About Ian McDonald

I have a strong research, education and communication background. I thoroughly enjoy writing and presenting about topics relevant to the community, such as environmental and ecological research, health and medical research, along with public policy and legislation. I have combined these powers to help engage the public with knowledge through blog posts, magazine articles, podcasts, videos, social media pages, presentations and running large scale community based events. I have been working professionally as a Science Communicator in Canberra since 2009.

2018 ASC Grant Recipients

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2018 ASC Grants Program.

Lydia Hales was awarded the ASC Professional Development grant worth $600 which will go towards her travels to Europe where she will be attending the 5th European Conference of Science Journalists in Toulouse, France and the EuroScience Open Forum, held in Toulouse.

Two members will also be undertaking a four week internship with some great Australian science communication focused companies.

Carmen Spears was awarded the internship with Refraction Media in Sydney and Elizabeth Lam was awarded the internship with Cosmos Media in Melbourne.

We congratulate all three members on their awards and look forward to hearing more about these experiences in upcoming blog posts which will be featured exclusively in the Scope e-newsletter.

2017 ASC Grants Program recipients

After another year of high quality applications and a rigorous review process, we are pleased to announce the following winners of the 2017 grants program:

The ASC Professional Development Grant worth $600 was awarded to student member Shanii Austin.

Shanii will be using the grant to assist in attending the 2018 Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) Conference in Dunedin, NZ. The conference will run from 3-8 April, 2018, and is hosted by the University of Otago.

This will be her first conference that discusses current science communication research, which will give her valuable insight into the latest developments in my field, as well as the opportunity to network with the global science communication community. She has also submitted an abstract to speak at the conference, so is hoping to share some of her ongoing Masters research about live science shows.

We look forward to hearing all about it when she returns. So keep an eye out for her article in Scope come May.

How did Shanii sum up SciComm in one tweet? #scicom: how to take complex info, make your audience excited by it, and empower them to share it with the world

The Peter Pockley Grant for Professional Development in Investigative Journalism worth $600 was awarded to Viki Cramer.

Viki will be using this grant to attend the Monthly Masterclass “The secrets of good science writing” presented by Jo Chandler, 24 November 2017 in Melbourne.

Viki specialises in writing about the environment, and is excited to spend a day learning from an award-winning journalist who also writes about the environment.

She hopes to gain from the class how to write great pitches for Australian publications that run science-based pieces. She expects to learn how to better balance science, character and context for both short articles and features. Her ultimate outcome is that she successfully pitches to The Monthly.

We wish her all the best and also look forward to hearing how the Masterclass went in December.

How did Viki sum up SciComm in one tweet? #SciComm: telling clear and compelling stories about science that capture the imagination, challenge ideas and create momentum for change.

The MD Writing and Editing ‘Writing a Journal Article’ e-Course was awarded to student member Ravindra Palavalli Nettimi.

Ravindra is a PhD candidate at Macquarie University (and one of two new national web editors for the ASC) and is excited to hone in on his journal writing skills through undertaking this new e-course led by Malini from MD Writing and Editing. The timing is good as he is currently preparing three manuscripts for scientific journals and believes the training could be a great help.

How did Ravindra sum up SciComm in one tweet? #Scicomm is an art that uses stories & emotions to make #science and its process accessible to everyone while engaging more people in it 

Read about Ravi’s grant experience here.

A big congratulations to all the 2017 grant recipients and we can’t wait to hear all about your professional development and possibly entice other members to undertake similar courses in the future.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to submit an application, and we wish you all the best for future years.

Ian and Miriam

ASC Grants Program co-managers

2017 ASC Grants Program now open

Better late than never!

We are proud to again launch the ASC Grants Program, now in its fourth year.

This year, three grant opportunities are on offer. Two, worth up to $600 each, are specifically focused towards professional development.

One of these is fairly open to interpretation – anything (within reason) which improves your skills in the SciComm sector. The Peter Pockley grant is more specifically focused towards enhancing your investigative journalism skills.

