About Heather Bray

Researches social issues in agriculture/food esp GM, farm animal welfare @UniofAdelaide. Ex scientist, science communicator. Always learning. Makes stuff.

5 things you can do RIGHT NOW to stay up-to-date with science communication research

Scientists and science communicators are people who see knowledge as a foundation for actions and behaviours, right? A scientist, planning an experiment, will know all about the latest research in their field to maximise their chance of success. We build new knowledge on the knowledge of others.

But how often will a science communicator or scientist-who-communicates-science stop and think whether what they are doing communication-wise is based on current best practice? Do they check whether someone has already done what they are doing or planning on doing? Have other people been successful? Is there a way to do things better?

I’m always surprised when I meet people in science communication who aren’t engaged with science communication research. To me, it’s just applying what I was taught to do as a scientist. “But I can’t access the journals!” I hear people say, or “I don’t know what journals to looks at!” which are probably fair comments – but there are ways around this as you will soon see.

And there is also the good old “I don’t have time to keep up with research”. I think this is an interesting comment given we expect the busy general public to keep reading the vast amount of science writing that we collectively produce to keep up with the latest research.

It doesn’t have to take up a lot of time to keep up with science communication research. In fact, you could end up saving yourself considerable time in the long run by avoiding wasting time on something and, who knows, we might actually be able to improve public engagement with science!

So here are my five things that you can do right now to keep up-to-date with science communication research. All you need is access to the internet!

1) Set yourself up to get email alerts/newsletters from the key journals
You may not be able to get the whole papers, but you can read the abstracts (and who really wants to read more than that, right?). In my opinion, the key journals in our field are:

There are other journals too, of course, and more theoretical ones if you are interested, but these will get you started.scipublic on smartphone

2) Follow the journals on social media
Public Understanding of Science now has a blog and a Twitter account (@SciPublic). Again – links may only take you to abstracts but if you are just wanting to get a feel of current trends that may be enough. Journal of Science Communication has a facebook page.

3) Use Google Scholar
This platform will allow you to search for science communication research articles if you don’t have access to library databases. You should know this already, but I’ve learned never to assume. Again, you might only get abstracts, but you never know.

4) Follow key science communication researchers on social media
Science communication researchers are using social media to reach out to their audiences in the same way as science communicators. In fact, several science communication researchers currently research how to use social media to communicate science! Once you’ve found people who publish on things you are interested in, find out if they have a Twitter account or blog and start following. They will probably share information about more than just their own research. This includes accounts and Facebook pages for research organisations and groups too!

5) Follow key researchers on Academia and/or ResearchGate
If you are currently in research, you might already have a profile and do this for your specific field. But you should also put in “science communication” as a term, and see who you pull out. If you are not in research you may have never heard of these sites before! Quite often researchers will place open access versions of their papers, or conference presentations on their pages that you can download, no matter where you work.

So there you have it! At least 3 of these are set and forget type things that will have the latest research delivered straight to you. And there are lots of other options to stay in touch, not in the least to have an enthusiastic friend who will send you random things they read! Yes, of course it will take some time to read the things that come by, but I think we owe that to ourselves and our audiences. If nothing else, putting yourself in the position of the audience will remind you how it feels to have to open your mind to new information, especially if it challenges what you already thought about how to communicate science.

Heather Bray is an ex-scientist, science communicator and researcher at the University of Adelaide. She is a member of the ASC committee in SA. She manages a research group blog, as well as having personal and research blogs. She is on Twitter @heatherbray6.

And that’s a wrap! Here’s a story from our day at the beach #scistoryASC

Thanks to Sarah Keenihan for this post

Science is renowned for being factual, emotionless and objective.

So how on earth can we convince non-scientists that it’s also beautiful, revealing and intimately connected with life?

By creating stories.

On Friday June 3, ASC South Australia was delighted to host the event Storytelling in Science Communication: a day at the beach.

With a full house in attendance, we explored the role of storytelling in science communication, and considered the importance of culture, character, structure, mood, narrative, emotion, vulnerability, voice, crisis and resolution in attracting and enthralling audiences as we write, draw, talk and perform science.

We also discussed how digital tools can be used to support storytelling in science communication, including the creation of well-structured written content, the use of bespoke and meaningful images, putting audience at the forefront of communication design and thinking, the importance of multi-faceted production (audio, visual and textual content) and using social media effectively to attract and sustain audience interest.

A number of links and tools were mentioned throughout the day: here is a reference list to remind attendees and share ideas with others who weren’t able to be there.

Other useful links:

A very big thanks to all our attendees for this event. It was great fun to put together and we hope you found it useful and inspiring!







Storytelling in science communication (#scistoryASC): June 3 2016 at Marine Discovery Centre, South Australia

Storytelling can transform dry, technical information into compelling and relatable content that everyone wants to read, watch, listen to and share.

So how can we harness storytelling techniques to improve science communication?

