President’s Update, February

Our February edition comes to you a little later than usual thanks to the whirlwind of activity in staging our Eleventh National ASC Conference this last week in Monash, Melbourne.  For those who couldn’t join us, I thought I’d share some of my address to the conference below.

When we set the themes of the conference as Priorities, Policies and Publics for Human Survival, we didn’t know the Summer we would face.  Over the last few months the country has been through a Bushfire crisis, that has devastated homes, lives, wildlife, habitat and air quality of several major cities for months on end.
It’s clearly had a huge impact on many Australians, not just those directly affected.

This image is from the current exhibition we’re hosting at MOD, where I work as the Senior Exhibition Manager.  The exhibition is SEVEN SIBLINGS FROM THE FUTURE, and it’s set in a fictional future Australian town in the year 2050.  There’s a whole exhibit about a character building a bushfire refuge.  You can see here a panel of visitor responses to reflections on what we need to do now for a better future.
There was a distinct theme emerging.
It meant that we had to take our obligation of care to our audience seriously – people have been very effected by what’s happened, and so we consulted with mental health researchers with specialties in trauma about how we could provide context and support for visitors who might be affected by what they were seeing in our gallery.

It’s also a time where science communicators can feel stuck – wondering where do we fit in this crisis?  How can we lead change?

I recently read Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta who writes about Aboriginal knowledge systems and he has a wonderful way of describing how we can embrace principles of connection, diversity, interaction and adaptation to become agents of sustainability change.  (really, read that book!)

At the recent conference we brought together around 200 people from all sorts of institutions who interface between science, educators, communities, industry, policy, healthcare systems, environmental groups, new technologies and more.

So while the title might have seemed quite dire – Science Communication for human survival –  I think there is an enormous opportunity that we now have in this moment of crisis.

It’s an important time for us to take care of each other as well, as I’ve learned from our exhibition.

Science Communication continues to face many challenges like

  • Building trust
  • Being able to engage with the people who don’t think like us
  • Translating engagement into behaviour change

And these are some of the themes we explored through the conference.
What’s next?
At the conference we held a Special General Meeting focussed on providing additional support for state based activity.  There is a post-conference grant of up to $300 available to each state and territory to organise a follow up ASC event or activity for their local members.  To apply for this, please email exec@asc.asn.au with the following information:

  • A title and short description of your planned event/activity
  • Names of all ASC members involved in the application
  • Date and location (if funds requested for an event)
  • Requested amount
  • Budget outlining where funds will be spent
  • How you intend to let members in your state know (we can also assist with this through inclusion in SCOPE for example)