Previous ASC PD grant recipients have undertaken short writing workshops, used the funds to travel overseas and last years recipient used the funds to support herself to travel to Iceland to undertake and international writing course.

Previous Peter Pockley grant receipts have used the funds to learn more about podcasting, and one recipient even used it for travel funds to organise an internship with ABC Radio National’s The Conversations program – a great idea and opportunity.

The possibilities are endless, as long as you are a current financial ASC member and your application is related to developing your skills – we are all ears!

We are also very proud to again be partnering with Dr Malini Devades, from MD writing and editing, who is offering one member the opportunity to take part in her brand new journal writing e-course worth a total of $400+GST.

Do you struggle to find time for writing? Do you spend endless time revising draft after draft? Or are you just not confident in your writing skills?

Wouldn’t you love to be able to write your journal articles faster, creating a good first draft that you then efficiently revise and copyedit, ready for submission?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, then this opportunity may be just what you need. In this 8-week e-course, you will be given the tools you need to write a clear, concise and compelling journal article. You will be applying everything you are learning to your own journal article and will have deadlines to motivate you to get it done!

Interested in applying for the above three opportunities? All the application forms and further information are available via www.asc.asn.au/grants and all questions can be emailed to grants@asc.asn.au and we’ll get back to you with an answer.

Get in quick as it is a short round this year and applications close September 29 at 11:59 AEST. Eligibility requirements are emphasised on the grants page but we do ask that those who receive a grant are able to use it within the financial year and as part of accepting the grant, you write a short article for the Scope member e-newsletter so we can hear about what you got up.

Good luck with your applications

Ian and Miriam

Co-managers, ASC Grants program

The outcome of the 2016 ASC Grants Program

Now in its third year, we again had a number of high calibre applications submitted into our Grants Program. We only wish we could award everyone who applied and of course thank all those members who took the time to apply for the grants and internship on offer.

After a peer-review process, we are pleased to announce that the recipients of the following ASC Professional Development Grants for 2016 are:

The ASC Professional Development Grant worth $600 was awarded to Lydia Hales. Lydia will be using the grant to attend the 2017 Iceland Writers Retreat. The Writers Retreat includes five workshops, a welcome dinner, receptions, and writing tours. The workshops are capped at a maximum of 15 people, with an emphasis on interaction between the featured authors and the attendees. Read about Lydia’s adventures in Iceland here.

The Peter Pockley Grant for Professional Development in Investigative Journalism worth $600 was awarded to Kylie Sturgess. Kylie will be using the grant to attend the CAL writing creative radio workshop in Katoomba during December. Kylie is keen to extend her audio skills in long form format and the science documentary field, and we felt that she was a worthy recipient of the prestigious Peter Pockley grant. Hopefully we’ll be able to reap the rewards of Kylie’s PD come the new year.

The MD Writing and Editing Coaching Program was awarded to student member Sarah Bradley. Sarah wants to undertake a PhD in the future and hopes that through this experience she can write more clearly and in a form that is easy to understand. We are sure she’ll benefit from Dr Malini Devadas tuition, and again thank Malini for offering this experience to our members.

The Cosmos Media Internship was awarded to Andrew Stapleton. Andrew plans on starting his internship in mid-late January, 2017, where he will gain invaluable experience from other writers and editors and learn the ins and outs of one of Australia’s most respected science magazines.

“While it was a difficult choice, Andrew’s passion for science magazine journalism and engaging new audiences, along with his science background and keen interest in developing his skills, led us to conclude that he’d be the best fit for this internship.”

— April Reese, Managing Editor, COSMOS Magazine

Please join me in congratulating our members on their awards and we look forward to hearing about their PD in coming weeks and months through the Scope e-newsletter.

Once again a big thank you to our 2016 sponsors and we look forward to working with you in the future to provide further opportunities for our members.


Drs Ian McDonald and Miriam Sullivan

ASC Grants Program Co-Managers

And the winner is – the outcomes of the 2015 ASC Grants Program announced!

I am pleased to announce the recipients of the following ASC Professional Development Grants for 2015 are:

Donna undertook an online UC Berkeley Writing Course and Jaclyn went to the 2015 Conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association

  • The Peter Pockley Grant for Professional Development in Investigative Journalism was awarded to Emma Donnelly.