The SA Chapter of Australian Science Communicators is hosting a one-day mini-conference for those interested in learning more about storytelling.

Participants, we’d love you to capture and share the day though social media! Others across South Australia, Australia and the world will be interested to hear your reflections and experiences of this event. Using the hashtag #scistoryASC, you may choose to share via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, SnapChat or other media as a way to summarize, highlight, excerpt, review and critique the presented materials.

Of course normal good manners and conference etiquette apply: please ensure the author or speaker is referenced and cited appropriately, do not share material in full and please do not audio- or video-record presentations.


9.00am: Coffee/tea and mingling

9.30am: Welcome and introduction
Rona Sakko
President of ASC SA
Coordinator of Bright Sparks Science Club

Professor Chris Daniels
Award Winning Science Communicator
Biologist at UniSA
Marine Discovery Centre Patron  

9.40am: Opening address
Dr Kristin Alford @kristinalford
Director of UniSA’s Science, Creativity and Education Studio (SciCEd)
Futurist and Founding Director at Bridge8

10.15am: Where is the storytelling? Critical analysis of communication case studies
Chair: Sarah Keenihan (Freelance Science Writer) @sciencesarah
Panel members:
Katrina McLachlan, Director and Senior Journalist, Stories Well Told @storiesWT
Joost Den Hartog, Channel Manager, RiAus TV @RiAus 
Dr Tullio Rossi, Animator and Illustrator @Tullio_Rossi

11:15am: Morning tea

11.45am: Wonggayerlo – Footsteps in the Sand
Karl Telfer (Kaurna leader and cultural bearerMarine Discovery Centre Patron@winda8) and Michael Mills (Heaps Good Productions, @Heapsgood) present a story about ways of understanding our relationship to the natural world. A performance piece exploring where science meets culture.

12.30pm: Beach walk
Experience real-time science communication from different points of view amongst the sands.

1.15pm: Lunch 

2pm: What is a story?
David Chapple is Writing Development Manager at the SA Writers Centre (@sawriterscentre). In this workshop David will take you through a hands on exploration of how the narrative techniques of fiction can make non fiction writing sing. Participants will play with ideas of character, setting, story structure, metaphor and descriptive writing to tell the story of their practice in more engaging and dynamic ways. Workshop includes 2 hours of practical exercises and literary tricks. Bring your favoured writing device!

4pm: Drinks and networking

ASC SA Branch End-of-Year Show!

f you’d like to knock some nonsense, learn some tricks, see how easily fooled you are, and pick up some self-defence for your brain then come and join the ASC SA Branch at 6:30PM, Tuesday December 17 at the Unley Community Centre. The event is absolutely free and definitely family friendly; tea and coffee provided, BYO food and drink. Information and free tickets available at the link: http://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/australian-science-communicators-end-of-year-celebration-tickets-9522027641

SA Branch Event: Stargazing Night at the Heights Observatory

The Heights Observatory is one of the best – but little known – stargazing venues in Adelaide. It is the best equipped school observatory in South Australia, located just 20 minutes from the Adelaide CBD.

Our visit will highlight the work done at the observatory; provide a tour of the facility; and offer the opportunity to look through the telescopes at a number of objects in the night sky.

 Australian Science Communicators members, families and friends; the general public; teachers and students are welcome to join us. Numbers are limited so bookings are essential.

When: Saturday April 20 at 7:00 pm

Bookings at: www.heightsvisit.eventbrite.com.au

Where: The Heights School, Brunel Drive, Modbury Heights, SA, 5092. (The car park is situated off Augusta Street. Walk across the school playing fields to the observatory buildings – please do not drive on the grass.)

 Cost:  $5 for ASC members. $10 for non-members

Money raised will go to the STAR group – a volunteer organisation comprised of school students, parents and interested members of the community that operates and maintains the facility.

Technical Notes: The Heights Observatory is a purpose built facility consisting of two buildings. The Papaelia Observatory is a traditional domed observatory housing a 355mm (14″) Meade LX200 GPS ACF Schmidt Cassegrain telescope while the adjacent Ingham rooms are a flat top retractable roof observatory housing a high quality 315mm (12.5″) Ritchey–Chrétien Cassegrain telescope from Optical Guidance System and a. small classroom. The Observatory also has a 405mm (16″) Meade Light-Bridge Dobsonian, a  255mm (10″) GSO Dobsonian, and 80mm Celestron NextSTAR GT GOTO scope.  It has a QHY8 cooled CCD camera and Canon 40D DSLR camera for astronomical imaging.

ASC SA Journal Club: Are scientists susceptible to a soundbite?

ASCSA journal club is a social way to keep up with current research in science communication and to refine your skills in critical analysis. We’ll review selected articles in groups and also share ideas on the best journals to watch and the best tools for searching for and collating articles.

