviewed conference proceedings are ways to enhance the rigour of science communication for both practitioners and theorists. I am proud to have helped make this conference proceedings a reality and am happy to share what I learned with the next editors.

While many hands make lighter work, production of an edited volume is a substantial job and it was a relief when we finally published this. So why bother? For me personally, belonging to ASC shaped my career and this was a chance to give back to the ASC community. It has been extremely satisfying to be a member and to contribute to ASC in a variety of ways over the years. The small band of friends and colleagues who helped revive the WA branch in the mid-naughties and those on the Executive at that time taught me a great deal as have those who contributed to production of this volume.

Using a peer review process in publishing means that these papers are scholarly publications as  defined by the Australian Government’s audit standards. The full papers ‘count’ as a publication category E1 for those who record publications as a performance indicator. The research abstracts in this publication satisfy the requirements for publication category E2.

So what? As science communicators, we know that peer-reviewed articles are not the be-all and end-all of good communication. Yet for all its flaws, the peer-review system is still widely regarded as providing an important source of credible information.

Given there are so many alternative mechanisms to communicate, why do academics and other researchers remain so fixated on publishing peer-reviewed papers? It is important for our employers and in turn, they ensure it is important to us as individuals by rewarding publishing via the promotion process.

Most of us would agree that this is not a great mechanism. But the rules of the game we play in are that organisational publication tally is one thing that determines the size of slice of the university funding pie that individual universities get from government (at least in Australia and New Zealand). This funding is substantial at a research intensive university. While funding for one publication is small, it adds up. The financial reward for publications in a large research department can be enough to fund a full-time salary each year.

We can try to change the rules, but the maxim to publish or perish is likely to be with us for at least the remainder of my career. Publication of the ASC2014 proceedings has enabled some early career science communication researchers to add to their CVs. In addition to the value to authors on their CVs, readers will find value in papers and abstracts in the proceedings.

The papers in this volume touch on current critical issues such as risk communication, science and art collaboration and use of social media to support the community of science communication. Research students invest months of dedicated work into writing research proposals and literature reviews. Half of the full, peer-reviewed papers in this volume fall into this category. It can be difficult to find an appropriate place to publish these types of reviews since they usually do not contain ‘new’ results. Yet, literature reviews and synopses often synthesise a great deal of current work and can contain insights that are useful to other science communicators. Happy reading!

The citation for this resource is:

Longnecker, C. Harris & K. Madden. (Eds.). 2015. Proceedings of the Australian Science Communicators National Conference. 2–5 Feb, 2014, Brisbane. www.asc.asn.au/publications/