Emma used this grant to undertake some professional development work with ABC RN in Brisbane, specifically working with the producers of ‘Conversations‘.

  • The new Cosmos Media Grant for Professional Development in Feature Writing was awarded to Upulie Divisekera.

Upulie used this grant to undertake two feature writing workshops.

  • The Science Alert Social Media Internship was awarded to Jacinta Bowler

Jacinta undertook her internship during December 2015. Since undertaking this internship, Jacinta has had a some of her work published on the Science Alert website and Facebook page and continues to build a working relationship with the staff.

Please join me in congratulating our members on their awards and we look forward to hearing about their PD in coming weeks and months through the Scope e-newsletter.

A whopping 27 applications were received this year, up from 6 last year. Thanks to everyone who took the time to submit an application, if only we could have offered you all a grant, but let it be known that our review panel did struggle with picking the final recipients.

It was also great to see such a vast array of members from all over Australia take up this opportunity. I am happy to provide feedback on your application if required, please email grants@asc.asn.au and I’ll email you back with what feedback I have from the reviewers.

If you want to be involved in the administering and managing the program or to offer a grant, now is the time to make contact with me.

Once again a big thank you to the executive council for being so supportive of this program and to Cosmos Media and Science Alert for offering sponsored grants.


Ian McDonald, ASC Grants Program Manager (2014, 2015)

I went to freelance focus and what happened next will shock you!

You know those annoying Facebook posts – yeah I went there but hey if you are reading this, it worked…and who knows maybe you will be shocked by what I learnt.

The ASC kindly sponsored me to attend Freelance Focus in Brisbane, hosted by the Walkley’s Foundation. I, like many science communication professionals have been considering dabbling in some freelance writing (maybe even getting paid to do it) but had no idea how to start or where to begin, this is why I was keen to attend Freelance Focus.

After listening to many inspirational freelance writers speak, all of whom have made a career out of freelancing, I started to realise it is going to take motivation, organisation and a lot of hard work to make it a reality (even if I only want to dabble).

“Storytelling isn’t easy and takes investment from you,” as Trent Dalton from The Australian told us.

In fact, Andrew McMillen, a successful Brisbane based freelance writer, even suggested a ‘science’ to freelancing, from pitch through to end product – he has a colour coded excel spread sheet dating back to 2006 with all his articles, and comments on what worked, what didn’t work and the impact of the article – it sounded impressive…

During the Forum we heard from keynote speaker, Noah Rosenberg who is an American freelance writer and the founding Director of Narratively (URL – narrative.ly), which publishes the work of over 300,000 freelance writers around the globe. He spoke about four key lessons in storytelling and stated that there is a lot of opportunities available for freelance writers but with that also comes a lot of clutter and you need to figure out what is best for you. I thought I’d share these lessons with you.

His first lesson was to not be afraid to ask for help but make sure it easy for people to help. By this he didn’t just mean making sure you ask someone to proofread an article or get advice on a pitch. He was also talking about ‘help’ in the sense of promotion as well – asking other news outlets, journalists and social media sites to share and/or re-blog your work. He explained that in some cases after a 60 day period (I think it was) you can even re pitch your article to another outlet if still relevant and get paid again….if you’re lucky I suppose. However, his second point was pertinent in saying ‘make it easy for people to help.’ Don’t just send an email saying please re-share my article on Facebook but go as far as creating the Facebook post for consideration, writing tweets for people to send out and making sure your work is easy to find (online and Google-able).

Lesson two was about negotiation and he explained that creativity is key here. When starting out as a writer, he explained that it might be more worthwhile to negotiate more around how your article will be promoted rather than how much you will be paid. Is a Facebook post that can reach 10,000 people worth just as much as writing an article for $200? Hence the importance of ‘creativity’ in your negotiation and thinking about what is worth ‘value’ to you as the writer.