This month we’ll be reviewing a recently published paper looking whether the framing of a press release (in this case, estimating the date of fisheries collapse) results in more citations in the peer-reviewed literature mentioning that projection (spoiler alert….yes!)  As blogger Dr Bik asks “are us scientists just as prone to believe soundbites promoted by press releases and the media, particularly for hyped-up papers outside our own discipline?”

6.00 – 7.30 pm, Tuesday 9th of April, Science Exchange, Adelaide.

Free for ASCSA and RiAus members / $10 non-members – pay at the door. Please register at http://ascsajournalclub.eventbrite.com.au/

The open access paper can be downloaded here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0056723

Blog discussions here: http://deepseanews.com/2013/03/media-hype-gets-you-more-citations-well-it-did-for-this-fisheries-paper/



South Australian Branch – Science Trivia Night

Australian Science Communicators (SA Branch) is kicking off its 2013 program with a Science Trivia Night. Bring your friends to make a table of eight or join one on the night.

Test your science knowledge against some of the biggest science nerds in Adelaide!

The aim of the night is to have fun; welcome new members; and raise funds to subsidise the professional development activities and workshops to be held this year.

When: Monday 11 February, 2013

Where: RiAus, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide

Cost: ASC Members – $5.00, Non members – $10 (or sign up for ASC membership on the night & pay members price: $88.00 for individuals; $35.20 for Associates and Students)

To book go to: http://ascsciencetrivia.eventbrite.com.au/

Bar available for individual drink purchase. Finger food provided as part of entry.

Alternative Medicine versus Science: Winners and Losers

ASCSA Tuesday 11th December Meeting

“Pseudo” means fake. The best way to spot a fake is to know as much as possible about real science, including the scientifically proven facts and the nature of science. This includes the criteria of evidence, the design of meaningful experiments, the weighing of possibilities, the testing of hypotheses, the establishment of theories, and the many aspects of the scientific method that make it possible to draw reliable conclusions about the physical universe.

Because we are constantly bombarded with nonsense through a wide variety of media, it is useful to consider the hallmarks of pseudoscience. Examples include indifference to facts and the criteria of valid evidence, reliance on subjective validation, avoidance of meaningful tests, and arguments from ignorance, errors, anomalies and strange events.

The presence of even one of these should arouse great suspicion. On the other hand, material displaying none of these flaws might still be pseudoscience, because its adherents invent new ways to fool themselves every day.

At our December event we examine Pseudoscience, particularly in the context of Medicine. Our distinguished panel comprises real scientists and science communicators, all with a healthy disrespect for those who would tout snake oil.

We have:

Prof Rob Morrison (Science Communicator): What and why about Friends of Science in medicine; why pseudosciences are not science

Dr Ian Musgrave (Molecular Pharmacologist/Toxicologist, University of Adelaide): A small dose of homeopathy: an in- depth look at the nonsense offered as valid

Tory Shepherd (Journalist, The Advertiser): Pseudoscience and the public, the media angle

Prof Marcello Costa (Prof of Neurophysiology, School of Medicine, Flinders University): Moving science into the medical arena

Prof Alastair MacLennan (Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Adelaide): In depth case studies  for  medical  impact  on  women/children’s  health

All presenters have published/blogged on pseudoscience. Come and join us for an evening of discussion and debate!

Cost: ASC members & RiAus members: Free Non-members: $5

Time: 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Venue: The Science Exchange 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide SA 5000

Bookings via Eventbrite: http://ascsapseudoscience.eventbrite.com.au

Watch for photos from this event on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/ausscicomsa

SA branch AGM and speed networking, 20th November

The ASCSA Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday 20th November 2012 from 6.00pm until 6.30pm and will be followed by Speed Networking until 7.30pm at the Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide.

AGM: Nominations are now closed, so come along and get involved in selecting YOUR committee for 2013. At the AGM we work down the list so that, once the position of President is decided, for example, any who nominated for that position but were not successful will still be in the running for any other position for which they nominated. If you ARE successful in winning a position, you can simply withdraw from any others still to be decided should you wish to do so.

SPEEED NETWORKING: Science communication is about people. We are lucky to have lots of science communicators in South Australia. Years of experience, fresh approaches, new contacts AND a brand new committee to meet! Come and join the conversation!

COST: Speed Networking free for ASC members & RiAus members / $10 non- members

Bookings via Eventbrite: http://ascsaagm2012.eventbrite.com

SA Branch: “Winter Warming Dinner”

It’s time to catch up!

On Monday 23rd of July, join us for drinks followed by dinner at The Seven Stars Pub – a centrally located pub at 187 Angas Street in the City.

A quiet venue for casual conversation in good company by the fireplace. Bring friends, colleagues – anyone interested in communicating science. Good prices. Normal pub fare. No cost parking. Pay for what you eat/drink on the night. See www.thesevenstars.com.au for venue details

Drinks at 6pm. Dinner from 6.30 onwards. Bookings for the sole purpose of providing the venue advance notice of numbers at