Lesson three was about evaluation of your own work and this links very much to lessons one and two in that it is important to create links (online) which can be tracked and evaluated so you can effectively measure who and what is working best for you when publicising your work – did you get more clicks from Twitter or Facebook? When an article was published on another blog/online website – how many clicks did it get and where did the readers come from. All important information to know and with Google Analytics – all information you should be able to access from the organisation who shared your work.

Finally, lesson four was making sure you have well defined goals and ways to achieve these goals – when you write an article, ask yourself why you are writing it, who do you want to read it, and how are you going to achieve this.

It was great to listen and learn from Noah and I certainly suggest watching the seminar Joan also posted to the ASC list recently – watch below.

Noah Rosenberg UQ 2015 – The Narratively Journey from UQ Journalism & Communication on Vimeo.

On a final note, one of the other reasons I attended Freelance Focus was to learn more about ‘how to pitch effectively to an editor’. I got a few tips and here are my main take home tips from the experts:

  • Be extremely familiar with the publications you are pitching too.
  • Make constant contacts in the writing world.
  • A mentor can be helpful when starting out.
  • Be persistent with your pitch and follow up (usually after about a week).
  • Plan ahead with your pitches – pitch weeks in advance and it can be useful to pitch up to 20 ideas at once, not just one or two.
    • With pitches tell your story in a couple of lines only, don’t have to write the full article.
  • If you get a deadline – stick to it. You will be red-flagged if you miss one.
  • Make sure your final article is polished and well researched.
  • Most editors like to see prior work, so if you rank well on Google and have your own website blog that is helpful. So basically have a strong web presence.

Want more insights – check out #FreelanceFocus on twitter which ended up trending in Brisbane due to its activity throughout the day.

You can also visit my Twitter account @ianmcd85 to see what I tweeted about on the day (August 5th).

Thanks for reading and with that I’ll leave you with my final tweet from the event…..

Learnt so much at #freelancefocus today – loved every minute – now to put my thoughts into words for the @auscicomm scope article

— Dr Ian McDonald (@ianmcd85) August 5, 2015

Cosmos Media and Science Alert support the 2015 ASC Grants Program

After a successful first year in 2014, the Australian Science Communicators (ASC) is continuing its Annual Professional Development Grants Program and this year it is bigger and better thanks to two sponsors coming on board, Cosmos Media and Science Alert.

The program, opening today, will again provide members with an exclusive opportunity to gain support to undertake professional development in the field of science communication. This year the program is proud to announce partnerships with Cosmos Media and Science Alert who are offering exclusive member opportunities.

Cosmos Media is offering an ASC member up to $1000 to undertake professional development in the area of feature article writing.

Dr Ella Finkel, Editor-In-Chief of Cosmos Magazine, one of Australia’s biggest science magazines said she was delighted to support this year’s grant program.

“Feature writing is something which is not easy to do well, and if we can assist an ASC member to improve their skills in this area, it is something I personally have a lot of pleasure in supporting” Dr Finkel said.

Science Alert are also offering an exclusive week long internship for an ASC member to go behind the scenes of one of biggest social media science Facebook pages – with close to 7 million followers. This internship includes up to $1000 in travel assistance to work with the Science Alert team in Sydney.

Chris Cassella, Managing Director of Science Alert was also very proud to support the grants program and impart an ASC member with skills around running a social media business.

“We are very proud of what Science Alert has become and how it has grown over the past few years.” Mr Cassella said.

“If we can offer an ASC member an exclusive opportunity to be one of our team for the week, working with some of the best science writers and social media gurus and see just how we do things from start to finish….well I’m game if they are” Mr Cassella finished with.

Professor Joan Leach, ASC National President said she is extremely proud to see this program grow in only its second year and thanks Cosmos Media and Science Alert for supporting the program, while also thanking Ian McDonald, the Grants Program Manager for building the program from the ground up.

“We have over 400 members from many corners of the country. They may be working for big organisations or themselves and may be using a range of skills related to science communication, engagement, media and education,” Professor Leach said.

“These grants are about supporting members, in a small way, to develop up skills and experiences for their futures and it is great to see science communication organisations now getting on board and I would implore others to support the program in future years,” she finished by saying.

In 2015, the total value of the program is worth an estimated $5000 and three grants and one internship will be offered:

  • The Peter Pockley Grant for Investigative Journalism (one grant worth $600)
  • The ASC Grant Science Communication (one grant worth $600)
  • The Cosmos Media Grant for Professional Development in Feature Writing (one grant worth $1000)
  • The Science Alert Social Media Internship (week long internship with access of up to $1000 in travel funds)

More details on the program and application process are available at http://www.asc.asn.au/grants and applications close at 5pm AEST, 7th August 2014. The grant recipients will be publicly announced at the Australian Science Communicator’s National AGM later in the year.

For more information or to help publicise the program contact:

Ian McDonald, ASC Grants Program Manager

E: grants@asc.asn.au M: 0439 746 556

To find out more about the 2014 recipients please visit – http://www.asc.asn.au/blog/2014/12/05/grantsreport2014/ 

2014 Grants Program Report

In its foundation year, three grants were on offer worth a total of $1200, these included:

  • The ASC Grant for Professional Development (two grants $300 each)
  • The Peter Pockley Grant for Investigative Journalism (one grant $600) 

The grants program was officially announced on July 1, 2014 and promoted via the ASC website www.asc.asn.au/grants and email distribution lists, and the ASC social media channels. The grant application round was open from July 1-August 1, 2014 and six applications were received (four for ASC PD grants and two for Peter Pockley grant). All six applications were reviewed and rated by our grants review panel made up of Toss Gascoigne, Robyn Williams and Alison Leigh (past Presidents of the ASC and life members) and I thank them for their willingness to be involved in the grants program.

I am pleased to announce this year’s recipients are:

  • The Australian Science Communicators Grant for Professional Development:  Abbie Thomas and Amanda Niehaus
  • The Peter Pockley Grant for Professional Development in Investigative Journalism:  Sarah Keenihan.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to apply for a grant and it was noted that all applications were worthy recipients but unfortunately only three could be awarded. The executive council now hope to grow this program over coming years so more grants can be on offer, and I welcome sponsored grants from external organisations.

Each grant recipient will write a short summary on what training they undertook with the grant money for our Scope newsletter, so keep an eye out for these articles in the upcoming editions of the newsletter, received to your email inboxes.

More about the 2014 grant recipients:

Abbie Thomas (ASC member since 2001)
Abbie Thomas is the Manager for the Scientists in Residence Program at AusSMC. She joined the ASC to find out more about how to communicate science and wanted to support the idea of people writing about science in Australia. Abbie recently undertook a two day digital marketing course as part of her ASC professional development grant, which included the skills to show you how to measure and report the effectiveness of your social media activity.

We asked Abbie to describe science communication in the space of a tweet:

To save the world, add a dash of brilliant scientist to a slurp of clever communicator, pour generously into our minds and soak it up

You can read more about Abbie’s professional development here.

Amanda Niehaus (ASC member since 2014)
Amanda Neihaus is a part time ARC Research Fellow at the University of Queensland.  She joined the ASC to meet likeminded people who value both great science and great writing, and improve her own skills as a communicator and as a teacher of communication. Amanda recently completed an online course at Stanford University as part of her ASC professional development grant, this course had a focus on short story writing – called ‘creating invented worlds’. With these new skills her ultimate goal is to craft a series of short stories based on the evolutionary trade-offs between ageing and reproduction.

We asked Amanda to describe science communication in the space of a tweet:

Every academic should be able to translate their most recent paper into fewer than 140 characters

You can read more about Amanda’s professional development here.

Sarah Keenihan (ASC member since 2008)
Sarah has around 15 years’ experience in science research and communication, and has created a successful freelance science communication career. Sarah joined ASC in 2008 whilst working as a science communicator for Bridge8. The membership connected her with people following similar careers and who confronted the same issues as she, along with keeping her up to date with national news and activities. Sarah has undertaken The Walkley Foundation Digitial Media Bootcamp s with the support of the Peter Pockley grant. As a result she has learnt new approaches for social media news gathering, management, verification and analytics, become familiar with and apply tools for web scraping, data cleaning, data conversion and data analysis, update skills in creating graphs, charts, maps and timelines, and identify new platforms and methods for multimedia reporting and production.

We asked Sarah to describe science communication in the space of a tweet:

Science communication occurs when the What? Why? and How? of science impact on an audience by creating surprise, knowledge and delight

You can learn more about Sarah’s professional development here.

This report was brought to you by Ian McDonald, ASC Grants Program Manager and was presented at the 2014 ASC National AGM.

Announcement of 2014 ASC ACT branch AGM – 18th November

Dear members.

The ACT branch of the ASC is holding our local Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, November 18th.

The AGM will start at 530pm (Meeting Room, Belconnen Arts Centre, 118 Emu Bank) and we welcome you to attend and help shape our branch into 2015. We should be finished by about 630pm where you are invited to have a drink and network and chat with other members at the nearby LaDeDa bar.

Please register at https://ascactagm2014.eventbrite.com.au

PROXY: If you can’t attend and wish to pass on your proxy vote please register via this link here and use the following (or similar) wording when passing on your proxy vote:

I hereby authorise Ian McDonald as ASC ACT branch President (or name of other ASC member in attendance) as proxy holder for the ASC ACT branch Annual General Meeting on Tuesday November 18, 2014 to vote on my behalf.

As we need a quorum (20% of members), this is important so our AGM is valid.

In 2015, all committee roles are open:

  • President
  • Treasurer
  • National liaison position (this position can be held as a dual-role by President, Treasurer or a Committee member)
  • Secretary
  • Social Media and web Officer
  • Marketing officer
  • Digital Media officer
  • Student liaison offier
  • General committee members

For more information on committee member roles please send an email or expression of interest to asccanberra@gmail.com before the AGM. We welcome anyone and everyone to be involved but you do need to be a current financial member. A committee position is really what you make it and we are looking for enthusiastic and energetic members to help us make ASC even better in 2015. If you are not interested in taking on a role but would like to participate on the committee please let me know and we can discuss options.

Why should you join the committee in 2014?

Canberra has a great hub of science communicators and by joining the committee you can help us not only support our local science communicators but tailor events and workshops to meet the needs of our members. In 2014, the local branch ran a variety of networking and social events, while also organising some small scale events focused on communicating science to the public. It’s a great way to network and make yourself known within the industry.

ACT AGM agenda items:

  1. Confirmation of members attending, apologies
  2. Notification of proxies
  3. Minutes of 2013 AGM
  4. President’s report
  5. Treasurer’s report
  6. General discussion about 2014 activities
  7. Election of new committee members
  8. Ideas for 2015
  9. AOB

We would love to see a strong local contingent at our AGM so we hope you can make it.

Kind regards,

ASC Canberra Committee Our ASC profile Check us out on Facebook

ACT event: Science, Cartoons and Politics – Communicating Big Ideas

The ACT Branch of ASC continues its regular networking series and invites you to our next special event on Friday evening, 17th of October – Science, Cartoons and Politics – Communicating Big Ideas

Join Toss Gascoigne as he chats with three generations of Canberra-based cartoonists to discuss how they develop, draw and communicate big (and sometimes controversial) ideas through cartoons.

Panel features:

  • Stuart McMillen: Freelance cartoonist, specialising in long-form comics
  • David Pope: Canberra Times cartoonist
  • Geoff Pryor: Retired cartoonist, formerly with the Canberra Times

This event is free for ASC members and $10 for non-members. Free welcome drink and substantial snacks throughout the evening.

Please be sure to register at www.science-politics-cartoons.eventbrite.com.au (so we can cater accordingly)

  • TIME: 6pm for 6:30 start
  • DATE: Friday, 17 October
  • VENUE: The Whisky Room, Civic Pub, 8 Lonsdale St, Braddon

Science Cartoons & Politics_ASC 17 Oct

Post-event edit: an audio recording of this event, featuring the three cartoonists’ slides is now available through YouTube.